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First Page: Unnamed Contemporary Romance

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It had been two years, eight months and twenty-three days since Ella Lucas had last done the horizontal rumba. And even then it hadn’t been very good. With the powerful Harley throbbing between her legs, she was acutely aware of every minute. The vibrations pulsed against her taunting places that hadn’t seen action in a long time making her excruciatingly aware of her complete asexual existence. Was it possible to orgasm on the seat of a Harley? Alone?

She revved the engine. Lock up your husbands, Huntley, Rachel’s kid is back in town.

Her red lips twisted in a bitter smile. Nearly two decades since she’d been back in her hometown and it was still making her nuts. Seventeen years she’d spent in this speck on the map trying to do the right thing, trying to be her mother’s opposite. Playing the good girl. Until she’d cracked under the pressure and just walked away.

And still they tarred her with the same brush.

So today she was determined to give them what they’d always wanted. Proof. Real proof. Not some rumour. Something sound to gossip about once she’d hightailed it out of this one-horse town. Something to truly damn her. Something for them all to nod sagely over and say see, we were right, the apple never falls too far from the tree.

And she intended having a damn fine time doing so too.

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

24 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 07:07:26

    I like what I read so far and I would definetely buy this book. Good Luck.

  2. DS
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 07:45:39

    Is this a parody? The woman is 37 and still obsessing on something that happened when she was 17! I guess it is too much to hope that she will hit town and find out that no one remembers who she is.

  3. Claudia
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 07:59:01

    I tend to agree with DS as far as too much time has elapsed for Ella to “give them what they’d always wanted”. After 20 years who’d remember? Who’d care? I think not more than 10 years would work better for me, unless the whole plot hinges on the heroine being 37.

    Also, the sentence “something sound to gossip about once she'd hightailed it out of this one-horse town” kinda threw me for a minute. When I read “sound” I thought of “noise” and the whole sentence didn’t make sense until I reread it. If I have to reread a sentence, it takes me out of the book and that’s not good. I think the word “real” would be a better choice than “sound”.

    Just a couple of suggestions, the way I see it…

    Good luck.

  4. Stephanie
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 08:07:38

    I don’t mind a bad girl heroine when done well, and there are comedic possibilities here, along with an amusingly defiant tone. But like another reviewer, I got hung up at the information that she’s been away from this small, narrow-minded town for almost 20 years. That would mean she’d been gone longer than she’d lived there (17 years). So why hasn’t she moved on, emotionally? Why is it so important to Ella to return to the site of her adolescent angst and stick it to everyone there? I can see a woman in her twenties still wanting to thumb her nose at provincial authority, but someone in her mid to late thirties? Not so much.

  5. Darlynne
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 08:24:47

    The vibrations pulsed against her taunting places that hadn't seen action in a long time making her excruciatingly aware of her complete asexual existence.

    Oh, for a few well-placed commas. Trying to figure out what “her taunting places that hadn’t see action” were threw me right out of the story.

    There isn’t enough here to tell us why Ella is still so bitter and angry, which makes it hard to sympathize with her at the start. I do like the image of the Harley, but the reference to her red lips felt like a switch in narrative perspective–first we’re inside her head and then we’re outside looking at her lips.

  6. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 08:36:09

    One of the things a new writer is often warned to watch out for is the “travelling to where the story is to take place and thinking over what got her there.”
    Usually it’s a woman in a car driving to her new employment/new city/whatever.
    The point is, nothing happens. And this is what’s happening here – nothing.
    In Marshall terms, it’s starting a book with a “sequel,” when it should always be a “scene.”
    And yes on the juvenile thing. A woman who is still as juvenile at 37 to care about a town she left when she was 17 needs to move on.
    And haven’t I read this before somewhere? I mean on a crit list or somewhere like that, not in a published place? It’s nagging me now.

  7. Eliza Evans
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 09:28:53

    I want more action! This is all backstory. I sympathize — my WIP has a returning to the hometown theme and a tough balancing act.

    I also question a woman who gets to 37 and is still confused about having an orgasm alone.

