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First Page: To Capture a Lord

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“Where did you learn to kiss like that?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Meredith replied defensively, then immediately realised her mistake. But it was a risky issue to acknowledge, even now that she was married to the man who asked the question.

James’ eyes slid across to her. “As you reached climax, you grabbed my hair, thrust your tongue deep in my mouth and then raked your nails across my back,” he clarified deliberately.

Ah. She hadn’t realised that she had done that. It had been instinctive, a reaction to the pleasure he was giving her. But it wasn’t very lady like. And neither was it very virginal. Did he think that she had lain with a man before him? She couldn’t let a doubt like that grow. He might put her aside. No. Perhaps a slightly dubious truth was better than him imagining something worse. Meredith sat up in the bed and turned to face him. She focused on tidying her chemise into a semblance of order while she corralled her thoughts.

“You know of course that I have endeavoured to learn everything that would make me a good wife. Home-making, hostessing, intelligent conversation.” She glanced down at him. He was looking up at her, curiosity and a hint of confusion on his intelligent face. Naturally he didn’t understand how this was relevant, but was too polite to interrupt her.

“There was one element which I felt was neglected by the general scope of appropriate education for young ladies.” She took a deep breath. “A wife must please her husband in bed.”

Meredith didn’t allow herself to look away from James. He was completely still, his expression neutral, still laid back on the pillow where he had collapsed after their lovemaking. His dark hair was tousled from her fingers and his body was replete, but his eyes watched her intently.

“Victoria and I decided to tutor ourselves. We had learnt history and geography from books, why not about this? We acquired novels and set about learning together. The Monk, Fanny Hill, Justine. However, you know how I favor vigorous, practical learning. Therefore we acted scenes from the books, taking it in turns to play the different roles.” She hesitated, then looked away. This was the difficult part.

“Your friend and you played the different roles in the stories?”

She couldn’t look him in the face for this bit. “Yes. Well. We meant to switch. But Victoria preferred to be the lady, and I… “ She would not back down. “I liked to play the man. Consequently, I am less adept at the woman’s role. But I will learn.”

“What did you do?” His voice didn’t sound accusatory, so Meredith turned cautiously back to him. His expression held anticipation at her answer. He looked like Victoria had when she’d started putting emphasis on words like heavy, tight and deep as they read together. Could he be aroused by the thought of her and Victoria together?

“We would pretend to be the characters in the novels. Or sometimes we would make scenes up: A lady captured by a pirate king; a reluctant wife; a priest and a virgin nun. At first, we just kissed, caressed.” His eyes were bright now and his breathing a little faster, as it had been when they had begun to made love earlier that evening. The sight emboldened her. “It was Victoria’s idea that we should experience what it was like when we didn’t want to. I would force her down onto the bed, cover her mouth with mine so she couldn’t cry out. Then I would rub and pinch and stroke her until she didn’t fight anymore.”

“Yes.” His breath hitched on the word. He wasn’t disgusted, Meredith realised. He wanted to hear more.

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

12 Comments

  1. Julia P. Noble
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 06:40:49

    You certainly draw the reader in, starting with an intense scene. I mostly think that’s good, but I would like a little more description, a bit more focus on setting. Others readers may disagree, though.

    I had difficulty discerning the time period as the dialogue doesn’t seem to fit the situation. Once it became clear that this is historical, I found myself suspicious of the word choice. I’m not that well-read in historical romance, but the way Meredith and James spoke, especially James’ second sentence, felt off to me. I also found Meredith’s perspective and thoughts too modern. When Meredith started explaining, it seemed like you were trying too hard to throw in certain words, yet not quite the correct ones, to give her speech a realistic tone.

    I liked James. He leapt off the page for me, despite saying little. Your description of him and his responses make him enticing. But Meredith felt vaguer, even though she was narrating. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t readily identify with her, but I felt detached from her and focused on James. Much like how I feel reading JR Ward and other hero-oriented authors. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but I enjoy identifying with the heroine personally.

    The premise of Meredith practicing the bedroom arts is interesting, if a little dubious. Your writing flows smoothly for the most part, and I do love that you’ve started with a bang. The main issue for me is authenticity, because without it I can’t immerse myself. Still, I would keep reading.

