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First Page: M/M Historical Romance

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The sun was too goddamned bright. The afternoon, for that matter, too cold and windy. The wood plank under him would rattle his bones from their sockets even before Grand Central fell from view, and that son of a bitch Sargeant Greeley was hitting every damned bump and hole in the road. Deliberately.

Still, the day—so far—had more to recommend it than the Mt. Pleasant accommodations he’d said farewell to, hours before. And one hell of a farewell salute it had been from his suddenly sentimental blockmates. His head pounded yet, his stomach rocking with the wagon’s sway. He didn’t know whether to blame the last whisky or the first.

The play of morning light on red-gold leaves and the rushing gleam of the Hudson had only occasionally distracted him from his misery on the train trip downriver. Now, in the half-forgotten territory of home, he raised his aching head to peer through the bars. Manhattan hadn’t changed much. The buildings stood higher than he remembered. Traffic ran thicker and faster; but maybe it seemed so because the only traffic he’d seen in six years were police wagons, arriving with clockwork regularity, and the occasional closed carriage concealing uneasy visitors. But the clamor of the city, the unrelenting dash and whirl that made every day interesting—it reached out to welcome him back. He was home and he was goddamned free.

Almost.

The wagon clattered to a halt at the foot of the sub-treasury steps and he glanced up to find George Washington gazing back, bronze arm partly raised, as if debating whether an unabashed welcome was called for. Even less friendly were the stares of the two living, breathing men waiting at the curb. As Greeley opened the wagon doors, the older man—a divison chief, most likely—peered inside. “Wynn Gibson?”

“That’s him,” Greeley said grimly, and unlocked the chain that ran through the shackles. “Come on out, you son of a bitch.”

Wynn smiled in the sargeant’s scowling, gray-bearded face. Greeley wouldn’t get under his skin today. A juicier fish waited to be skewered and fried; one self-righteous Secret Service operative by the name of Hugo Foster, who had swaggered into the courtroom six years ago, to swear that only one person in the world could have engraved the fifty dollar plates lying in flawless repose on the judge’s bench.

The case had won Foster fawning accolades from every city official and praise from every journalist. Sentenced to a dozen years in Sing Sing, Wynn had decided that day to make Foster regret the testimony; but not with a fist or a gun—no, he wasn’t going back to prison, not now, with a chance to walk free.

The Treasury officials led the way up the long flight to the doors, and Wynn followed, old General George watching him as suspiciously as the hovering Greeley. No one said a word to him until they had crossed the sleek marble expanse under the vast rotunda and trekked down a labyrinth of corridors to a spotless office tucked among the endless line of them. Cells, too, Wynn mused; if not as dark and narrow as the one he’d called home. An inscription at the door read, “Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department.” Below that, for good measure, someone had thought to add, “Positively No Admittance.” That didn’t apply, by virtue of the information in his possession, to him.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. Laura Florand
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 05:22:19

    This is really good. I like your voice a lot. Good pacing, vivid details, good intrigue. Good luck with this!

  2. jmc
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 06:18:04

    Like where this is going. But a spellcheck might be in order — the rank is spelled Sergeant (or Serjeant).

  3. Tae
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 09:06:02

    I would continue to read, I’m very curious as to what happens next

  4. Sirius
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:04:45

    Oh my god. I want to read it now.

  5. Allie
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:23:23

    Then what happened???? This one page thing kills me when the stuff is really good. How do we ever find out if it is published and where and when and the author so we can find it and buy it and read it???

    By the way, a spellcheck may not have caught the rank spelling error because Sargeant is a city name in Minnesota.

  6. Sirius
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:27:04

    @Allie: Yes, please! I so want to know this too hehe.

  7. Lori
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:42:38

    Good tight writing. One of the best first pages I’ve read.

  8. Jill Sorenson
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 10:44:24

    Nicely done. I like this. The sentence about Hugo Foster tripped me up and I had to reread it several times. Not incorrect, but perhaps too much flourish? I understand that the coins are flawless, not the repose. But I nitpick. Well done and good luck!

  9. Sunita
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 12:09:03

    I really like this too, I would keep reading. A few nitpicks:

    (1) The “goddamns” don’t add to this for me. They’re a bit like the overuse of “bloody” in English historical romance. The “damn” and “hell” usage is enough here.

    (2) I’d lose some of the adjective/adverbs. There are quite a few of them and they don’t always seem like the best fit with the words they modify, e.g., plates in “flawless repose,” “juicier fish,” “unabashed welcome,” and so on.

    (3) Unless he’s drinking single malt (or maybe Canadian), it’s whiskey. This is so well contextualized in NYC that it would be a shame for a spelling variation to pull the reader out.

  10. DM
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 12:31:33

    I enjoyed this. I’m not sure you need quite as much backstory packed in on this first page–you might be able to dole more of it out in the confrontation scene that is clearly coming–but then again this might be the perfect place for it. Difficult to say without reading more, but worth keeping in mind. The content here is shoe-leather, but it’s got meaning because this man has been in prison and we’re experiencing the point A to point B through his eyes and he hasn’t done anything this mundane for years. Patricia Gaffney makes a meal out of this stuff in THATH and it’s really compelling.

