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First Page: Unnamed Historical

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Paris, 1890.

The important thing to remember when about to fight a duel for the honor of a beautiful woman is to wear the correct style of shoes.

Lord Lucien Severn had been most explicit with his valet as to the exact shade of dove grey suede that would complement his trousers with their cuffs carefully turned up in the most recent style,  a l'Anglaise.

Unfortunately, Lucien had not anticipated the early morning dew covering the grass in the Bois de Boulogne.    This was not surprising, considering he had not been out before noon since he'd arrived in Paris.    Or rather, he'd not been  in until five orout before noon.

The suede was damp with mud and he was starting to doubt his choice of white satin waistcoat.    Too formal?    If he were actually shot, the blood would be the devil to clean.    Of course, Lucien would never have the bad taste to be shot.      No, if anyone would be cleaning blood from a waistcoat, it would be Freddy, who was nervously examining the barrel of his pistol as if he had never seen one up close before.

The newsmen gathered along the edge of the meadow, frantically jotting descriptions of the cut of his coat.    Lucien wondered if his tailor would be grateful enough for the publicity to stop hounding him for that trivial matter of payment.

"My Lord," called one from the line, "Paris Herald here! Any last words you would like us to deliver to La Belle Russe?"

Lucien paused and straightened the white orchid pinned to his lapel; the contrast was striking between the delicacy of the blossom and the strength of his long, tapered fingers.

"Any gentleman would gladly leap into the grave to defend La Belle Russe from the grievous insult dealt her by this perfidious blaggard."

"I say!" exclaimed Freddy indignantly, blushing like a school-girl, "I only offered her the statue as a tribute.    I never meant to imply-that is, dash it, Severn, she knows I only worship her!"

"Quite. Well, Freddy, shall we get this business over with then?    I'll buy you a stiff drink at Maxim's once the surgeon's patched you up."

Lucien's second, still dressed in tails and slightly foxed, handed him the pistol with a tipsy bow.

"All right, then, you both know the rules.    Twenty paces and one shot each. Gentleman of the press, clear the way!"


Lucien took the fist step, deliberately placing one foot directly in front of the other as if executing the steps of a complicated dance.


He looked out at the leaves, just beginning to turn gold and red along the edges – everything seemed brighter, clearer, more real-


He could hear the slight breeze whistling and shaking the poplar leaves like tiny symbols.    In the distance, a bird trilled, calling to her children in the nest.


He felt the old familiar pull of oblivion, darkness-.    As he stepped, his fingers gradually loosened on the pistol.


The forest floor rumbled with vibrations, steadily growing stronger; the poplar leaves trembled in the still morning air; the vibrations turned to the clatter of hooves.

A dark shape burst from the brush and reared up over Lucien, a dark and monstrous silhouette like the nightmares of his childhood- a confusion of rearing hooves, wild rolling eyes, and nostrils blowing smoke in the cold air.

As Lucien stared in frozen bewilderment, the shape settled and transformed into recognizable shapes – a black horse rearing and then settling and pawing at the ground, a dark figure in a billowing cloak, holding tight to the reigns and forcing the powerful beast to an abrupt stop from a mad gallop.

"Hold there – settle, you devil!" growled the figure in a deep, raspy baritone.

Lucien straightened up, caught his pistol as it slid to the tip of his fingers, and tossed it up, catching it midair.

"Why, hullo, Max, what brings you out so early in the morning?" he drawled.

It was his brother, the Duke of Warwick, and his calm expression could not mask the formidable temper that Lucien remembered all too well from boyhood.

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


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  2. Ros
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 05:53:54

    If I got to the end of the first page, I’d probably read on. I think the very first sentence is a bit clunky. The idea is fine, but I’d work on trying to get the sound and rhythm of it better. Read it aloud and see what you can do. That first sentence matters. Also have a look at the last sentence of this extract – it’s a little bit infodumpy.