  8. hapax
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 10:23:48

    This is nicely written, with a defiant voice and a bit of humor. I just couldn’t care less about about the heroine, for all the reasons others said.

  9. theo
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 10:40:35

    My first thought reading this is the heroine needs to buy a vibrator. The second that she needs to get a life.

    When I was in my early 20′s, the emotions your heroine is experiencing ran high in me. By the time I’d hit my late 20′s, I’d moved on. I had more important things in my life to worry about than revenge. Which is what it sounds like your heroine is looking for. What I did get from this excerpt is that she’s had no life since she left town and has only been able to focus on revenge. That makes for a lonely, bitter person. Not someone I’m interested in reading about.

    There are some punctuation things, a few areas that are gray, (if she hasn’t been back in 20 years, how could she possibly know the townspeople would still ‘tar her with the same brush’ unless of course, she has a friend that has remained there in which case, you have a whole new set of problems with this opening) the switch between inside her head and that one line outside…

    I wondered the same thing Lynne did. I think I’ve read this somewhere else as well. Maybe not. But at this point, I wouldn’t read any farther. Because I just don’t care enough about the heroine to want to know more.

    Good luck. With some solid editing and reworking, I do think it’s got possibilities.

  10. A
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 11:43:23

    In general, I like this.

    I disagree with the concept the heroine’s age makes her “too old” to nurse grudges about past misuse/ill-treatment. I know a 50+ year old woman who crows any time former childhood acquaintances (including her own relatives) suffer any kind of setback/s in life. In her mind, they “deserve whatever they get” because they were “mean” to her when she was a kid (supposedly she was overweight/unattractive, the people made fun of her, etc.) That’s right. She is GLAD when her cousin gets hospitalized with critical illness because, when they were children, her trim, pretty cousin wasn’t good friends with her. She views it as “karmic payback.”

    Reality #1: vengeful character and petty grudge-holding doesn’t vannish at a certain age.

    Reality #2: vengeful character and petty grudges aren’t usually admirable traits, regardless of age.

    The author ought to question whether the character trait (petty grudge-holding) can be surmounted by other, more positive character traits in the heroine to keep the readers’ empathy. Maybe if Ella laughed at herself, shook her head at her own pettiness, and turned her thoughts to more concrete reasons for her visit (to see a friend? Help a family member? Apply for an important job?) she might come across as more likeable.

    Take the last sentence of your opening paragraph and put it at the front.

    LOVE your nod at Julius Caesar! LOL

    Some edits and punctuation are a MUST. Commas are friends. Get to know ‘em.

  11. Leah
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 11:58:13

    I understand that the heroine is intent on being a “bad girl,” but the “Lock up your husbands” line was the one that put me off. I’m sure that eventually she hooks up with a great single man, but the fact that she’s starting off wanting to poach makes her unsympathetic to me.

  12. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 12:15:04

    I love the premise of someone trying to shock her small home town by being the ultra-tramp everyone claimed her mother was. That’s fantastic.

    But you can do better than this. It’s too much. And, as everyone else has said, “Lock up your husbands” makes her hateful, not sexy.

    And please don’t use “orgasm” as a verb, ever. It’s gross.

  13. A
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 13:00:11

    @Julia Sullivan:

    “Lock up your husbands” makes her hateful, not sexy.

    I didn’t see her as hateful, I saw her as comical and culturally literate, comparing her return to Huntley to Julius Caesar’s triumph in Rome following his Gallic campaign.

    Caesar’s troops are recorded as chanting:
    “Home we bring our bald whoremonger, Romans, lock your wives away!
    All the bags of gold you lent him, went his Gallic tarts to pay.”

    Julius Caesar’s sexual promiscuity — adulterous and non-adulterous — were well-known and the subject of jokes. If anything, it added to his popularity. Being such a ladies’ man as well as a military and political genius.

    The analogy left me with the impression that Ella Lucas is probably smart and successful, and is returning to her old home to either settle old scores or “queen it.”

  14. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 13:23:40

    I thought this was really fun, and I liked orgasm as a verb. It worked for me. But different strokes for different folks. I think you’ve got a really great voice, and it’s really fun to read.