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  2. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 07:59:29

    Well congratulations on having a crack at a historical! Having said that, I do agree with Julia. Language and attitudes are wrong, and James’s reaction reads wrong to me.
    Anachronisms – “corralling” isn’t a word you’d hear in Regency circles. “home-making” and “hostessing” are Americanisms, and not something an aristocratic wife would be required to learn. It would be keeping household accounts and she’d have to be well-versed in politics and literature, so she could hold her own in the salon and drawing-room. Women were only meant to be compliant in the Victorian era, and then this scene would be completely wrong. Tutor is a noun, not a verb in this era. If you’re writing from the point of view of a character, the narrative has to be consistent. “Climax” is a word first used in that context by Marie Stopes in the twentieth century.
    “his eyes watched her.” Better than his arms watching her! “He watched her intently”
    might be better.
    Why is she wearing her chemise in bed? Surely she’d have a night-rail. Unless he was in a hurry to get at her. Which is my problem with this piece. I want the courtship, the marriage, and I want the lovemaking scene. Instead of this “reaction” scene, where they’re talking about something that just happened, show it happening, preferably from his point of view. I get the strong feeling that I’ve missed out on the scene where everything changes. And can’t he tell she’s a virgin? Usually it’s quite hard to miss.
    Is French kissing learned or instinctive? Is clutching something, anything, natural at the point of orgasm?
    How did they get hold of a copy of “Justine”? Or the other books, for that matter? And “The Monk” is hardly erotic! Not with a heroine who screams and runs all the time!
    There are some point of view problems, notably when the narrative switches to him and then straight back again. If you mean to make the switch, it has to be signalled better.
    But mainly, I just don’t believe this set-up. Hair-clutching, scratching and even French kissing are things that are more instinctive than learned. And why is he complaining? Then she goes into a rant about doing it with a girlfriend, which sounds like it’s a fast setup for a threesome. Sorry, but I’m not buying this one. You need a set-up. A wedding with her chatting guiltily with her girlfriend. A wedding night where he discovers how beautifully responsive she is. Then he asks her, since it’s obvious she’s a virgin, where she discovered such delightful arts. That kind of thing. Because I don’t know these characters and I don’t care about them.

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  3. Lil
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 08:18:10

    I assumed from the title that this was going to be a historical. But it doesn’t read like a historical for all the reasons Lynne mentions. Is it supposed to be Erotica? Something else?

    I’m confused, rather than intrigued.

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  4. Jamie Beck
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 09:00:09

    Historical romances are probably my favorite subgenre, so I am your audience. I’ve probably read more than 100 in the past eighteen months alone. Having said that, I agree with the others. The language/dialogue/attitudes in this piece does not match the period. I applaud you for undertaking to write a historical, but the loyal fans of this era expect the historical details and dialogue to be accurate. When I sample newer authors in this field, I will not read beyond the sample pages when these kinds of inaccuracies are present.

    Rather than reiterate all of the specifics that Julia and Lynne have already outlined so well, I’ll just second those points.

    The main reason I love historicals is because they involve so much build-up before any sex between the h/h occurs. Historicals really are “love” stories. And this brings me to the reason why, even if the dialogue and little details here were more accurate, I would probably not read on. When I pick up an historical, I’m not interested girl/girl sexual exploration, or a husband’s interest in visualizing it, or any kind of threesome that may be building toward. If I want that, I’ll look for a contemporary/erotica/paranormal with those elements. But that is just a personal issue, and I’m sure there are plenty of other readers who might relate to it and find it interesting in a historical setting. I can say I have not come across it in any historical I’ve read. I don’t know if that is good (you’ve found a fresh idea and potential new market) or bad (it won’t sell).

    As the others note, you have an engaging voice and smooth writing style. Whatever you decide to do with this piece, I do wish you lots of luck!! You clearly have talent. Congrats!

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  5. wikkidsexycool
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 09:00:51

    Hello author,

    This doesn’t read like the beginning of your historical, but somewhere much later in your story. Plus all the conversation or explaining was off-putting, at least for me. Also the premise of a virgin who can feel pleasure but barely any pain is, imho a trope. If this is a hybrid of erotica and historical romance, then the romance may need to be upfront first before they hit the sheets, as the other comments noted. In truth, I agree with many of the early comments. Your writing is smooth, but as a reader I’m missing having a connection with your characters because on your first page they’re having to explain earlier actions, so this is more of a recap.

    Also, James appears very progressive/cool, calm and highly collected for a man just discovering how much sexual training his new wife has, and her choice of reading material. Though the time period isn’t really specified, I’d think this would cause some sort of problem. But as a reader, I’m having to guess. Perhaps it could be made clearer in the scene.

    I wish you the best with this, and thanks for having the courage to submit it.

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  6. jen
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 10:13:26

    I agree with the comment that this reads more like something in the middle of your story. By opening with this scene, you (on the plus side) establish that this will be an erotic historical. However, in terms of story, where will you go? All the potential markers for conflict have been solved already. Will the couple get together? Yes, they’re married. Will the husband accept his wife’s previous sexual experience? Yup. In fact, he’s excited about it. I just don’t see the potential for story here because your protagonist has only 30 seconds of conflict/worry, and it turns out none of that is necessary. Although it’s hard to judge a story on the first page, I do think you need to lay the groundwork for later conflict, at least by showing something the protagonist is trying to accomplish. What are her goals?

