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First Page: Tentative Title – Unfamiliar Turf

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CHRIST Almighty, I was bored out of my mind.

The bar was loud. I had a headache. All I’d wanted was to stay at home, chill on the couch with a cold beer, and watch some UFC on TV. Instead, I’d let Ryan and Freddie drag my ass out to go meet some of the other guys at Cooter’s Bar. I sighed and took a swig of my beer. It was lukewarm at best, and I shook my head as I set it down on the table.

Next time I was definitely putting my foot down. This sucked.

“Dude.” Ryan jabbed me in the side with his elbow. None too subtly he pointed with his chin. “That hot chick over there has been staring at you like you’re a chocolate-covered cherry for the past fifteen minutes.”

I glanced in the direction of the bar and sure enough, an attractive woman with long, blonde hair was standing with a group of three other carbon copies looking in our direction. She was sexy enough in jeans that looked like she was poured into them and a tight tank top that left little to the imagination. Like most women that hung out at Cooter’s, she’d need a scraper to get off all the makeup caked on her face. She had a decent enough body, and she was clearly interested if the way she licked her beer bottle was any indication.

Getting checked out was nothing new. I was used to it, but it was usually done with just a tad more stealth. Being an athlete in a sports-centric town made it difficult to go out anywhere and not be noticed.

Cooter’s wasn’t highbrow; it was a place to drink, talk shit, and play pool. It was also where most of the Carolina Railhawks soccer team liked to unwind after a game. Normally, six guys would take up a fair amount of space, but when those six guys were well-built soccer players, it made it impossible to fade into the woodwork. Get the beer flowing, and it was a ruckus waiting to happen. We sat in our usual corner booth, the best spot in the place to see and be seen.

I was finishing up my third season with the team—my best one yet. I led the North American Soccer League in goals scored, regularly found myself on the front page of the sports section of the local paper, and I’d even wound up on SportsCenter a few times. It was shaping up to be a kick-ass season all the way around, especially since according to my agent, I’d had Major League Soccer scouts at my last few games. Our team was poised to make the playoffs. There were only two games left in the regular season, and the Railhawks were leading the division. I was proud of the guys, and we were firing on all cylinders. All we needed to do was win our last two games, and we’d be in the playoffs for the first time in five years.

The icing on the cake would be winning the championship, but we had to take it one game at a time.

“Seriously, Tanner,” Freddie boomed from across the table, “that woman can’t keep her eyes off you.”

I sighed. She was pretty enough, in that bland, girl-next-door kind of way, but she did nothing for me. My dick didn’t even twitch when I looked at her.

I took another swig of my now very tepid beer. “Eh, she’s all right I guess, but I’m not in the mood.”

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. Cara Ellison
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 04:36:56

    I liked this, for the most part. I had problems with the hero who sounded like a bit of a misogynistic jerk. I didn’t care for the way he reacted to the blonde. He didn’t sound interesting or cool, just a jerk a little too full of himself. If this is the hero, he needs to show some heroic characteristics soon because at this point, I hate the guy.

    What I did like was the voice; it was very definite. It sounded like the character was very well formed (which is why I don’t like him). The voice is good, the writing is good.

    I just would never read about a guy I thought was such a douche on the first page.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 06:15:45

    I agree with Cara. The voice is clear, it’s just not particularly appealing. If the blurb made it clear that the story was about an obnoxious misogynist who gets taken down a million notches, I’d keep reading, but if he’s meant to be a hero the way he is, I’d be out.

    If you DO want him to be a good guy right off, you could drop the part where he judges the woman for being in control of her own sexuality. Maybe she approaches him and he’s polite, but then SHE’s the one who rattles off all the information about how well he’s doing (first person makes it a challenge to say nice things about your character without making it sound like bragging!) and he politely walks away because he’s uncomfortable with adoration.

    I mean, he’s your character, so obviously I shouldn’t try to dictate how he behaves, but hopefully you get what I’m saying… there are options!