    The characters are clearly drawn in just a few words – I have a good sense of Lucien, Freddy and Max. Though I’m wondering what all these Englishmen are doing in Paris, but I’m sure you will explain that to me soon. The duel is intriguing – I definitely want to meet La Belle Russe and find out what the precise nature of her relationship with Lucien is.

    There were a couple of places where the historical details didn’t quite ring true for me, but as I say, I’d still read on.

  3. sao
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 05:54:23

    Sorry I posted by accident.

    Historical nits:
    As I understand it, if the duel wasn’t fueled by anger, the honorable thing to do was delope — ie fired into the air. Shooting at one’s friend over something really dumb was never admirable behavior, even when dueling was a custom.

    Dueling was outlawed in England long before it ended, hence newspapers were never informed and if they were, that was a cause for rescheduling the duel.

    I didn’t look these issues up, so I could be mistaken, but you should make sure you’re not.

    Aside from that Lucien, is a self-absorbed twit and none too bright. If the book is about him, you need to show some humanity and make us believe he’s going to change. If the book is about Max, you should open with him, in his POV.

    From what I get on this page, the book is about a man who cares more about his white silk waistcoat than the prospect of watching the surgeon patch up his friend after he shoots him or whether the “insult” they are dueling over was actually an insult.

    With a main character like that, why bother to read page 2?

    If the book’s about Max, why waste our time and patience with Lucien’s dove gray suede shoes?

  4. Danielle
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 06:07:35

    Ok, you hooked me as a reader — I want to read more.

  5. Bernita
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 07:39:55

    As Regency-style opening set in the late Victorian era, the page has a certain charm.

    the contrast was striking between the delicacy of the blossom and the strength of his long, tapered fingers

    – passive, “telling,” and strained.
    Did you not mean “cymbals” rather than “symbols?”

    Lucien straightened up

    First, there is not earthly reason for Lucien to have been bent over ( he’d been staring in frozen bewilderment an instant before) and second,”straightened up” is an intrusive colloquialism. If you must, simply say, “he straightened,” or perhaps “stiffened,” but “Lucien caught his pistol” is perfectly adequate without it.
    I think you have good bones in this but your prose needs clarity and simplification.

  6. joanne
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 08:08:56

    I love a good historical but this starts out like a good weather/fashion report from Paris.
    When the story actually begins — with “The newsmen gathered” — it becomes interesting but also very familiar to a hundred other historical romances.

    Your writing is very appealing and I think has a nice rhythm so with an edited beginning I would like to read more.

    Thank you for putting your work here and much good luck with your writing.

  7. Jane O
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 08:09:39

    I like this a lot. A dandy in the Belle Epoque? Delighted to make his acquaintance. The characters really come alive even in this one page. I don’t know if Lucien is going to be the hero (and grow up) or if Max is, but I certainly want to read more.

  8. Ros
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 08:34:41

    @sao: The excerpt is set in Paris, so English law doesn’t apply. My understanding is that duels were also technically outlawed in France, but the practice continued much longer than in England, and the police pretty much turned a blind eye to it.

  9. Stephanie
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 08:50:06

    The writing is fairly smooth, and the story interests me enough that I might read on for a few more pages. But I feel a weird disconnect between the story’s ostensible setting and its tone. The setting may be Paris during the Belle Epoque, but the dialogue and attitude just screams “Regency” to me. Words like “foxed” and “blaggard” seem to come straight out of Georgette Heyer and her legion of imitators. So do the foppish POV character, his amiable twit of a friend/adversary, and his stern ducal brother galloping ventre a terre to the rescue. And then there’s the whole question of whether dueling would be legal, even in France in this purported day and age, and allowed to be a public spectacle, when a gentleman would usually try to keep meetings like these clandestine.

    Others may disagree, but I find this imprecision gives the story a very wallpaper-y feeling. It throws me off in the same way that finding Almacks still holding sway in a late-Victorian set romance would (the club closed in the 1860s, I believe, and it had lost much of its social clout by then, in any case).

    Someone else mentioned the “cymbals” / “symbols” thing. But “reins” not “reigns” when it comes to horses’ gear, please.

