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First Page: Private Relations

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CHAPTER 1

I’ve been selling my body since I was twenty years old.

There were plenty of words to describe what I was: escort, gigolo, prostitute, even whore. The exact language wasn’t particularly important to me. All that mattered was that I would be paid five-hundred dollars to have sex with another man’s wife while he watched. As far as anniversary presents went, I thought it was rather creative.

I sat in the backseat of the cab, gazing at the blinding lights of Times Square. To me, Midtown Manhattan was the epitome of what New York was really all about. Yes, it was crowded. And true, the streets reeked of exhaust fumes. But where else could one stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of strangers in a crushing sea of humanity?

The cab stopped at a red light. I watched the Christmas tourists scurry across the street, shopping bags in their hands and smiles plastered across their faces. I was one of them, once. An outsider all too happy to be away from my hometown and lost in the Big City. Truly, those times were some of the happiest in my life.

“Make a left at forty-seventh street, please,” I said to the driver. “Then just pull up to the front entrance.”

I was scheduled to meet my clients at the W Hotel’s Times Square location. Sure, it wasn’t the chicest property they had in town — but I knew why they’d chosen it. Had they selected another location in Union Square or the Financial District, there was a chance they might run into someone they knew.

Being a successful escort meant maintaining an aura of anonymity. The same was true for the clients, some of whom didn’t want their friends to know that they were paying for an extra set of hands in the bedroom.

Finally, I arrived at the hotel. I handed the driver his fare — along with a generous tip. He muttered something along the lines of “thank you” and wished me a Merry Christmas.

I breezed through the front doors of the hotel and went straight for the elevators, where I was whisked up to the seventh-floor bar known as The Living Room. It was a sleek, modern space awash in yellow and pink light, complete with wraparound sofas, Japanese floor lamps and glass sculptures suspended from the ceiling.

My client sat on the illuminated bar. I recognized the husband, a standard-issue corporate type who probably worked in finance. Handsome enough — at least he wasn’t obese or balding. The wife, however, was the one that really caught my gaze. Why did she look so familiar?

No, I thought to myself. No, it can’t be…

I moved closer, each step bringing me closer to the truth. I recognized her, all right. The light brown hair was the first clue, as was the fair skin and petite, hourglass frame. When I was finally within striking distance, I spotted the red lips, the perfect slope of a nose. This woman wasn’t just a client’s wife. I knew her.

It was Vanessa.

She looked up, caught me gazing at her from no more than five feet away. Seeing her baby blues suddenly made me feel sixteen again, for I’d been that age when I’d completely fallen in love with her. And though I’d loathed to admit it, part of me never really fell out of love with her, either.

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

15 Comments

  1. coco
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 05:17:02

    For me, this is either too fast or too slow. It’s in a weird middle area, that reads as awkward to me. I either want know a lot more about the character before you throw her into a difficult/hot situation like this. Or I want to be thrown right in and learn about her while that happens. These few paragraphs of character and that the awkward coincidence doesn’t work for me.

    Also this beginning of explaining the terms is a bit cliché. I’ve read it so many times and done better. Have you read Belle de Jour? It starts very much the same way – descriptions of terms, description of general location, description of scope of her work. Just… more fluid and interesting and actually giving the character some personality. And if you do the same intro as a very very famous book on the same subject, you better do it at least as well or find a different way into your story.

    So yeah, I think the biggest thing is decide if you want to start by giving her personality… and then do. Or start with the first job and throw her right in that unlikely coincidence at the very first line – that’ll make it easier to swallow, too.

    I like stories about call-girls, I even would say it a bit of a fascination for the subject, but on that reading sample I wouldn’t go on.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 06:13:12

    I love the set-up – I have a thing for male prostitutes (FICTIONAL ones!) and I love the potential angst of him reuniting with a lost love after they’ve both pretty clearly gone through some changes. It’d be different from the usual cookie-cutter perfect hero and heroine, and I love the potential for power imbalances, especially if the husband/employer stays around for a while.

