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First Page: Unnamed Women’s Fiction

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On Padua Lane, they still talk about the night that Kate Minola kicked her cheating husband to the curb-’according to town lore, her shrieks could be heard as far as Verona Avenue. No one was ever exactly sure how Kate found out about the affair, and no one dared ask her. But on the night in question, the quiet of Padua Lane suddenly erupted into a domestic volcano of Vesuvian proportions. The hot orange lava of Kate’s rage seeped out their windows, flowed out the doors, and ran down the street, singeing everything in its path.

There were death threats. (From Kate) There were tears. (From the cowed husband.) The couple who lived directly across the street, Nikki and Bill, sat up half the night in their darkened living room watching out the windows in appalled amazement. The show went on so long they made popcorn. At one point, Kate chased her husband out the door, screaming and hurling objects at his back, while their dog Buddy nipped at his ankles. When Kate ran out of curses in English, she switched to Italian. They made three laps around the house before her disgraced and terrified husband finally escaped into his car and drove away.

"Yikes," Bill said. "I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that." He looked outside at the lawn covered in silk ties and leather shoes, the shirts that hung from the open windows like flags, and the ruined laptop, glinting silver under its shower from the lawn sprinklers.

Nikki patted her husband’s arm. "No worries on that score, darling." She kissed his cheek. "But you may want to remember it. As an object lesson, of course."

Missing the steely look in her eye, Bill smiled at his wife’s joke, secure in the knowledge that he had married a good-natured woman. But their neighbor was another story. He shook his head, firmly convinced that there wasn’t a guy on earth-’let alone in Jersey-’ crazy enough to get involved with Kate Minola, aka the Shrew of Padua Lane.

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

33 Comments

  1. Moth
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 04:43:56

    I like the voice and the humor in this. It’s well-written.

    What’s bugging me is the way over-the-top Shakespeare references. I love Shakespeare so I recognized all this right away and what it did was pull me out of YOUR story, because I’m sitting here thinking “Ah, another modernized Taming of the Shrew” when I should be thinking “Wow. How interesting and original! I have to turn the page to see what happens next!” They also feel a little too cutesy for my taste.

    This might just be a taste thing, though.

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  2. JJ
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 05:38:09

    It definitely grabbed my attention. I would definitely continue to read on.

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  3. Danielle
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 06:08:48

    I want to know what happens — I would keep on reading.

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  4. joanne
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 07:08:08

    I liked the rhythm of this piece, and it really is a first page so congratulations for getting the hook in at the right place.

    My question may be just because I’m not a reader of Women’s Fiction, but who is the story about? Is it about Kate and the unnamed husband or is it about Nikki and Bill? Or the some or all of the population of Padua Lane?

    The last line made me go huh? I think it would make more sense if it read another guy rather than “a guy on earth”. I don’t think people still use the word “shrew” outside of literary discussions so it took me out of the scene a bit.
    My 2cents.

    Thank you so much, good luck with your writing!

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  5. Suzanne
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 07:35:09

    Found the prose in the first paragragh a little too purple for my tastes and the second paragragh rambled. Okay, she’s pissed, we know she’s pissed, let’s move on. I agree with Moth regarding the Shakespearian references. Once the light bulb went off, I visualized Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. On the other hand, it did grab my attention and, since I love women’s fiction, would read more.

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  6. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 07:43:58

    This breaks all the “rules,” which in any case are more like guidelines. It starts in the omniscient, moves to a character who, if I’m not mistaken is a minor one, doesn’t show the main characters in any detail.
    And I absolutely loved it. It does everything a first page is supposed to do. It establishes scene without “telling,” sketches character without pedantry and engages my interest completely. Tell me when this one is coming out because I really want to read it. And this one will come out.

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  7. Sally
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 08:14:57

    This caught my attention and I would read more. Heck, after reading the first page, I would buy it.

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  8. Sandy James
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 08:47:41

    @Moth

    What's bugging me is the way over-the-top Shakespeare references. I love Shakespeare so I recognized all this right away and what it did was pull me out of YOUR story, because I'm sitting here thinking “Ah, another modernized Taming of the Shrew” when I should be thinking “Wow. How interesting and original! I have to turn the page to see what happens next!” They also feel a little too cutesy for my taste.

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Moth. While I enjoy the fast pace, and I do think the voice is pleasant, I tend to hate “modern takes” on classics, especially when they’re this obvious from the very beginning as if the author is screaming, “Let me give you a quick tutuorial on The Taming of the Shrew so you understand my book!”

    My only nit-picky constructive criticism is that I hate “asides.”

    There were death threats. (From Kate) There were tears. (From the cowed husband.)

    IMHO, if it’s worth writing, it’s worth having in the narrative instead of set aside as if it’s an inside joke.

    Good luck!!

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  9. KristieJ
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:03:01

    I don’t normally read women’s fiction, but this one really grabbed my attention and I think I’d make an exception. Well done!

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  10. Stephanie
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:06:24

    I liked the humor, even if the opening–betrayed wife kicks out cheating husband–seems a little overfamiliar. While the Shakespearean references–Kate, shrew, Padua Lane–are kind of heavy-handed, I think I would read on for a few more pages to see where this leads. I don’t mind a new take on a classic if it’s well-done.

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  11. Jody W.
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:14:49

    Why are there never any books where the shrew husband kicks out the cheating wife? Or would that be abusive if a man acted that way?

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  12. Leah
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:25:16

    I really, really like this. So long as there aren’t any sick or dying children or tragedies that bring everyone together, I’d buy it!