  10. theo
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:06:36

    Very nitpicky here, but since your POV character is such a dandy, I was yanked out of the story with your spelling of blaggard. A man who is that particular about everything and who obviously was born to or has money and some standing in society since you call him ‘lord’ would use the correct term of ‘blackguard’. Blaggard is very low brow and unless you portray Lucien as totally sotted, he would use the ‘correct pronunciation.’

    Also, I’m guessing he either has some type of neurological problem or he’s taking drugs with the explanation of the blackout that started, but it threw me because of the way it resolved. I would have thought there would have been more blinking, a shake of the head, a feel like the blood is rushing from his head, but it’s all too…’oh well, I’m blacking out, hey wait! It’s just my brother.’ Too matter of fact.

    I’m not sure if there’s a good story or not in here, this excerpt was too short for that. But I agree that it needs to flow better. Some of your sentences are clunky.

    Your characters are clearly drawn, but I’m not sure that I care at this point. I need to care to read on.

    Kudos for putting it out there and good luck!

  11. vanessa jaye
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:12:56

    Needs some tweaking (typos, etc) But I would definitely read on. Love the era/setting you’ve picked and while I think Lucien is a bit of a shallow ass, I’d expect him to have his come uppence and that he matures by the end of the romance. The fun will be watching him match withs and put through the paces by a worthy/smart heroine. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more of Max (assuming that his book will come later).

  12. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:24:52

    I like this. I didn’t even notice the misused homophones until I read the comments. You have a good voice.

    Here are a few things to which you might want to pay attention:


    the contrast was striking between the delicacy of the blossom and the strength of his long, tapered fingers.

    We are in Lucien’s point of view, let’s not have him admire the strength of his own long, tapered fingers. Save that for someone else’s observation.

    2) As has been pointed out earlier, except for the mention of Bois de Bologne and the heads-up of “Paris 1890,” I would not have known this was a fin-de-siecle setting, or that it was outside of England.

    I understand you don’t wish to hit your readers on the head with the Frenchness or Belle-Epoqueness of the setting. But a few more details to better orient the readers wouldn’t be amiss. They would also serve to make your setting, such a vivid time and place in history, come more alive.

    3) I have no problem with Lucien as a hero: Amoral younger sons are fun to read about. But like a commenter above, I have a suspicion that this might not be Lucien’s book, but his brother the duke’s. In which case, you might want to consider opening the story with the duke searching frantically for his wastrel of a brother to prevent him from getting in trouble, all the while wishing to wring the neck of La Belle Russe for causing him all this hassle–if you mean to eventually pair La Belle Russe with Warwick, that is.

  13. pendragonfly
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:37:48

    I liked this a great deal. I think the characters are marvelous. Like others, however, I question the 1890’s time period. Do you realize that 1890 was the year Rose Kennedy, JFK’s mother, was born? Or that experimental air flights were taking place in France. The Titanic will sink and World War I will begin in less than 20 years! On the other hand, there was still a good deal of foppish, frivolous behavior among the upper classes. I do agree with the other poster, though, that it seems to have a more Regency than late Victorian feel.
    The other thing…I hope you are not investing us in goofy, self-centered Lucien if Max is going to turn out to be the hero!
    You do paint a terrific picture, though. I can see this guy’s wet and muddy suede shoes!

  14. dick
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:40:15

    Can’t tell much from such a short passage, but, except for homophonic horrors, I thought it a good beginning. I like the immediate tension of the interspersed counts. Good luck!

  15. pendragonfly
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:41:33

    PS: There actually was a Duke of Warwick. You can still visit Warwick castle. You might want to change the name.

  16. Ros
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:53:12

    @pendragonfly: Yes and no. The title bothered me too, not because there were Dukes of Warwick but because I was pretty sure the Warwicks were Earls. Anyway I googled it and you’re right, there was one Duke of Warwick in 1425-26. But the Earldom was a much longer lasting title. Either way, I think I agree that I’d choose a different name/title.