  11. DS
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 13:13:15

    I thought the goddamned in the first sentence was pretty effective. It told me at once that that he was a rough, profane customer. Unfortunately most romance writers (especially American) when they use the term bloody don’t have a feel for it as a swear word. It ends up sounding like ¡Ay, caramba! used by stereotypical Mexican charactera.

    However in reading this first page I was reminded of men’s adventure books. If I didn’t know it was going to be M/M, I would expect a straight revenge story.

    I did wonder why the counterfeit plates would be up on the Judge’s bench rather than on the exhibit table.

  12. Kristi
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 13:38:37

    I like this, a lot. I like how all the characters seem very rough and harsh. It’s very masculine, and that’s a good thing in m/m.

    I got caught by a couple of tricky sentences, and I had to think hard to put pieces together, but I was compelled, and I would also like to read more.

  13. Lucy Woodhull
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 13:46:12

    I loved this! The adjectives didn’t bother me at all. I’m not a huge fan of the GD, but it totally worked for the character so I think you should keep it. Every word can’t please everyone. Good luck, although with this you may not need it :)

    Can’t wait to buy this one!

  14. JB Hunt
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 18:21:57

    This is marvelous. Like everyone else, I want to read more!

    I agree, though, with the suggestion to pull some (but not all) of the modifiers. I felt this particularly in the last paragraph. Even if you only deleted “old,” “sleek,” and “vast” in these sentences, you would improve the flow.

    The Treasury officials led the way up the long flight to the doors, and Wynn followed, old General George watching him as suspiciously as the hovering Greeley. No one said a word to him until they had crossed the sleek marble expanse under the vast rotunda and trekked down a labyrinth of corridors to a spotless office tucked among the endless line of them.

  15. author
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 18:24:03

    Thank you all for reading and critiquing. This is not the first time I’ve submitted to DA’s First Page, and every time you’ve given me useful ideas and caught problems I wouldn’t have likely caught, myself (even dumb spelling mistakes.) All your comments are invaluable.

    I’ll spare the “goddamned” in the first sentence because it feels right, but I’ll keep in mind that an excess of swearing doesn’t stand in for genuine characterization. :)

    @Allie and @Sirius Maybe Dear Author could have a once or twice a year post (unless they already do and I missed it) so any First Page authors who’ve since published can note it and thank everyone for the feedback.

    Thanks for the comments on the modifiers. I will take another look at all of them.

    @Sunita Thank you for the reminder about the whiskey. I always get that one mixed up.

  16. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 18:40:47

    I think this has lots of snap, and I adore the idea of a surly, cynical lawman in an M/M romance. Yay!

    Some niggles:

    “Traffic” seems to be used anachronistically here. It’s not attested as US usage for “the volume of vehicles and/or pedestrians along a certain thoroughfare” until the 20th century. (If this is post-1912, then the rest of the usage feels a little off.)

    “Trek” may also be anachronistic if this is set before 1899; it’s an Afrikaans word that didn’t enter English until the Boer War.

    If “Mt. Pleasant” refers to Mount Pleasant, New York, the correct usage is to spell it out.

  17. Cecilia Grant
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 21:25:57

    @author:

    You say you’ve posted a First Page before. Was it also an M/M historical with a New York setting? If so, I remember that one fondly and I can’t wait till you get published.

    If not, I still love what you’ve posted above. I’m a sucker for a POV character with an attitude. (Both “goddamn”s work for me.)

    The one change I might suggest is in the 2nd-to-last paragraph. It’s more backstory/explanation than I need so soon, and it pulls me out of the otherwise delicious immediacy of this page. I’d rather wait a few pages and have details like Wynn’s sentence length come out in dialogue.

    Overall, great beginning.

  18. Courtney Milan
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 10:06:54

    I want.

  19. Charming
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:41:18

    No one else mentioned this, so it may have only been me, but I kept going back and forth – prison or military? Prison – blockmates. No, military – prisoners don’t get whiskey. And there’s a sergeant and Mt. something sounds military. No, prison, he’s locked up. Court martial? No just plain prison.

  20. author
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 17:13:50

    @Julia
    Thank you for pointing those out. If you don’t mind, may I please have your sources? I’ve found both words in context in older documents, but I will doublecheck all my research.

    @Cecilia
    Yes. (Providing another author hasn’t submitted a NY set m/m historical in the past year, and I don’t recall one.) That book was published last spring. Thanks.:)
    I agree with you. I thought the second to last paragraph needed revision, too. I’ve just been wavering.

    @Courtney
    Thank you.

    @Charming
    Regular prison. Sing Sing. Whiskey smuggled in and/or traded for favors.

    Thanks again, everyone, for your help.

  21. Cecilia Grant
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 10:28:59

    @author:

    I want to read that published book! Title? Publisher? (If you’re trying to preserve anonymity for some reason, email me the info. cecilia at ceciliagrant dot com.)

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