    That said, the whole ‘New York is great’ part of the page bored me. “where else could one stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of strangers in a crushing sea of humanity?” – Any other big city, really. Small towns, if there’s a rock festival or other event. Frosh week at many universities. LOTS of places. So spending this much of your opening page on setting a fairly mundane scene seems like a waste of page space – and space on the first page is as valuable as Manhattan real estate!

    I’d cut most of the first part. Have him approach Vanessa, recognize her, and then drop the bombshell on the readers – he’s a gigolo there to have sex with her while her husband watches. Make us think this is something else, then twist it!

    As I said, I love the set-up for this. I hope you polish it up and get it published, ’cause I’d love to read it.

  3. coco
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 06:38:27

    @coco: Oh wow, I only just realized the narrator is male.
    This is because I overread “gigolo” but honestly, I think his descriptions of the city and the job and the female lead most of all, make me think this is narrated by a woman. Give him some masculinity, some voice and character!

  4. SAO
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 06:53:25

    I was intrigued by the gigolo, but bored by NY. I don’t care if he likes midtown Manhattan. I want to know *him*. How is he dressed? How does he prepare for a job? What does he do if his client (or client’s wife, as may be) is obese, hideous with BO and bad breath.
    Or maybe, why does he do it? What does he feel about himself? Is he a whore? Or does he get richly rewarded for providing a little love and attention to women who deserve more than their husbands give them? Or is he a cynic who views all human transactions as being venal and he’s merely more honest about it than most people?

    This could be fascinating, but like so many other recent first pages, you’ve got a fair amount of uninteresting detail. You neither give a unique look at NY nor tell us much about your char. Frankly, it could be someone’s grandmother in the taxi with the same thoughts as your gigolo.
    Make your detail count!

  5. Jamie Beck
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 07:39:55

    I agree with the comments above (about the use of detail). The writing is smooth, but devoid of emotion. I have no feel for his personality or feelings about his life other than the fact that he’s become rather indifferent to his profession and the city. It’s more difficult to get interested in a character when he is so bland.

    That said, I love this set up! I think Kate’s suggestion is perfect…start when he sees/meets Vanessa with her husband, then surprise us with his profession, and let us see the awkward dynamic between him and his childhood sweetheart. That way we could immediately get into his head, which should be FILLED with emotions. I’d be totally sucked in.

    Nice job! I’d totally read this once you give the character more energy.

  6. Jason
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 08:20:21

    This is the author here. THANK YOU for the candid feedback, everyone. I’m taking all suggestions to heart as I continue to edit the book. This is exactly why I wanted to post on DA – a great community of readers and writers in the romance genre!

  7. Lucy Woodhull
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 11:44:14

    The premise is good, but I’m going to be honest when I need a gigolo with more personality. His entire business is being the most convincing, charming mofo in the land no matter the situation. He has seen and done many, many things. He’s got to be more interesting. Humor, charm, something.

    There are reasons I wouldn’t read on, though. I didn’t love the cheap shots at “obese, balding” people. Shitting on someone because they’re bald is pretty base. Do you think none of your readers are going to be bald or have bald husbands? And I guess fat jokes are the low-hanging fruit du jour, but again — do you think nobody who reads your book is going to be overweight? I guess they don’t deserve sexy sex without an eye roll? I guess nobody finds obese folks sexy? That’s just stupid. I get that a character’s opinion is not the author’s opinion, but this is the hero. And I already don’t like him. All this coupled with the heroine, who is, of course, pale and teeny tiny yet curvaceous. I’m actually a short white girl built like Betty Boop, and even I’m tired of reading about this girl in every romance. This tells me that maybe the imagination problem runs through the whole book.

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think your premise deserves an elevation in the storytelling. The writing is good and smooth — good luck! Now I want to go read gigolo books…

  8. theo
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 12:25:40

    I will start by saying I rarely read first person (I know, I’ve said that before) because too many authors don’t bring the reader into the story enough in that POV.