  17. S. W. Vaughn
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:53:16

    This comment isn’t going to be a lot of help, but I wanted to leave it anyway: I adored this. Sure, there were a few awkward phrases, but I am already in love with these guys. Your characterization is fantastic.

    The thing with me is, I don’t read a lot of historicals, and when I do, I don’t really care whether or not they’re historically accurate (gasp! blasphemy!). So other commenters probably have good points. They just happen to be points that don’t matter to me. :-)

    So purely as a reader: oh yeah, I’d keep going. Love it! And my apologies for being less than helpful with my uninformed praise. *G*

  18. foolserrant
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:53:24

    I enjoyed this quite a bit and would definitely read on, without any changes other than minor copyediting issues (symbols for cymbals, etc). As for those that say Lucien is a self-absorbed prick and they wouldn’t like reading about him, well, I figure there’s got to be a pretty good story to how he grows, and I’m intrigued with the brother aspect there. Also, the historical issues didn’t bother me because I’m not an avid Regency/Victorian history buff, but that is probably just me.

  19. pendragonfly
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:58:35

    My much longer post is just not showing up and after three tries, I am giving up.
    Suffice it to say, I also thought your characterizations were nicely drawn and I would definitely read on. I do question the 1890’s setting and hope you have not invested us in Lucien if Alpha Max is our hero. But I’d love to know where this is going!

  20. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 10:11:47

    I’m not interested in Lucien, mainly because of the comments above, and however much you want him to change in the course of the story, we need a reason to like him from the get-go. Maybe a twinge of guilt, or he delopes or something?
    I won’t go into historical detail, because I don’t know this period awfully well, apart from the Moulin Rouge and all that stuff, but I write about the Georgian era and when I started, I thought it read very much like a book set in “my” era rather than the 1890’s.
    The ventre a terre bit – straight out of Heyer or even Bronte.
    And yes, for goodness’ sake, change the Warwick title. In this era, the Countess of Warwick, Daisy, became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. All those associations won’t do your story any good. And there’s no way you can move them into Warwick Castle! Going up or down a rank doesn’t really make any difference. When someone holds the title, it can’t be taken by anyone else.
    Find a title nobody has ever used, and certainly not Warwick which is one of the premier titles of England. I tend to pick little villages and then google for them to make sure there aren’t any either now or in the past. That’s how I got Richard, Lord Strang in the Richard and Rose books.
    This is a curate’s egg of a page – good in parts. There’s some very nice writing here, so keep at it!

  21. Elyssa Papa
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 10:52:00

    I actually loved Lucien. Loved. I think that there will be more to him, much like how Rupert is more than what he seems in Mr. Impossible. And I really hope Lucien is the hero.

    I’d buy this book in a second. I absolutely loved the voice.

    Only thing that I am nitpicking is the countdown to the duel. I think that took way too long of a build up, and I would spend less time on going one, two, three, etc. Maybe even, you can go one, have his thoughts, and next number is higher. But that’s what stood out to me, and Sherry mentioned the homophones thing.

    But these can be corrected when you edit your mss. Good luck!

  22. Likari
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 11:14:29

    I don’t know if I care about Lucien yet — but the good news is, I’m still willing to read further to find out.

    I was thrown out of the story by its time and place. My first thought was wait! hasn’t Brummel been dead 50 years? Lucien seems a throwback; identifying so much with his clothing seems out of whack with the 1890s.

    Despite the problems, the scenes feels real — maybe that’s why the technical irregularities jar so much.

    Good luck with this.

  23. evie byrne
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 11:18:40

    Everyone has their nitpicks and this is mine. It’s about the dew, of all things. I’m sorry, but this just obsessed me for the first few paragraphs. Dew forms in the early hours. If Lucien is regularly out til 5AM he is well acquainted with the dew.

    His valet, too, who I assume would be no slouch, would take into account the “conditions on the ground” when assembling his wardrobe, and would not have allowed him to wear grey suede boots for the occasion, even if Lucien was daft enough to insist on it, which, I think, he would not, because he’s a man who loves his clothes.

