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First Page: Unnamed Regency Historical

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Robert did not wake.  Rather, he became aware he no longer slept.  Moreover, he was not alone.  The softness of a woman’s leg touched his foot.  He lay in the pre-dawn darkness trying to remember how he had come to have a woman in his bed.  His mind, traitor that it was, deserted him.

He moved.  A mistake.  A big mistake.  His head split into two pieces and his stomach roiled through waves of nausea. He managed to fall off the edge of the bed and gather the chamber pot before his stomach erupted.  Unfortunately, the noise woke his companion.

“Are you all right?”  She asked.

The sound of her burr was familiar.  Robert glanced up over the bed.  Light green eyes, dancing with amusement, stared back at him.  Who was she?

“I’m fine.”  He bent his head over the pot again and emptied what remained from his supper.

“You English canna’ hold our whiskey,” she said.  “I never understood why you insist on trying.”  Her tone bordered on sarcasm.

Robert leaned back on his haunches.  Too late, he realized he was naked.  He reached for the sheet, the sudden movement bringing bile back up into his throat.  He gingerly crawled onto the mattress and laid his head against the pillow. Damn his nakedness.  He didn’t care.  He was sure the girl had seen the unvarnished side of men before.

“Can I secure you something from the kitchen?”  The girl asked.  She had removed herself from the bed and now bent to take his chamber pot away.

Robert opened one eye.  “Leave that.  My people will take care of it.  Forgive me for not being a better host.  Pull the bell.  I shall obtain you a ride home.”  Robert wanted to die.  Not only did his head ache, but also his other betrayed his maleness.  Watching her watching him, he could not dismiss her beauty.  Blue-black hair with silver highlights hung down her back in a free falling cape.  Luminescent skin, eyes the color of celadon, and a mouth that begged for a kiss, had him squirming uncomfortably on the bed.

“I do not need to be taken home,” she said.  “I shall walk.”  She picked up the chamber pot and turned to go.

Robert barely heard her.  He was falling back into the arms of sleep.  His last thought before he succumbed to blissful pain free slumber – he would send her some money before he left.


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 09:02:08

    First, it doesn’t read like a Regency, or any other period, come to that. It could have happened any time, any place. There’s nothing specific to ground it firmly in its time.
    Since whisky (and it’s spelt that way, not “whiskey”) was such a rare and unusual drink in the Regency, either substitute brandy, or explain how he got hold of the Scotch. Even in Scotland it wasn’t readily and commercially available until the 1840’s, well after the Regency. But he might have tasted a private stock, discovered it for the first time, or something that would make the story more memorable.

    “”Are you all right?” She asked” should be “”Are you all right?” she asked.”

    Then my heart sank. Another generic Scot. The “you English” jibe just doesn’t sound right. The Scots didn’t hate the English, or label them, they hated the Scottish aristocrats responsible for the Clearances and other atrocities. And the dinnacanna accent is so tired.

    Blue black hair with silver highlights? Is she going grey, or has she had a modern dye job?

    I don’t really find it realistic that he’s getting an erection and the hots for her while he’s in the throes of a horrendous hangover. And why is she taking the chamber pot away?

    On the whole, this reads as generic, nothing special. Robert is a real peach, to behave as he does, hangover or no, and the girl is straight out of Central Casting.

    Add some detail. If he’s in a comfortable feather bed, say so. If he’s in a nasty, squeaky rope bed, add that. And the room probably stinks, too.

    Doesn’t she care that she might get pregnant? Doesn’t she want his address, his name? Does she know him?

    Really, the vomiting, realistic though it is, doesn’t make me think of twinkling eyes and humour. It makes me go “yuk.” A hero casting up his accounts on the first page doesn’t make me want to read on.

  2. Maria
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 10:13:17

    It’s an interesting premise, he wakes up with a terrible hangover and a beautiful girl in his bed, has no idea how that happened, and then goes back to sleep? I was actually surprised that he was in his own bed. In my mind I had set it in some random road house, and then had to switch my perspective to his chambers, although even that was a fuzzy black hole void of detail. Although I don’t expect a lot of detail to come from a superbly hung over man, a moment of recognition that it is his chamber would have helped. Why did she take the chamber pot? Was she naked or clothed? Or did she hastily get dressed before leaving?

