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Genre:  Young Adult

What do you do when the boy you love is afraid to let you touch him for fear you will learn all his deadly secrets?

Upon the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Iona flies to the Mediterranean island of Idylla to live with the father she never knew. She finds the island is a kind of modern-day utopia, a virtually crime free society filled with benevolent people. But beneath the serene surface lurk sinister secrets.

One of Iona’s classmates at the University of Idylla is visiting student Prince Ariston, the Crown Prince of the neighboring island Kingdom of Perdia. The two bond over their love for Elizabethan poetry and the Renaissance, and find they share a passion for reading and

But not all knowledge is safe. When the island stimulates Iona’s latent powers of contact telepathy, Ariston must shun her, or risk her learning that he is a dangerous paranormal creature who has killed before and will kill again.

Both know the other can destroy them. Yet both are drawn to each other like a moth to a conflagration. Will their obsession for each other devour them both or will they be able to survive and overcome the forces conspiring against them?

First Page:

I paced up and down our small living room with its peeling walls and shabby furniture. My living room now. If I could make the rent.

I picked up a photograph of my mother from the mantelpiece. The small, pinched face had never looked this beautiful to me when she was alive. She had never been much of a companion to me, but right now I missed her acutely. At seventeen, I felt half a mother was better than none. If you’d asked me at thirteen, I might have felt differently.

The phone rang. I hesitated. It was probably yet another person calling to offer condolences. Let it ring.

But it wouldn’t stop, so I grabbed the receiver just to make it shut up. “Hello?”

“Iona?” The unfamiliar voice spoke in an accent I couldn’t quite place but which I took to be European.

“Yes, I’m Iona. Who’s speaking, please?”

“I’m Leon. Your father.”

My legs suddenly felt like Jello, so I sank into an armchair.

What was I supposed to say? Hi, Dad. Nice to hear from you. A shame you missed the first seventeen years of my life?

“Iona? Are you there?”

“I’m–surprised to hear from you.”

“I heard about your mother.”

“Oh. How?” Considering he hadn’t spoken to us in years and lived halfway across the world, it was a reasonable question.

“I keep informed of what happens to you, Iona. How are you holding up?”

“I’m doing okay.”

“It must have come as a great shock.”

I drew in a deep breath. “Yeah, well, you don’t expect most people to die of a heart attack at thirty-three. Of course, her heart was broken way before then.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. At least, I hoped he felt uncomfortable. Then he changed the subject. “What are your plans now?”

“The help wanted ads.”

“You’re getting a job?” He sounded amazed. Had they never heard of jobs in Idylla?

“Yeah. That’s what people do to pay the bills.”

“But you just finished school. You took extra classes so you could graduate early.”

Was that a note of pride in his voice? Could you feel proud of a daughter you’d never seen and barely spoken to?

Apparently he really had been keeping track of me. But why?

“You seem smart…don’t you want to go to college?” he asked.

Of course I did. I loved learning. “I’d love to, but they actually charge money for it.”

“Not in Idylla.”


“College is virtually free in Idylla.”

“How nice for Idyllans.”

“Iona, enroll here. The University of Idylla is a good school.”

“How could I even do that? Aren’t all foreigners pariah non grata in Idylla?”

“True, it’s hard to get in,” he said. “But I can arrange it.”

My hand tightened on the receiver. “And where would I live?”

“With me.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to.

“Iona, I don’t know what your mother told you about me…”

Nothing much. Just that you’re a liar and seducer and breaker of promises and…did I leave anything out? Oh yes, a murderer too. Just that she was crazy about you when she got pregnant with me at fifteen, only to have you tell her you couldn’t marry her. Her father, a solar panel engineer on a one-year visa to Idylla, threatened to make a big
international incident of the fact that an eighteen-year-old Idyllan had seduced his underage daughter.

Then said father was run over by a car and killed, and my mother was sent packing home to America.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Tory Michaels
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 06:49:26

    While I don’t read much YA, I found myself actually like this though I got a bit weary of the single-line paragraphs. The very end felt a bit info-dumpy, but other than that, given the blurb, I’d definitely give it at the very least a few more pages.

  2. Jennifer Lohmann
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 06:58:39

    Your story doesn’t start here; this reads like backstory. Your story will start later, after she’s moved or when she starts college. You can weave everything on this page in later.

    Also, I think you need to address her reaction to her father. If they’ve really had no relationship, why would she move away from everything she knows? And her snappy comment to him feels like something you would say when you’ve gotten over the shock of hearing from your father for the first time ever, rather than the first thing you’d say.

    The story in the blurb is interesting and you could probably make it a fun read.