    I would suggest rethinking the timeframe because 20 years does seem much, but at the same point, I know how small towns work so it’s entirely believable that people would remember Ella from when she was “bad.” But at 37, would she really give a flying fig what they thought?

    One of my questions is why is she returning to the small town after all these years? I know this is only the first page, but I almost wanted to see that motivation up front. If she’s only going back to seek revenge, that seems pretty thin to me. And I like Ella so far, so I think that you have a more dynamic heroine if you were more upfront with her motivations for coming back (and hopefully they’re not just for revenge and to be “bad” because if that’s true, then isn’t she just merely proving them all right?). You don’t have to hit us over the head with a two by four, but just enough that grounds us, as readers, to understand why the lack of sex is important (is she newly single?), why she even cares about what people think of her, and why she’s so determined to be bad.

    This is a very nitpicky thing on my end, but I’d thought I point out things that jarred me out of the reading.

    Her red lips twisted in a bitter smile.

    —>I don’t think she would notice that her lips would be red–this is something she already knows unless she’s doing something that makes her more aware of her lipstick. Such as she catches her reflection in the visor mirror (which is very cliched, and I don’t recommend you doing it), or she wipes off her lipstick, or something that gives her a reason to notice the lipstick.

    And this:

    Lock up your husbands, Huntley, Rachel's kid is back in town.

    —>Huntley and Rachel reminded me too much of Rachel Hunter, the supermodel. I know the H names are different, but at the same time, they were too similar to me, and I had a few minutes where I was wondering if you did that on purpose. I would suggest either changing the town name, or her mom’s name. (I’m assuming Rachel was a bad mom???)

    Also, I know this is a stylistic choice, but I think if you employed more white space, that some of your sentences could have more of an impact. For example:

    So today she was determined to give them what they'd always wanted. Proof. Real proof. Not some rumour. Something sound to gossip about once she'd hightailed it out of this one-horse town. Something to truly damn her. Something for them all to nod sagely over and say see, we were right, the apple never falls too far from the tree.

    Could be:

    So today she was determined to give them what they'd always wanted.

    Proof.

    Real proof. Not some rumour.

    Something sound to gossip about once she'd hightailed it out of this one-horse town. Something to truly damn her. Something for them all to nod sagely over and say see, we were right, the apple never falls too far from the tree.

    Good luck!

  15. Ali
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 14:37:12

    I have to agree with most of the other readers here, twenty years does seem much. Other than that, there’s not enough here for me to decide if I’d want to read the whole thing.

  16. Ros
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 15:22:39

    It had been two years, eight months and twenty-three days since Ella Lucas had last done the horizontal rumba.

    She’s counting? She really needs to get a life. Also, ‘horizontal rumba’ makes me cringe.

    And even then it hadn't been very good.

    Which makes it even less likely she’d be counting.

    With the powerful Harley throbbing between her legs, she was acutely aware of every minute.

    Every minute sounds wrong. Surely what she’d be acutely aware of is every bump in the road? I wouldn’t have thought she was checking her watch.

    The vibrations pulsed against her taunting places that hadn't seen action in a long time making her excruciatingly aware of her complete asexual existence.
    Someone else mentioned the comma problems and I’ll say that I had exactly the same difficulty trying to parse this sentence. Also, asexual is the wrong word here. And it should be completely, not complete.

    So, I’m sorry, this really doesn’t work for me. Too many cliches, too many errors, but most importantly an MC for whom I feel no sympathy. Why should I care that she hasn’t had sex for over two years? If she cares that much that she’s counting, why doesn’t she just go and find a guy to sleep with?

    HOWEVER, I think that the set up is intriguing – going back to the town where she tried to be the good girl, determined to be the bad girl. There’s a story in there, but as this page stands, there are too many things that would stop me reading on.

  17. Anon76
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 15:58:26

    One thing, besides what everyone else has said, Harleys don’t equate to vibrator type things, especially if you are the driver. There is a definite positioning and lean back if you are going to travel for miles. Sure, your butt feels like it has been vibrated to the novicaine point, but it’s not a “sexy” feel.