    Story is conflict, so I don’t see story here.

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  7. Vanessa
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 10:30:29

    I was confused about the genre at first. I thought it was meant to be historical, but I think it may be erotica instead? I don’t know the standards for erotica very well. So if it is supposed to be that, maybe there’s no problem with this being your first page. Otherwise, it seems a bit anachronistic to me. The heroine seems to talk/behave in a way like she’s taking a modern lens on historical attitudes, if that makes any sense. It doesn’t seem like satire either; more like her poking fun at the era in a tongue in cheek way. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out in the next scene that this was all a roleplay between a modern-day couple.

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  8. Sunny
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 13:42:48

    I had some issues reading this, including the ones mentioned above, adding that the short sentences make the writing very stilted.

    There is no reference as to who Victoria is, and this being a historical I assumed they were sisters together as sharing a tutor with someone who wasn’t a sibling is less common…

    … which made the next paragraphs understandably uh, unpleasant. It wasn’t until I read the comments I realized that they might not be sisters but this might be an erotica novel with a f/f scene.

    Finally, the last paragraph talks about either rape fantasies (or getting used to being raped?) and made my skin crawl. There’s nothing wrong with rape fantasies or consensually enacting them, but this didn’t read as consensual to me. It’s also something I specifically try to avoid in books, so that might just be my reaction.

    Maybe this would just not be for me, but as I enjoy historical romance (and erotica) and f/f I would still be taken way, way aback if this was the first page.

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  9. author
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 15:04:19

    Thank you all for the very interesting feedback. This first page deliberately had lots of ‘would it work if..’s and ‘would readers accept…’s in it. (I don’t believe in playing it safe when you’re asking for feedback – the harder the feedback is, the more useful it is.) The comments have answered my questions about this story idea, opening scene and characters very effectively.

    The only thing I really must clarify is that this was submitted as ‘historical erotica’.

    Thank you so much to those who liked the voice, I really appreciate that. :)

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  10. Rei
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 05:43:19

    I agree with other commenters on the anachronistic language, but I actually disagree about the middle-of-the-story feel and the sexual nature of it; I found those intriguing. I like the build-up of a story as much as anyone, but sometimes it can be refreshing to enter the journey somewhere a little different if the rest of the story is well-constructed. I think would be more of a challenge for you, as the author, to make the rest of the story work effectively around a pretty risky opening scene (and this is a first page, so I obviously have no idea what your plans for the rest of the book were!) but I definitely wouldn’t be put off by the nature or content of that first page by itself.

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  11. coco
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 08:09:30

    I am not into historical books, I should say that upfront. I like Jane Eyre as much as the next girl but I don’t read contemporary imaginings. That said, I do find it interesting in erotica because it offers that forbidden taboo element (you know usually, not if you just gloss over it like it’s done here).

    However, and this is a big one – I so often feel like adding “erotica” at a genre gives authors license to be sloppy with research, dialogue, character and believability and all we get in turn are some steamy scenes. And, I’m sorry, but that’s not a fair deal. This is not just this author’s issue of course, but a rather wide-spread problem.

    1. like others said, it’s not an opening scene. At all. I don’t care about these people and I keep tilting my head at Meredith because I have no idea why in the world she would trust her husband enough to be so forthright immediately. Maybe he has given her reason to be, maybe she’s just raised differently than anybody else… there can be many reasons, but just like that I kept laughing because it’s a bit ludicrous.

    2. Seconding the dialogue issues in terms of historical accuracy. I don’t think everything has to be 100% perfect, but it has to be believable and not rip you out of the fantasy ever few lines.

    3. I actually think the story between the two girls is something I’d read — you know, with actual character development and story and all that — but just as a little bi-curious memory to turn on the new husband, I find it really cliché and a waste of the most interesting part of all this.

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  12. SAO
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 09:19:58

    I’m late to the party, but they are naked in bed after their first night together, right? I’m not getting any vibe from Meredith that it was good. Or even worrisomely bad. She’s not jerked out of a sensual haze. She’s not wondering if she going to have to put up with Yikes! this every night for the rest of her married life. She’s worried about her image. If she’s supposed to be a virgin, well, this just isn’t a convincing scene.

    If she was a courtesan, maybe I’d buy this as her first night with him, where acting a part is the most important thing for her. But, I’d like a bit more sense that that’s true. And to have a better sense of how Mere feels about what’s going on. Her husband has made a potentially serious accusation and she’s also learned that he’s turned on by the thought of coercive lesbian sex. Um, really, is she saying OMG, what have I done? or Wow, are we going to have good times together?

    I will note there’s not much conflict here. I could see that jerked out of post-coital relaxation and facing an accusation of having too much carnal knowledge for a virgin could be tense, but this scene isn’t. I don’t read erotica, so I’m not your audience, but I suspect you still need conflict.

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