  3. Marianne McA
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 07:16:09

    I liked the title, but I thought the blurb contained too much information – rather than intrigue me, I felt it told the whole story, and made the book sound a bit Twilightesque.

    Also, having read the blurb, my expectations were for a very lighthearted story – University of Idylla sounds Midsummer Night’s Dreamy, and that didn’t seem to be where this was going. If I’d picked it off the shelf, that mismatch wouldn’t help sell me the book.

    But most of all, nothing in the actual page felt real to me – I didn’t believe that conversation between the father and the daughter could ever happen: “Hey, I’m your dad, sorry your mum’s dead, had you thought about this university?” – and while I can live with unbelievable in a fairy tale – talking wolves, mountains of glass, underground kingdoms – that was the wrong sort of unbelievable.

    On the bright side, I love fairy tales, and YA, and lighthearted reads; so I might be your target audience down the road a bit.

    Good luck.

  4. Maria M.
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 08:17:38

    I liked the beginning of the story and would definitely continue reading, in fact for me it flows much more smoothly than the Korean story the other day. You quickly learn who, where, and why, without a whole lot of unnecessary description. The protagonist comes across as likeable, independent, and resourceful, and her plight evokes sympathy. Obviously there is some need for editing, but on the whole I think this has real potential.

  5. Victoria Paige
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 08:23:17

    I agree with @Jennifer, it would be great to have the story start when she has moved. Maybe on the first day she starts school, then after the first few paragraphs, work in the conversation with her father as a flashback. That way, her meeting with the Prince would be brought about sooner.

  6. Caro
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 09:19:43

    Love your title!

    So first… I’m trying to get in the head of the father. If you had left your daughter when she’s a baby – are you a jerk or was there a reason – a good reason – for this? I’m picking “good” just for the sake of this example. So your 17-year-old is now all alone in a big city. And you call her? Just call her? Ah, no. I would get on a plane and come get her. Convince her in person. Not only is this more emotionally understandable, it would make for a more dramatic first scene.

    Second. Your protagonist. Lots of dialogue here, so the scene is certainly snappy and a quick read, but I’m not getting a handle on her. Your mother is dead and you now have to pay rent. You’re all alone in the world. So….is she scared? Or is she “I can do this!”? You give me a little bit of sadness that mom has died, but not much else. Then she gets jelly legs when Dad calls, but the conversation turns to sarcastic digs at him right away. Hm. Again, get in her head just like you did the dad. You’re 17 and alone and Daddy suddenly shows up to save the day. Do you think – oh, good – I might be mad at him, but I won’t be alone? Or do you think, no way dude – you deserted mom and me and in the memory of mom, I’m telling you to take a hike? I don’t really care what road you decide on, but right now, she’s not going down either, so I don’t know what to make of her.

    Quibble – in this day and age, a teenager without a cell phone? Okay, so this is a land line… without voice mail? In this day in age?

    You’ve got the makings of something good here. The blurb was intriguing, loved the title, good dialogue, great premise. You just need to get in these characters’ heads so their actions and emotions are believable.

  7. SAO
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 09:24:10

    This page didn’t work for me. You’re jumping into the set-up without thinking through how she would be feeling. She just lost her mother (suddenly, I presume) and needs to get a job to pay the rent. That’s a ginormous amount of stress. You brush it off. Okay, if Mom died a year or so ago, but not if people are still calling with condolences.

    She blames Dad in a throw-away comment and then cheerfully carries on the conversation and Dad ignores the whole thing. What does she feel about the fact that Dad never contacted her or provided any support? Hurt? Angry? Furious? Sure, she tosses off a few sarcastic thoughts, but they’d work just as well for a friend who was a few days late in remembering to say, Happy Birthday.

    She’s smart, she loves learning, but she has to abandon all hope of college and get a job. She isn’t thinking about how to make this happen. Dad drops the opportunity in her lap. He’s a fairy God father and Ilona is pretty passive. I’d like it better if she either hit him up for college money and then accepted the Idylla. Or had a fair amount of anger at Dad, but this was the only way to get to college.

    Probably this isn’t the place to start the book, but when you do, make sure you think about the feelings of any normal person in the situation you put your char in. How would you have coped at age 17 if your mother dropped dead of a heart attack and you were on your own?

  8. Lil
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 09:31:54

    I too agree with Jennifer. Start the story later, when she has moved. As it is, this passage raises more questions than it answers and gives both the narrator and her father reactions and motivations that are hard to believe.