    I’m no dandy, but even I won’t wear my suede boots out in nature. It just doesn’t ring true. It reads like a shorthand means to show what a fop he is, but it also makes him seems a bit of a fraud. A well-dressed gentlemen is well dressed (meaning appropriately dressed) for any occasion, including a duel.

    But once I got past my dew issues I was intrigued. I would love, love, love to read about a dandy-ized hero–if Lucien is in fact the hero.

  24. Meredith Duran
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 11:53:03

    Yes! I was completely hooked by this first page. I do love me a shallow fop brought to rights.

    Points to consider: like Sherry, I was jarred by the instances of POV slippage. One instance: “as if executing the steps of a complicated dance.” Seems like something an observer would think, not Lucien himself, unless he is acutely conscious of his own artifice at this moment (if so, this needs to be made clearer). The remark about his fingers also gave me pause. But with just a little tweaking, these moments could serve to underscore either an acute self-awareness or his already evident (and very amusing) narcissism. To wit: perhaps he admires, briefly, “the contrast between the delicacy of the blossom and the strength [apparent in] his long, tapered fingers.” (I get the feeling he pays such careful attention to his clothes because it’s a form, however small, of control. I’d believe, then, that a guy like this might draw some obscure comfort from how pretty his hands look just before he uses them to lift a gun.)

    Regarding the duel — I bought it. Albeit rare, duels did take place in Paris at this time, and not necessarily in secret. (For example, here’s a New York Times article from 1897 about an upcoming duel in Paris.) But this is one of those tough calls that falls on the odder side of the “historical accuracy” line. If it’s accurate but seems incorrect, is it worth potentially throwing the reader out of the story (and the “feel” of the era) on the first page (i.e., before you’ve won her trust that you know the era of which you write)? Depends on what the duel does for your story, I suppose. If you had it in a less public place — or if a gendarme showed up to try to stop it (which very well may have happened with some of these duels) — perhaps this would make it more credible for some readers.

    Anyway, as I said, I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 11:54:21

    I like it! Agree with many of the points already made, ie Lucien is silly but fun, and if Max is the hero, we should open with his POV. Still, this page has a lot of vibrancy.

    Good job and good luck!

  26. Lori
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 12:22:36

    I wouldn’t know a Regency from a Georgian from a Martian so historical details would fly right by me.

    I wanted to keep reading. I enjoyed Lucien and hope that he grows up…

    The only thing was Max’s appearance made me wonder for the briefest of seconds if this was paranormal and that was unpleasant so I’d tweak that a bit.

    But I want to read more.

  27. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 12:28:56

    I agree that this reads as if you’re channeling Heyer. It reminds me of the duel in either The Convenient Marriage or April Lady (can’t remembe exactly), where the younger brother of the heroine fights a duel in her honor, much to the irritation of the older and wiser hero/husband.

    I have no problem with the duel taking place and with newspapermen there. A cursory look through Google Scholar shows that duels were very common in Belle Epoque France, both with pistols and with swords. It’s not anachronistic; not only were lots of duels fought, but women challenged men as well. They were not always life-or-death events, unlike earlier times, so your depiction of the participants’ views seems okay.

    I think the reason people are questioning the validity is that the passage as written sounds so Regency-ish, and duels were not common in England by the late 19th century. The passage feels historically wrong even though the duel is not, either in taking place or in terms of the reasons given. If you can provide more grounding in the place and time, the duel will make more sense.

    A minor peeve: the names reinforce stereotypes. Freddy is the sidekick, Lucien is either the hero or the brother of the hero, Max rides up on a big black horse. They detract from whatever you are bringing to the table that is original.

    Second peeve: why is Lucien wearing so much white? If you’re going to evoke duels in romancelandia, participants only wear white if they’re ignorant or they’re so good they don’t mind offering an easy target. In this case, it could also be because the duel is all about form rather than danger, but that doesn’t come across for me.

