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First Page: Scooped

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.  The author asked to include the prologue and I okayed this.


Back then they were young, carefree, and driving cross-country, holding hands and groping each other with the windows down and the music blaring. Charlotte’s hair was blowing in the wind and her cheeks were tinged from the sun peeking through the roof. It was in that moment that Graham let himself imagine a lifetime of exactly this. The thought surprised him; it was the first and only time in his twenty-four years he’d allowed himself this luxury, allowed himself to think about having this in his grasp for a minute. This being Charlotte and everything she evoked in him.

A single minute was all it took before Graham’s own screwed-up version of reality crashed back down on him, rapidly deflating his carefree mood. First and foremost, he wasn’t that kind of touchy-feely guy. He was a man who didn’t dream of that happy-ever-after kind of bullshit. Then there was the fact that he wasn’t ever going to have a lifetime with anyone—couldn’t ever—no matter how decadent Charlotte felt in the moment.

The belief that it wasn’t possible to be happy with another person forever was buried as deep in his DNA as were his black hair and blue eyes. It just wasn’t possible, and for the first time since he found his mom in bed crying into an empty liquor bottle with his dad long gone, he felt bad for himself. Not just for himself. He looked over at Charlotte, her hair whipping freely in the wind and singing out of tune with her feet propped up on the dash, and knew in his heart he would hurt her one day.

Even if he tried not to hurt her, he would end up doing it because their relationship was never going to get any better than this moment—driving cross-country with nothing in their in their windshield or rearview mirror except good times. Their hands locked together while their eyes stayed focused on the road somewhere deep in Colorado. The energy of attraction throbbing and pulsing between them until they stopped for the night at a motel and had sticky, sweet sex as though tomorrow were coming way too soon. Then folding into each other in damp, dingy sheets without a care in the world. This was as good as it was going to get. For him. For her.

There could never be anything more, and for that, Graham hurt deep down in a place he didn’t even know existed in him. These moments felt so good, so right, that he wanted to never stop having them. Yet he believed with certainty that there would never be anything more than this. Ever.

It would never more than this with Char, or with anyone.

Chapter One

Graham Preston slammed his luxury sedan into his spot while shifting into park so quickly, no doubt in his mind—he did some damage to the very expensive transmission. He ignored his office staff looking at him curiously as he tore through the office in faded, beat-up jeans and a ratty lavender polo shirt, instead of his usual crisp suit and tie. Graham raced past the faces of expressed shock, knowing that it was the first time anyone at his company had ever seen him looking tired, let alone disheveled.

His assistant stood up from her desk with alarm on her face and a fistful of pink message slips. As she opened her mouth to speak, he shook his head and held up a hand. “Mandy, I have to leave town right away, so clear my calendar and e-mail me anything related to current accounts that needs my immediate attention.” Before she could reply, he ran into his office, grabbed his travel laptop, snatched up a few papers, shoved the message slips in his laptop bag, and left without another word.

His entire office stared in disbelief as he tore right back out of his office and out-of-town to God knows where, or why. Graham knew his staff would be shocked; he was normally infallible when it came to work. He ran a tight ship while rarely losing sight on his business. He didn’t offer them an explanation. He’d tell them what he wanted them to know when he was damn well ready. For right now, Graham wanted his staff to keep business as usual, so he could come back and get back to work when he returned from his current trip to hell.

Even though there were rumblings that his wife moved out many months ago and their divorce was almost final (leaving him with full custody of their daughter), Graham had been cool as a cucumber throughout it all. Never allowing Elise to cause him to lose focus was his priority. Graham kept his eye on the prize, meaning he moved his company forward as always.

After all, other than his daughter, all Graham really had was the business he’d built. It was his baby. Originally an escape from the East Coast and the shit that rained down on him there, Graham constructed a West Coast division of his family business that not only rivaled the original, but surpassed it…..

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. Patty H.
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 08:05:54

    I really think you could get rid of the prologue. It is all back story. All the info in it would be much more powerful revealed in bits and pieces shown in interaction with others. Also think about your first chapter beginning. Make sure you are starting in the right place–something has happened but we are seeing the reaction to something. I got pulled into his urgency then there was telling about his marriage and child and you lost me. Show me those interactions later but in the beginning, keep me in that urgency so I can start to feel what he is feeling.

    As an aside, if his only barrier to a relationship is that he is the offspring of a no-good alcoholic and a morose mother, you need to look at your conflict.I know there isn’t much room in one page to establish that, so maybe there is more. Thanks for putting your writing out there and good luck.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 09:21:11

    I’d absolutely agree that you should ditch the prologue.

    If for some reason you absolutely refuse to do that, you should at least make it so that something HAPPENS in the prologue. A prologue about a guy driving and thinking? Nope.

    And I agree with the caution about the start of the next bit, too. Good urgency, but it went on for too long and then we got some MORE back story, and still nothing had happened.

    Something needs to happen.

  3. Lil
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 09:32:23

    I agree with Patty and Kate. The prologue doesn’t grab me at all. Chapter One, at least the start, is much better.
    As for the hero thinking he doomed to be like his bastard of a father, that is one of my least favorite tropes and makes him a TSTL hero.
    Bu the beginning of your chapter, especially before you slip into backstory, is really good.