    This opening has a problem that I see quite often in published books as well: Characters behave and make decisions in ways that don’t actually make sense but are necessary for the plot. If you start the story after she has actually moved to Idylla, you avoid this awkward and unconvincing phone conversation. When you drop the needed information in later on, the reader can assume that the process leading her to move to Idylla was more gradual and that her father said more than offer a chance to go to school.

  9. Mary
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 16:32:34

    I agree with what others have said-the writing is strong, but the emotions seem ‘off’ to me. I’m in my early twenties, and if either of my parents died and left me on my own I would be an emotional wreck now, let alone at 17! I get from the opening paragraphs that they weren’t close, but at the same time, her sarcastic dig at her father about her mother’s heart being broken makes her sound very cynical and -from my perspective anyways- somewhat heartless/unlikeable. And I don’t think that’s what you were going for.
    Also, again with the emotions. It’s the first time this girl has EVER talked to her father. If she truly believes he’s a scumbag like she’s been told her entire life, then it seems off that she’s just sort of sarcastic/cynical but open and honest towards him. I’d expect her to be a lot angrier/bitter/closed-off. Maybe she hangs up on him, and he calls her again, etc. Maybe she doesn’t believe it’s really him. I also like the idea of another commenter of having this conversation take place in person-unless there’s a reason for him not being able to leave Idylla.
    Or, if she doesn’t believe everything her mother has said and is willing to give her dad the benefit of the doubt, then you need to establish that somehow. Otherwise, it’s just kinda weird that they would be having that conversation when she’s spent 17 years thinking him a “liar, seducer, breaker of promises, murderer”. I mean, she thinks he killed her grandfather.
    Apart from the emotions, I thought this was well-written, and interesting. I don’t read a *ton* of YA, but the dialogue seems about right, except the emotional issues. Writing is strong, don’t see a lot of grammar issues. Just one thing:
    “pariah non grata”

    I think you mean either persona non grata or pariah! They’re synonyms but you can’t mix them. Even if it’s meant to be a mistake because the speaker is 17, you’ve established that she graduated a year early, she’s smart, she wouldn’t make that mistake!
    Good luck and kudos for having the guts to send this in and get critiques!

  10. Angela Booth
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 21:36:08

    I loved your blurb, and that says a lot, because not only do I hate paranormal novels, I can’t abide YA novels. :-)

    That said, as someone pointed out, you’re giving us a little too much of the story in the blurb. I’d prefer to know more about Iona. What’s she like? Outgoing, shy — does she have a smart mouth? Is she funny? I’ll read a book if the character sounds like someone I want to know.

    So, on to the page.

    This is weak place to start your book. We know from the blurb that Iona goes to Idylla. (Two things starting with the same letter? Change it.) Have the story start there. If the meeting with her father is important to the story, you can start with that.

    Here’s why I dislike phone call beginnings to a book: there’s no real conflict. Characters can’t really fight, because all you need to do is hang up — and that’s the end of the fight. Moreover, judging by your blurb, the father isn’t that important to the story anyway, so why bother with him at all?

    I don’t really believe in Iona, either. You need to do more thinking, about how a 17 year old would feel, if her mother had just died. (I promise you, she wouldn’t be thinking about how she’s going to make the rent.)

    Iona and Ariston ARE important, so start with their meeting. Every other character is secondary, so start strong, with your leads.

  11. Cervenka
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 05:14:50

    My primary question when reading this was, why does she have to pay rent? She’s 17, a minor. She can’t sign a lease, or be held responsible for the one signed by her mother. Who’s her guardian? Wouldn’t she be in foster care? This first page has just enough similarity to our reality that it’s very hard for me to just handwave that she’d be at her house on her own.

  12. Mary
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 13:10:46

    @Cervenka: I was wondering about that too.

  13. Author
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 02:20:07

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I’m studying them all carefully.

    Re the last two comments, would it work if I made her 18 instead? Because then she would be of age, legally an adult and therefore would not be put in foster care?

  14. SAO
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 11:36:39

    By age 17, minors can emancipate themselves in most states. It requires a court petition, but I expect it’s probably routinely granted for 17 yos who demonstrate an ability to care for themselves. Whether an minor who doesn’t yet have the means to support herself because she hasn’t found a job would count, I don’t know.

    Whether a 17 year old whose mother very recently died would know this is also a question. One presumes the hospital or emergency service would ask.

  15. Daisy
    May 12, 2013 @ 17:43:13

    I didn’t believe the father’s dialogue at all. “But you just finished school. You took extra classes so you could graduate early” seems an implausible sentence for someone who is apparently not a native English speaker and who hasn’t lived in America. Using ‘school’ for university, ‘class’ to refer to a module/component of study, and the idea of graduating early are all very specifically American.

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