    That said, I agree with all of the other comments and have one to add. If your H is going to get involved with the wife, I’m also done reading. If the clients aren’t married, it might be more acceptable to me, but I’m sorry, I’m not reading anything where the H waltzes in and breaks up a marriage, even if it was on the rocks to begin with and I’m not alone. If this is a romance, people read them to escape. I’m once-divorced from a man who, after 10 days of marriage, decided he only wanted the big party and went back to an old girlfriend. I mention it because not every reader has the perfect marriage and can overlook this setup.

    If this is a threesome, kinky/erotic/what-have-you, then I’m totally wrong and you’ll obviously draw a mixed readership based on the setup. But for me, no matter how well a story is written, it’s the content that dictates whether or not I’ll read it.

  9. Willaful
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 14:28:22

    Call me an outlier, but I was really interested. To me, the kind of cool tone on the first page isn’t off-putting; I don’t expect to get everything immediately.

  10. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 17:15:43

    I like this…but I do have to admit I thought it was a woman speaking. I don’t think whore is a term I’d associate with a male, or at least not for me.

    Otherwise, the writing is smooth…I get the feeling of distance and removal from the situation, the kind of distance a man in his position might have from his clients. And there is a slickness and polish I’d associate with a high-end gigolo.

    I’d like to hope the distance recedes once the story starts and the unnamed narrator and Vanessa get involved. And we see his emotions, know who he is, what he thinks and feels.

    But you may want to think a little bit about how to make him a bit more masculine in this opening…just my 2 cents. :)

  11. Jason
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 17:36:37

    Once again, thanks to everyone who took time out of their day to give PRIVATE RELATIONS a read.

    There is plenty more to read, though I wouldn’t want to use this forum to post more work — kind of tacky, IMHO.

    If you’d like to read more, feel free to ping me on Twitter (@JGinenthal) and I’m more than happy to share. Dear Author represents the core demographic I hope my book will eventually reach, so it goes without saying I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better.

  12. hapax
    Nov 10, 2013 @ 21:58:36

    Honestly?

    I know romances are about the fantasy, but I simply can’t believe in a male prostitute who can make a living by servicing only female clients — especially by specializing in such a (relatively) rare fetish as voyeurism among upscale married men.

    I could be totally wrong of course, and your protagonist could rent himself primarily to men, with occasional female “specials”. Or this could be a much more common profession than I think.

    But I personally find the gorgeous young disease-free straight male prostitute with only female clients even less believable (and rather less interesting) than a gorgeous young Navy SEAL vampire tycoon.

  13. cleo
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 06:59:29

    I agree with Hapax – I wasn’t sure if I should mention it, since straight male prostitutes are a “thing” in pop culture – in movies as well as in romance – but they don’t seem to exist in real life.

    I’m not sure that reality matters in this case – there are apparently plenty of readers who can suspend disbelief and read and like male prostitute / male escort romances. But not me. I might read a m/f romance about a bi or hetero-flexible male escort.

  14. coco
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 05:15:18

    Yeah, people seem to be ready to suspend their disbelief in all kinds of ways especially in erotica. I mean, how many dukes are there in a country exactly? ;)

    So that bothers me less, even though I too would prefer if he wasn’t just sleeping with women, just to make him more interesting. But what I most agree with is Lucy’s point, actually. I have blogged about body shaming in fiction and I’ve put down and left unfinished quite a few books that sent cheap shots at obese people or balding or whatever it may be. Total no-go for me, but I find it often.

  15. Jason
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 18:34:13

    Wow — making my main character bisexual would make him more interesting?

    Has anyone here read the Crossfire series? OK, most of us probably have. I wondered if Gideon was bisexual, in all honesty. And of course Cary was a beloved character as well. Seems women are pretty accepting — at least romance readers.

    (For the record, my main character, Jesse *has* been with a man. That shows up in chapter thee)

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