    I’d probably keep reading a few more pages, just to get some of those questions answered, and maybe to figure out the enigma of the heroine.

  3. dm
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 10:24:43

    Lynne is right. This is generic. And there is no hook. And beginning your story with a scene of someone waking up is cliche.

    But none of that matters until you can write good clean prose.

    Robert did not wake. Rather, he became aware he no longer slept.

    Becoming aware you are no longer sleeping IS waking up. You’re trying to sound sophisticated here, but it’s coming out as nonsense.

    Moreover, he was not alone.

    Moreover means “as a further matter.” So you are saying:

    He woke up. As a further matter, he was not alone.

    Discovering you are not alone is not a further matter to waking up.

    His mind, traitor that it was, deserted him.

    Really? He lost his mind? Because he woke up? Because there was a woman in his bed?

  4. Moth
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 11:07:33

    I don’t believe someone who just barfed twice really cares how beautiful the woman in bed with him is. Throwing up is unpleasant. It hurts. Your throat burns and you can’t control your body. I think he would barely notice she was a woman–let alone what she looked liked–if he was busy barfing his brains out in the chamber pot.

  5. Louise
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 11:27:09

    I actually didn’t mind the vomiting, and I liked that Robert *didn’t* clutch the bedsheets around him on waking up next to someone who was already quite familiar with his naked body.

    My problem was that the characters feel a bit too modern for this historical setting. It feels like you’re taking what would be totally reasonable for a one-night stand in a contemporary – the visitor offering to make breakfast, the host offering a ride home – and just putting it in period language.

    I don’t need my historicals to be as accurate as a research paper, but it makes it hard for me to suspend my belief if I’m thinking ‘But the kitchen would probably be full of sleeping servants!’

    Also, it put me off when the heroine was described as having ‘a mouth that begged for kisses’. It’s a bit of a cliche and also it made me think about kissing a man who had just vomited.

    I’m sorry to be so critical, and I wish you success with your writing.

  6. Lori
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 12:09:26

    I’m a fan of, what I consider, historical lite. That being, I don’t know any of the things that Lynne Connelly knows so it doesn’t take me out of the story if he’s drinking whisky or brandy or port or Diet 7Up.

    Saying that, this didn’t make a lot of sense. The only way a strange woman would be in his bed after a night of drinking means she’d be a prostitute. And she wouldn’t remove his chamber pot or offer him breakfast.

    So I assumed that maybe he was at an inn and maybe she worked there and sold herself on the side. But in that case, he couldn’t offer her a ride home.

    And in either instance, as he’s’ falling back to sleep, he wouldn’t be able to pay her since he’s sleeping.

    I really liked the voice, I mean I really liked the voice. I read generally for the author’s voice and this is one that I would read. I just think that there’s a fail in the logic of this piece.

  7. Wahoo Suze
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 13:01:55

    The short, choppy, not-quite sentences really don’t feel like a Regency. That’s not altogether a bad thing for me, as I can enjoy wallpaper historicals, but the choppiness of the sentences was a little jarring.

    Please, please don’t spell out her accent. Allude to it, talk about how charming or irritating it is, but don’t put “canna” or “I dinna ken” into her mouth, or into anybody’s.

    I think it’s an interesting opening, but I agree that somebody in the throes of vomiting is not going to notice how kissable somebody’s mouth is.

  8. Loreen
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 13:08:52

    Having just recovered from food poisoning, may I say…yuck! A hero throwing up on the first page is just not appealing. Why do I want to read about some 19th century frat-boy waking up in his own vomit with a woman he cannot remember? I really think you need to find another place to start. We find out nothing about the hero except that he cannot hold his liquor. Vomiting later in the book is fine, but I need a reason to continue reading and a hang-over isn’t it.

  9. SAO
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 13:14:11

    Rather, Moreover and several sentences of quibbling to just wake up. Not good.