  28. GrowlyCub
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 13:31:04

    I like it. I noticed a couple of words, especially ‘blaggard’ which I had never heard before. Wondered at the commenter mentioning Heyer because I’ve read all of hers (excluding the mysteries) and don’t remember that.

    The only bit I was unclear about what happens right before the rider appears. At first I thought Lucien was fainting or having a seizure or something of that nature.

  29. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:14:50

    Wondered at the commenter mentioning Heyer because I've read all of hers (excluding the mysteries) and don't remember that.

    Found it. I was thinking of The Convenient Marriage; there are two duels, one offstage (before the events in the book) and then one in the book between the brother and the hero’s heir. The offstage duel is serious, the in-book one quite humorous. It’s worth noting that this book is set in the Georgian era.

    There is also a scene in Regency Buck in which Peregrine, the brother, is set up to participate in a duel by the villain, but it’s broken up. That’s the one in which the second worries about the big mother-of-pearl buttons being targets for the opponent.

  30. GrowlyCub
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:17:17


    I was referring to Stephanie’s comment about ‘blaggard’ being ‘straight out of Heyer’.

    Can’t say I flashed to Heyer with this at all, duel or no duel. :)

  31. job
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:17:34

    I like Lucien’s ‘voice’. That would be enough to make me turn to the next page.

    In re the footwear — the ‘he’s never seen dew fall’ sounds like an affectation, rather than reality. If nothing else, I would expect an adult male of this class to regularly attend shooting parties.

    There’s a couple few little nitpicks that aren’t important. This is stuff like, if it’s five in the morning, would Maxim’s be open for a drink when they were through?

    May I be idiosyncratic here? . . . if Lucien is not the hero, I would rename him. I feel as if a name like ‘Lucien’ should be reserved to the hero rather than a secondary character. The name and being in his POV makes me assume he’s the story’s protagonist.

  32. Polly
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:27:14

    There are plenty of Belle Epoch dandies (Arthur Schnitzler’s Anatole plays are a great source, for example), but a dandy isn’t a dandy isn’t a dandy. This still feels very Regency. Given how many romance readers have read Regencys out the wazoo, it’s probably important to make sure this feels 1890 and not 1816.

    The duel is kind of throwing me if the setting is 1890. Even if there are instances of dueling in the late 19th century, it’s an increasingly rare spectacle (and the fact that newspapers sometimes got alerted to them only demonstrates even more how much more of a strange spectacle they were). I mean, even the beloved duels of Regency novels were pretty rare–dueling had been outlawed for for a long time even then, hence duels in secret, with flights to the continent, etc. On the other hand, I’m hardly an expert on the period, so I could be totally wrong.

    I’m also wondering what so many Englishmen are doing in Paris–I know the rich traveled, but maybe it would help set the stage more if Lucien is facing Gervaise DuMaine, or Friedrich Holtzen, or another name that alludes to your cosmopolitan, not-in-England setting.

    One sentence in the passage confused me–what’s the oblivion and darkness? Was he about to faint? Was it just his focus for the duel? If it’s a way to signify focus, I’d choose a different description.

    I’d definitely read more, provided the setting got fixed. I love historical romance, but the setting should be clear, either Regency or Belle Epoch. Both are fascinating period, but pretty different.

  33. Diana
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 15:07:15

    The tone of this actually sounded to me a lot like The Scarlett Pimpernel, so Fin de Siecle writing set in 18th century England.

    I liked Lucien. Fun to read.

    I’m concerned about the repetition of dark. Dark shape, dark silhouette, dark figure, dark dark dark… easy fix.

  34. hapax
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 16:06:12

    I was hooked by the first line, and loved the rest.

    Others have pointed out the odd typo and clumsy pov slippage, but those are easy fixes.

    I’d be disappointed if Max was the hero — brooding protective dark Alpha heroes are a dime a dozen, but we need more self-absorbed dandies.