  3. Emmy
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 08:03:10

    This has a really strong voice but I agree with @Cara, if this guy is the hero then I’m not impressed and wouldn’t be reading further. All he does is whine, boast, and make nasty, misogynistic observations. Also nothing really happens here. It’s just a douchebag in a bar seeing a woman check him out (apparently) and then dwelling at length upon the fact that neither she nor the bar are good enough for him. If this guy is the hero I’d need him to show some good points or get over himself very quickly. If he’s not the hero, then maybe don’t start your story with him?
    All that said, the fact that I took such an immediate dislike to the guy does speak well of your writing. It was clear, vivid, and I liked your style so thanks for posting and good luck with it.

  4. N
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 08:08:48

    Is this m/m? I didn’t think the main character was a douche, but it sounds like the sort of thing where he’ll realize that he’s not attracted to women, fall in love with a teammate, etc. I would read that.

  5. Maria M.
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 08:25:59

    I also like the voice and the general flow, and I think you guys are a bit too hard on the protagonist. So a woman who licks her beer bottle and stares at him in a bar and has a face caked with make-up does not excite him? Big deal; he said at the beginning he has a headache and clearly is not in the mood. I have been in situations like this and even though I am a woman I can sympathize with him. The over-long description of his sporting successes was much more irritating to me than his indifferent reaction to the woman.

    I would read on another page or so to see what else happens. Maybe the woman is in disguise (like in SEP’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine?) Maybe she is a reporter trying to trap him? A mad groupie about to attack him? Some kind of excitement is certainly called for, and then the narrator can show what he’s really made of.

  6. theo
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 09:36:30

    I like the voice, but your hero’s listing of his attributes and his accomplishments turned me off. If you’re trying to make him a self-centered, full-of-himself jerk, for me at least, you’ve succeeded.

    He whines about the bar, his headache and the warm beer. Okay, so leave.
    He’s derisive of the woman eying him. Quit watching her back.
    Then he starts listing everything he’s done, point by point.

    Paragraphs 6-8 could be worked in, shown rather than told, cut down to a few sentences.

    Give me just a little something to like about him, or a hint that he’s going to fall hard and get a personality wake-up call, I might read on because as I said, I like the voice. I do know that sometimes, these snips are almost too short to give us much but sometimes, I only read the first few paragraphs to decide if the book is for me or not. Right now, I don’t like him and for that reason only, this would not be something I’d read.

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 10:13:58

    I love this. Nice to have a story from the male’s point of view. I think the finished book could be really interesting. I don’t mind that he’s a bit of a misogynist, because this is the beginning of his journey. As long as he doesn’t mistreat women. It reminds me a bit of one of Jennifer Cruisie’s men, who aren’t perfect, but are very real.

  8. RebeccaJ
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 10:32:39

    Ok I agreed with the “obnoxious misogynist” comments. The male lead sat in the best place “to see and be seen” and yet he acted like it was a annoyance to him to be checked out. Seems to be missing his mirror so he can check himself out…

  9. Liz Mc2
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 11:46:50

    I’d be thrilled to find a book with this sports setting (though it’s unusual to see a real team named). I hope that you’ll make that setting realistic–North American soccer teams are multinational, definitely in the MLS, but even in the NASL. I’d hate to see an all-white, all-American fictional soccer team that erases that reality, as too many sports romances do.

    Also, while I’d be willing to go with a character like your hero starting off kind of misogynist and arrogant, I want him to get that knocked out of him. I hope the narrative doesn’t confirm his feeling that all women are shallow, over made-up clones–except, of course, for the special heroine who is lovable because she is unlike all others. I don’t want his misogyny subtly endorsed by the storyline. I see that too often as well.

  10. Willaful
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 12:13:59

    Is that last line a deliberate Pride and Prejudice allusion? Is this a contemporary rewrite?

    I’m wondering how the heavily made-up woman in tight clothes comes across as a girl-next-door type. And do men really decide interest in women based on dick twitches?