    However, my real problem with this is that nothing seemed real. The girl woke up to the sound of a vomiting man and her eyes dance with amusement? The smell of vomit usually makes my stomach lurch.

    The guy has a hard-on seconds before he lurches over the chamber pot?

    It’s pretty hard to get drunk enough to have hangover and memory lapse without it being obvious the night before, so did the girl sleep with a plastered guy? Or was she hired? Neither increase my respect for either character.

    The fact that neither character seems to be too concerned about the situation implies that this situation isn’t uncommon for either.

    Sorry, but you’ve lost me.

  10. Emma
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 17:05:21

    Sorry, I am bored. I would not read any further because I am not intrigued. Make me want to continue reading. A man with a hangover us not intriguing, he’s typical.

  11. Emily
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 01:56:30

    Actually I liked the hangover and the throwing up. I get tired of these British aristocrats who can drink and make love with very few consquences (unless they make love to the heroine). Not everyone “can handle their liquor.” To me it stands out.
    Except for the chamber pot it did seem rather timeless, not sure I didn’t like that.

  12. NCKat
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 07:18:37

    You lost me at the first sentence. Your prose did not flow smoothly and it’s too choppy. Hemmingway and Regency do not mix.

    I don’t mind the vomiting as it goes with the hangover but the hard-on during the hangover is a bit much.

  13. JenMcQ
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 09:27:22

    I am thinking the woman in this scene might actually married to this man (think a quickie drunken Vegas wedding in the Regency era!). The way she seemed so comfortable, and said she could walk rather than be sent home, seemed to suggest some level of comfort with the place and situation.

    Which would place them in Scotland, and at HER house, if I am not mistaken, as the only place to get a quickie wedding would have been in Scotland. The idea of this is quite the unusual premise, so I would want to read on to see if I am right.

  14. Cara Ellison
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 10:02:32

    There are several cliches in this – the most annoying of which was starting a chapter with waking up. Anytime I see this in a book, I think I am in the hands of an amateur, someone who had no idea where to start the story. In my experience, it usually means there is a lot of info dumping and backstory where it doesn’t belong. That might not be true in this instance, of course.

    I didn’t find the hero very heroic. Just like in real life, I’d rather get to know someone before I see him throw up. It didn’t make me dislike him, but I did think, “Gross” and didn’t want to read anymore. Holding one’s liquor is not a requisite for a hero, and likewise, not being able to hold one’s liquor will not be considered “refreshingly charming”, if that’s where you’re going with this.

    The woman is a prostitute, I take it? I think a prostitute would not go above and beyond to empty the chamber pot.

    The voice is very good but it sounds modern. I think with some work, you could get it into shape, but as it stands it reads like a first draft. Keep working on it. You’ve got a good voice, I’d really like to see what else you can do with it.

  15. ANG
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 07:23:20

    Thank you so much for all your comments.

    Unfortunately, what I thought might be an interesting way to open a book has obviously left most of you wanting.

    To clarify, the girl is not a prostitute, she’s actually a housekeeper. (Which is why she removes the chamber pot.) There’s a whole lot more that you don’t see because it’s on page two.

    To also be quite honest, I thought the hard on was a stretch myself but I wanted to allow the reader to see, that even in his wasted state he could still find a woman, this woman in particular, attractive.

    To those of you who said you liked my voice and would keep reading, thank you. I promise, the premise of the book wouldn’t disappoint you.

    To those of you who said my voice was choppy and indistinct, well, I was trying to show what it was like to wake with a hangover. I don’t know about you, but when I used to wake like this, I couldn’t think in a coherent manner.

    As for the Scot dialogue, I’ll fix it. As for the whisky, well, I’ll turn it into something else. He’s not used to drinking whatever it was and that’s why he got so drunk to begin with.

    Again, thank you for all your comments. Now I can see what I have to do.

  16. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 08:49:39

    Go for it,Ang, and good for you for stepping up.