    I’d take issue with all those complaining about the Regency “tone” — it’s definitely there, but there’s nothing about it intrinsic to the early nineteenth century, just what we associate with romance set in that period, mostly due to the influence of Heyer. However, Heyer also wrote many Georgians and a medieval or two, and they all had the same mannered frivolity. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t translate into the 1890s — this is the heyday of Oscar Wilde and Gilbert and Sullivan etc. after all.

  35. HotLikeSauce
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 16:49:04

    I had mixed reviews to this piece. I was really captivated by Lucien but I do feel that you might have gone overboard with his attentiveness to his dress at the time of a duel. He seemed really immature and as far as I’m concerned, I’m not too keen to read about children playing with firearms. If the book is about him, I’d do something to make him seem a little more tuned into what’s going on in the moment or at least introduce some plausible reason why he is so tuned into his attire.

    Still, I’d keep reading. I enjoy your voice and am interested enough in the characters to want to know more. Also, I am really excited by the time period and setting and would love to see more of that in the manuscript.

  36. Stephanie
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 17:23:40


    Heyer herself might not have used the term “blaggard” (which appears to be a corruption of “blackguard”), but I also mentioned Heyer imitators who might have done so. Sorry for the confusion.

  37. Jess Granger
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 20:19:37

    I just have to say, I thought this had a great sense of humor, and conveyed that sense of humor through the character well.

  38. Joe G
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 02:01:58

    Judging by all the comments saying how concerned people are about the level of Lucien’s maturity, or his capability, or his self absorbed nature, I’d say you’re doing great. He’s an immediately interesting character, the jokes are amusing, and clearly he’s meant to be comic. Other people have nitpicked on the smaller things, but I thought some of this was nicely, engagingly written.

    I also liked how blase he was about fighting a duel. I kept thinking as I was reading “He’s awfully calm and jovial in the face of perhaps getting shot” but that’s a point of silent tension until you reveal that he has absolutely no regard for his opponent. Of course the laws of comedy dictate that he has to get his comeuppance for his arrogance, but it’s your book!

  39. Marianne McA
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 07:29:08

    It reminded me a lot of Heyer: Freddy in particular brought to mind Freddy from Cotillion and Ferdy from Friday’s Child (perhaps a different name?)

    I love Heyer, so I’d without question buy the book to see if I also liked this author. But I agree with everyone else: it’s so Heyer-like that my mind defaulted to the Regency period. From this page alone it’s hard to imagine this character is a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes.

    Minor nitpick ” Of course, Lucien would never have the bad taste to be shot.” It is funny, but it threw me off, because I can’t imagine him thinking that to himself. He might say it aloud as a witticism, or a bystander might make that remark – but as internal musing, it seemed peculiar.

    Also, I’d be slightly worried about him throwing a firearm in the air. I know nothing whatsoever about firearms, so it’s not a complaint – just to point out that it might be worth adding a phrase to explain to readers ignorant about guns, how it’s safe to toss them around. (Unless it is unsafe, and it’s meant to show him as reckless.)

  40. Susan/DC
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 14:58:59

    I liked this and liked Lucien, but then, I adored Alistair in Loretta Chase’s Miss Wonderful. I wouldn’t mind Max as hero, but he can have his own book later.

    Even though I liked it, I agree with a number of the comments about tone and grammar. An example of an infodump that doesn’t sound quite right is the last sentence, when Lucien thinks to himself “it was his brother, the Duke of Warwick . . .” He knows his brother is the duke, and the sentence is clearly put there so that we learn it, but I don’t think that’s how Lucien would phrase it to himself. He might think along the lines of “was Max here because he was worried about his younger brother, or was he here as Duke of Warwick, angry about the possible stain on the family’s reputation.”

  41. Joanne Renaud
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 03:15:24

    I enjoyed reading this excerpt, and I loved everybody’s comments. I agree that the tone seems to be more late Georgian/Regency, rather than Belle Epoque. But I don’t think it would take much work to make Lucien a Belle Epoque Huysmans-loving dandy. I particularly thought the newsmen were a nice touch, though wouldn’t there be a photographer or two with them?

    I hope Lucien is the hero, and not Max. I too have had my fill of glowering Heathcliff types. The mention of a ‘billowing cloak’ seems a bit anachronistic for the time period.