    A short trip, yeah, that thrum can be addictive, but it is counteracted by paying attention to the road, shifting, clutching, braking.

    Just my .02 cents

  18. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 17:08:07

    I like it. I have a special fondness for bad girls of all sorts.

    Just please don’t wimp out on her.

  19. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 20:32:18

    I saw her as comical and culturally literate, comparing her return to Huntley to Julius Caesar's triumph in Rome following his Gallic campaign

    This is romance. In romance, homewreckers suck.

    And I really, really doubt that this character was referring to Suetonius’ famous-if-apocryphal legionaries’ chant, “Urbani, servat uxores; moechum calvom adducimus” here.

    Unless you’re the author. In which case, it doesn’t work. (For one thing, it wasn’t Julius Caesar who described himself as “the bald adulterer,” any more than it was he who described himself as “every wife’s husband, and every husband’s wife.”)

  20. A
    Nov 14, 2009 @ 21:07:37

    @Julia Sullivan:

    This is romance. In romance, homewreckers suck.

    I disagree. There’s been more than one popular romance based upon adulterous relationships. They may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but they have their market.

    Consider “Camelot.” (“I loved you once in silence/And misery was all I knew/Trying so to keep my love from showing/All the while not knowing/You loved me, too.”)

    And I really, really doubt that this character was referring to Suetonius' famous-if-apocryphal legionaries' chant, “Urbani, servat uxores; moechum calvom adducimus” here.

    Apocryphal or no, it is amusing (I found it so) and it does suggest cultural literacy in the character.

    On the other hand, you could be right, and the line might be borrowed from Oklahoma!. I recall one of the songs in that musical cautioning people to “be sure and lock up your wife and daughter” when offering cowboys hospitality.

    It’s cliche, it’s suggestive, and it’s humorous. It’s been used over and over as a form of humor. It was humorous in reference to Julius and it’s humorous now.

    Unless you're the author.

    I am not.

    In which case, it doesn't work.

    So, since I’m not the author, it works?

    For one thing, it wasn't Julius Caesar who described himself as “the bald adulterer,” any more than it was he who described himself as “every wife's husband, and every husband's wife.”

    So, in order for the remark to “work,” in your mind:

    1. I must not have authored the page (which I didn’t.)
    2. Someone else besides the heroine needs to make the remark?

    I think I’ll just leave as we clearly have different tastes and viewed the writing sample in different lights, as all readers are wont to do. You didn’t care for the allusions to adultery, I don’t have a problem with them if it makes sense in the story.

  21. Suzanne
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 08:35:45

    This is all backstory. I’d begin the story as she rides into town and realizes its changed–she hasn’t. No one remembers her, but admire the Harley.

    I have no problem with a 37 year old heroine, but can’t figure out why she’s let the past hang around so long. And if her memories are so bitter, why bother coming back? I like bad girls, but they have to be bad girls gone good. If she’s back for revenge or crowing about her successful life, then the story isn’t going to work.

  22. theo
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 08:59:31

    Not to split hairs and I’m not necessarily agree or disagreeing with some things posted here, but CAMELOT is not a romance. True romance has a HEA between two love interests. Camelot doesn’t.

    Just my $.02

  23. A
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:29:31

    @theo:

    Not to split hairs and I'm not necessarily agree or disagreeing with some things posted here, but CAMELOT is not a romance. True romance has a HEA between two love interests. Camelot doesn't.

    Oh, but it was soooo swooney! : )

  24. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 16, 2009 @ 16:25:22

    A, I’m saying that the character was vanishingly unlikely to be referring to Julius Caesar, and if she was referring to Julius Caesar it didn’t work.

    The “unless you’re the author, in which case it didn’t work,” means, unpacked, “unless you happen to know she is referring to Julius Caesar because you are the author, in which case you should also be informed that it doesn’t work.”

    And no homewreckers IN ROMANCE. “Romance” here refers to the contemporary publishing genre, not to the medieval genre.

    Your liking or not liking books about homewreckers is kind of irrelevant to whether or not acquisitions editors for romance lines will buy books about homewreckers. They will not.

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