    There are ways of fixing this. Maybe he could have mixed brandy with the local beer, which would be locally brewed and varied a lot from district to district.
    I’d say leave out the vomiting, just make him feel sick and headachey and very ill.
    However, I wouldn’t have thrown him into sex with the woman if he was out of his mind, because it’s not very heroic.
    Don’t make him a member of the aristocracy if his love interest is a housekeeper. Don’t make her an aristocrat in disguise (you can contact me if you want to know why).
    Do a lot of research, and make the story more specific. As you’ve written it, this story could take place in any time from the Tudor to the Regency, or even later. Take the reader there. Bring in sounds, smells, put the reader in the situation by using all the senses and make them far more real. If you don’t like doing research, don’t write historicals.
    Compare your scene to the first scene in Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers From The Storm” where the hero is in his mistress’s bed. You know exactly where you are, and you get a very strong sense of Jervaulx right from the outset.

    (eg, I found out this morning that Doctor’s Commons, where Special Licenses for marriages were obtained weren’t at the Inns of Court, where I’d always presumed they were, but near St. Pauls – that revelation has kept me away from the WIP all morning while I looked into it. Not that the place is in my current WIP, just that I find it incredibly interesting!)

  17. shelley
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 09:20:31

    Actually, in general, I liked the first page but like some others would like more of a hook. If I was standing in the bookstore reading the 1st sentence/page (which is how I’ve bought many books I’ve boht liked and disliked) I probably wouldn’t buy it but might put it on my 2nd hand list for later.

  18. SAO
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 10:33:33

    I second Lynne because I sure don’t want to think about the sounds and smells if he’s vomiting.

  19. Cara Ellison
    Jul 04, 2011 @ 11:58:59

    Ang, I like the fact you’re so open to our suggestions; a lot of writers are very defensive and you don’t seem to be. However, I’d caution you against saying things like “There’s a whole lot more that you don’t see because it’s on page two.” Obviously you can’t write everything on Page One. But when I go to a bookstore and pick up a book, I give it one paragraph, and the last paragraph, to sway me. If I’m not sold on the first para, I don’t buy the book.

    It MUST grab me from the first moment. I know it is hard. I write romantic suspense and paranormal; I’ve written four full-length novels and to be honest the first chapter is the absolute hardest one. I tend to write it knowing it will change. When the book is done, I go back and give it the first chapter it deserves.

    In any case, keep writing. You’ll get there.

  20. anon
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 11:02:27

    I like the opening sentences. I know just what you mean about not being asleep but not being exactly awake either. Those lines worked for me and made me connect more readily with your character.

    I do, however, agree about the vomiting. The truth in the maxim “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” works with characters, too, and I will think of your MC throughout your story as the guy who barfed the minute I met him. Realism aside, if I’m supposed to find him appealing at all, that won’t do it. :)

    That said, I like your writing style. I find it very readable. I liked your details. I could see the scene. And your story reads like you’re having fun writing it. Good luck with your work!

  21. ANG
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:44:10

    Thanks again for the ‘after’ comments. I have gone back in and changed the vomiting to just being nauseated. My crit partner agreed with all of you.

    And he didn’t have sex with her either. Just so you know. Her main purpose in being in his bedroom was to keep him from choking in his sleep. He had already been sick. She stayed the night to make sure he didn’t do it again. He was really, really drunk.

    And she’s not an aristocrat in disguise. She’s actually an Earl’s daughter who’s father treats her like a housekeeper. He’s a very mean father. Complicated relationship.

    @anon. Thanks kindly for your words. I appreciate them greatly. You never do get a second chance to make that first impression. I never thought about a book like that before, so thanks for that.

    And I really don’t have a problem with taking criticism. It stings for a day or two, but then I realize the validity of the statements and I do appreciate them all.

    @ Lynne Connelly — I wish you could have critiqued the book I just finished reading by a famous author. She spelled whiskey and had the MC reading Pride & Prejudice in a year it hadn’t even been published yet. I do, in fact, do a LOT of research for my books and try to make sure I don’t make mistakes. I hate that.

    @dm — Moreover is no longer in the manuscript.

    Thanks again for commenting.

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