  4. Linda B
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 09:41:39

    The prologue absolutely does not work for me. I would not read the book if the prologue was all I had to judge this book by. The opening office scene was pretty good (loved the lavender polo shirt) but quickly loses steam. I agree with the previous comments that bringing in the wife and daughter made it bog down – that urgency and his frantic actions need to continue for at least another page to suck me in. Also agree that a horrible mother is not enough for the angst in the backstory.

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 09:50:24

    yes, to all the above. Lose the backstory. If he’s frantic about something, he’s not going to be thinking about what color his shirt is or how he set up his business.
    The prologue is a waste of time. If you need to introduce the heroine early, then do it in a proactive scene, not a sitting thinking scene.
    Also, a man who rushes into his office, says “hold the fort for me” and dashes out might not find a business when he gets back. He needs to stop for half an hour, deal with emergencies, explain to his deputy what’s going on and then leave. If he’s that devoted to his business, even if his daughter’s been in a car accident, he should at least tell them something, not leave them wondering what had happened and when he’d be back. he can tell his deputy in a sentence. I know it doesn’t add to tension, but that’s what a good boss would do almost without thinking. How long he’d be gone, what she should do about the urgent meeting scheduled for tomorrow and how to keep in touch with him.

  6. Marianne McA
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 10:42:30

    Agreeing with everyone else – nothing happens in the prologue. In particular the first line doesn’t grab me – you have them driving, holding hands and groping each other which made wonder how many hands they each had.

    I agree the opening paragraphs of Chapter One are better, in that something is happening, but I don’t think it’s there yet. I do know that in a moment of crisis one’s mind can work in very peculiar ways, but whatever Graham’s situation is here, he’s actually thinking about his car’s transmission and then about what his staff are thinking of him.

    In particular: “Even though there were rumblings that his wife moved out many months ago and their divorce was almost final (leaving him with full custody of their daughter), Graham had been cool as a cucumber throughout it all” was a bit baffling, because up until then I think we’re in Graham’s pov, but I’m not sure who thinks this. Perhaps it’s Mandy? Whoever it is, are they really going to react to Graham’s apparent crisis by musing on his custodial arrangements?

    Would it be worth telling more of this from Mandy’s pov? Because it’d make more sense for her to think ‘I’ve never seen Graham dressed like this before’ than for Graham to think she’s perhaps thinking it. And similarly she could query (or consider querying) whether anything needs to be done about some child care arrangement, which would tell the reader about his daughter more organically.

    Good luck.

  7. Holly Bush
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 13:32:16

    Loved the prologue and not terribly sure why. It could be tightened a wee bit, maybe shortened, and there were a few awkward sentences but it worked for me. It makes me even more curious about Graham. I think I’d wait to reveal that he’s about to be single for a little while longer if possible. I was prepared to read about his current life/work/children. Well done for this reader!

  8. coco
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 18:20:46

    I’m with everybody else – ditch the prologue. Not only does nothing happen in it, it also employs one of the most odious of writer’s tricks – the “something is terribly wrong but I just won’t tell you, just so you’ll keep reading, not because it makes sense at all.”
    Also I agree with whoever said it above – the hero reads really really tropy to me: he had a bad daddy and now thinks he can’t be a good person? If you want to pull it off you have to add a new element and him being a super successful, self-made businessman who drives luxury cars is definitely not it. Is it really important that he is a businessman, that he is rich? Or do you just want him to be rich? It’s just that this is so overdone at the moment.

    As for the opening scene of the first chapter – again with the withholding of information to force the reader to go on. I promise, we like it better when we know what’s going on and why we should care that he’s frantic. You can withhold information when the character doesn’t know it either – but him clearly knowing and just rambling about other things and making mysterious allusions to a “trip to hell” isn’t working for me. I would reconsider the starting point.

    Oh and one last thing: ditch the clichés like “cool as a cucumber” or “kept his eye on the prize” and “shit rained down on him”.

  9. SAO
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 12:39:23

    The prologue was all about Graham. There’s nothing in there about what made Charlotte special. His comment is “what Charlotte evoked in him.” She seems special because of what he feels, not because of who she is. I get more of an impression of being on a great vacation than being with a great person. So, Graham came off as self-absorbed to me.

    I’m not a fan of prologues, but if you want a prologue to set up the importance of Charlotte, make it about Charlotte. Not just the wind in her hair, but her smile. Her sense of humor and/or her intelligence, her intensity or her laid-backness; her personality.

  10. Demi
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 13:49:55

    This is a quick impression (I imagine reading this as an Amazon preview and deciding whether or not I want to read the book)…

    The prologue is a little on the info-dump back-story side, but for some reason I liked it anyway. I already feel sympathy for the hero and want to see how it all went wrong. I’m assuming his reasons for not believing in happy relationships have some deep-seated reasons.

    Chapter one started with a bang and now I’m curious! I agree with another reviewer who mentioned to keep the bits about his ex-wife (caution info-dump) very light here…keep the energy moving and show us where he’s going and what is so urgent, rather than getting bogged down by too much information.

    Also a random note on grammar: “even though there were rumblings that his wife moved out” – I’d maybe go with past perfect – his wife had moved out – but I could be wrong there, because this sentence I just constructed may itself have dubious grammar :)

    Overall, I’d take a chance on this based on the bit you posted.

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