    Hmmm, now this has whetted my appetite for reading romances featuring dapper Belle Epoque dandies. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  42. Author
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 09:11:48

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my little piece. Your comments are quite helpful and respond to many of the questions I had been mulling over. I really appreciate how the community here can converse so civilly and at the same time offer real constructive criticism. I was especially touched to get comments by some of my favorite authors in the genre!! Here are a few responses to the main criticisms.
    – The main character – indeed, Max is the hero of this novel, but Lucien has hijacked the beginning! I fell in love with him and he ran off with the first chapter, the devil! I agree that I need to start this novel with the two main characters, Max the and La Belle Russe, an American heiress on the lam, determined to turn herself into a cabaret star in La Folie Bergere. Lucien, Max's troubled younger brother, is on a self-destructive rampage through the continent. He's young (early 20s), disillusioned and angry at the English aristocracy (and his older brother) for what he sees as their hypocritical complicity in the death of his best friend. Exposing himself in the tabloids as the ridiculous lover of a rising cabaret star seems like a good form of revenge against his dutiful brother. In the next book, Lucien gets his comeuppance in spades from a fiery journalist/suffragette, but he has a few years of growing up first
    – Historical accuracy – thank you to all who pointed out that my colloquialisms may not be historically precise. I'll have to do some more precise research to find a mildly offense way to say “Drunk” and “idiot/bastard” in the 1890s.
    – This story actually began when I found an anthology of news stories from the Paris Herald (later the Herald Tribune) an English paper published for expatriates in Paris is the 1880s and ’90s. I found several breathless accounts of duels of honor by foreign aristocrats. The duels may have been technically illegal, but the French authorities did not seem to care what foreigners got up to in the woods, so long as they left ordinary French citizens alone. The news reports of the duels really do read more like fashion gossip than crime reports. Duels often resulted in injury or death, but the journalists wax rhapsodic about the duelists' hats and shoes. I really believe that Belle Epoque dandies could give Heyer's rakes a run for their money in the fashion department. While the duel is actually ripped from the headlines, so to speak, I can see how it might seem anachronistic since we know that modern technology, the world wars, and all the social upheaval of the 20th century were fast approaching. As one commentator pointed out, the Titanic would sink in just a few years; of course, the 1st class passengers of the Titanic thought they were on just another decadent pleasure cruise, just as the dandies of the ’80s and ’90s thought that their life of pleasure and consumption would never end. What appeals to me about the Belle Epoque is the extravagant decadence paired with the growing awareness of social change. Paris in the ’80s and ’90s was full of foreigners with money to burn. American magnates and Russian princes hosted magnificent champagne receptions in their yachts and commandeered the finest restaurants for their private balls. Think: pre-Enron Houston x 1000.
    Would you believe this story?: a young American heiress marries into the French aristocracy at the orders of her ambitious mid-western parents, only to fall madly in love with a Gypsy musician camping in the woods outside her new husband's Chateau. She then renounces her wealth, runs off with her Gypsy lover to Paris, and becomes a sensational singing star/pin-up-girl. It's a true story straight from the headlines of the time!!

    I do agree with the comment that while the duels may be historically accurate, I have to win the reader's trust. And I can see that this scene does not really evoke Paris since all the participants are English and the setting is a forest. Thus, I will begin in the smoky back-stage of La Folie Bergere dance-hall.

    As to the horrid typos : symbols/cymbals and reins/reigns – argh!! (hitting my head). I swear that a four year old with a phonics book could beat me at scrabble. I desperately need a copy-editor!

    Thanks as well to those who pointed out that I switch out of my limited omniscient perspective by describing Lucien's hands. I'll need to watch that in the future.

    Again, thanks to all your wonderful comments.

    And, Joanne Renauld, I hope you are already familiar with Meredith Duran's Bound By Your Touch- the hero isn't exactly a dandy, but very close in spirit. And I look forward to her new Belle Epoque novel in April!


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