    His douchiness would not necessarily put me off — could be interesting to read about, if he gets a comeupannce.

  11. JL
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 12:28:50

    I think you have a great voice, and I’m excited to read a story about soccer players. Too underrepresented in the sports romance category, IMO. There is a lot I would overlook just because of the soccer theme, but the misogynistic feeling I get from the MC would make this a pass for me. It’s realistic but not the kind of realism I want in my romance. I also didn’t get a major sense of conflict in the first page. All pro athletes want to get to the playoffs and win the championship, so for me I didn’t get a sense of the stakes. But it’s clear to me you have a lot of talent and I’m sure there is a readership out there who would not have an issue with the parts that didn’t work for me.

  12. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 14:29:33

    Hello author,

    I really enjoyed your first page. I am wondering though, how these guys are able to enjoy a beer without a bunch of women hanging off their shoulders and their every word. You’ve created some very well behaved patrons and possible groupies at the bar they frequent.

    As far as how your character reads, I like him, though the whole “doesn’t make my dick twitch” may be heaping yet another negative on your character. I’m thinking based on your working title that he ends up with someone who’s more than the eye can see, and though he’s semi-famous in his city, this person will knock him off his game. If so, then I’d read on. But I have to second @Liz MC2′s comment about hating to see an all white, all- American fictional soccer team as per the reasons she listed.

    Thanks for posting this.

  13. Mary
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 16:49:19

    I agree with Willaful that the heavily made up blonde did not seem like a “girl-next-door type” to me, and also with other commenters who felt that the hero was misogynistic. It’s not a no-go for me, but I am tired of women who wear sexy clothes and make-up being seen as evil whores in romance novels, so if that’s where the book is going I’m out.
    However, I thought the writing was fairly good, and if that is how the voice of the protagonist is supposed to come off (at least in the beginning) that it was not awful. I understand that he doesn’t want to be hit on, and that’s his main objection with the woman staring at him, but the way it’s written does sound a little slutshamey…
    I’m also excited about a soccer-themed romance, although I have to ask if MLS is really that big in North Carolina? I’m from Indiana and we just got our team started this year, but soccer is definitely not something most people watch, and I usually watch European soccer. So it didn’t seem totally realistic to me that a soccer team would have groupies, etc., but I guess the favorite sport differs from state to state and even city to city.
    Overall I would keep reading, with the hope that the protagonist wouldn’t stay super misogynistic. Although I could see it going in the direction of an m/m like other people said, which isn’t my genre.

  14. SAO
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 00:12:51

    You’ve set the scene so well, I can feel the tedium of a noisy bar when I have a headache and would rather be at home on my sofa. Not the mood I want when I reach for a romance. You turned me off with the first line, nicely telling me you were about to describe the boring scene.

    The rest of the page was him touting his accomplishments (this is a fundamental problem with first person) and paying attention to a girl who isn’t dick-twitch worthy. I dislike hearing guys dis women and it fits with the bored, cranky mood that I don’t want to be a part of.

    There’s no reason why your MC is at the bar, rather than home. I’d like this better if they were celebrating something. Tanner got dragged out to celebrate the win and he felt some need to support his team mates, loyalty, etc. That would automatically add some good character to Tanner in the first para. “All I’d wanted was to stay at home with . . . but Ryan was going through a rough patch and needed to blow off some steam. I let him and Freddie drag my ass. .”
    A celebration would also allow the team mates to talk about Tan’s accomplishments, not him.

    I did notice repetition in the discussion of the girl. She was “sexy enough”, her body was “decent enough” and she was “pretty enough” then when poured into her jeans, wearing a skimpy top and a ton of make-up, she looks like the “girl next door.” Where does he live? Makes me wonder.

    You’ve got good writing skills, I’d start somewhere other than him being bored in a bar.

  15. Elizabeth
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 20:16:43

    The bad language was enough to make me stop reading. Totally turned me off. I could not get into this at all! And soccer is not popular in the U.S. Baseball, yes.

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