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  13. ME
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:47:28

    I would read as well…good luck to the author I thought her voice was great, the page was well written

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  14. vanessa jaye
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 09:54:55

    I love it! If this is one of those times where the entry has been sold since it was submitted to DA, I hope the author lets us know where and when we can buy it. I want to read more! Reader response in this comment thread, so far, seems to be based on likes/dislikes rather than serious concerns re the writing, and in this case I’m in the like-it/doesn’t-bother-me camp. I’m with Lyn on this, I wouldn’t suggest ‘fixes’ because it all works wonderfully *for me*.

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  15. may
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:23:33

    I really liked it *except* the “shrew” threw me off/out too. She’s a shrew for going apeshit on her husband who is a cheater? No, I don’t think so. Dump that – and any future “shes a shrew” references and I’ll bite. Sounds like a fun romance indeed (assuming you focus on Kate + new guy)

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  16. Abbie
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:33:51

    I was interested. I have to admit I love retellings of classics. I even loved 10 Things I Hate About You, much to my shame. (Of course, Heath Ledger probably had something to do with that!) I would probably keep reading just to see what you did with the “Taming of the Shrew” idea. I will agree with some of the others that using “shrew” is outdated and makes it a little too obvious what your story is based on, but overall I would keep reading.

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  17. Fae Sutherland
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:35:10

    I liked it. I wouldn’t read it because I don’t read women’s fiction but it’s certainly interesting and sounds like it could be fun! I’m not a huge fan of the Shakespeare references either. I don’t think you need to be quite so blatant in making it clear you’re retelling Taming of the Shrew. I’d suggest easing up on that a lot. It’s more fun when it’s a treasure hunt to find the hidden references, it’s zero fun when they’re not hidden at all but slapping you in the face every few sentences. I’d honestly be *more* interested if it weren’t a retelling. I don’t enjoy reading retellings because I always compare them to the originals (they’re like movie remakes) and the new version NEVER lives up to the old and I end up peeved.

    I did like it, though, even if it’s not my genre of choice.

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  18. sharon
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:49:34

    loved it!

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  19. joanne
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:49:39

    @Jody W.:

    Why are there never any books where the shrew husband kicks out the cheating wife? Or would that be abusive if a man acted that way?

    I think then it would go from Women’s Fiction to a Romance book, LOL!
    I want our heroes to be gentleman, but not saps, so it would work for me.

    I’d love to see someone give that slant a try — maybe not chasing her around the house — but tossing her crap to the curb would make me want to know what the hero would do in other circumstances where someone cheated on him.

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  20. Tracey
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 10:56:11

    I missed the Shakespearean references, but I didn’t like it. I don’t like abuse, and I don’t find it funny. My sympathy was with the abused person, not with the abuser.

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  21. Polly
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 11:05:46

    Way too heavy a hand with the references. Even if it’s a subdivision where everything is named after Italian cities (which I could accept), the cursing in Italian and the Vesuvius analogy felt like too much. Let her make a scene that’s her own, and not constantly pointing the reader toward the Taming of the Shrew.

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  22. Anion
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 11:52:18

    LOVE it. Fantastic writing. Smooth, polished, professional.

    I didn’t find the “Shrew” refs overbearing or too much at all. I thought this was pitch-perfect. Well done!

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  23. hapax
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 12:44:54

    I’ve been so negative about the last few entries, I should say I loved, loved, loved this.

    The Shakespeare references were a bit over-the-top, but in a fun way.

    My only nitpick is that I’d ditch the hyphen in the first sentence, and turn it into two separate sentences.

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  24. Anon76
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 12:47:30

    I gotta go with Lynn and others on this. Loved it!

    Out of the box in all the right ways.

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  25. Rosemary
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 15:02:57

    Hi Everyone,

    Author here. First, a big thanks to Jane for posting this.

    To the commenters: as my First Page Saturday was preceeded by Much Agita Friday, I can’t tell you how relieved/thrilled/pathetically grateful I am for your insights. I heart you all.

    I also know that updating classics can be a minefield–some readers just don’t like ‘em, and others have such affection for the originals that nothing measures up. I appreciate the honesty of those who found the Shakespeare stuff heavy-handed; the prologue was deliberately crafted in that way as a set-up, but fades into the background in the novel. And I actually toyed with a gender reversal on Kate and Petrucchio, but couldn’t make it work in a way I liked.

    I promise to keep you all posted on Kate’s fate. (Vanessa, it’s still a work-in-progress at this point, but thanks for the interest.)

    Again, thanks so much for the kind words and good wishes! Perhaps now I can put the Pepto away.
    Rosemary

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  26. Valerie
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 15:40:53

    had I picked this up in a book store, you would have completrely lost me at Padua Lane. The Shakespeare stuff there is just WAY too heavy-handed. Which is too bad, because I love these kinds of retellings ordinarily, and I really like your voice in the rest of the page. That first paragraph with all the “let me show you all my cutesy insertions of ‘Taming of the Shrew’references!!” reads to me as a condescending “Silly reader, you probably wouldn’t make this connection if I didn’t mash it up and spoon feed it to you. LOL.” It puts me off, right away.

    I’m interested to see where you go from here with the story. Like I said, I love this kind of revamp, so I want to see what you’ve done with Shakespeare’s old yarn!

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  27. job
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 15:46:10

    You’re doing a fine job. Broad comedy is difficult to pull off, and I think you’ve about got it.

    Two things.

    On the Taming theme.
    While I got no problem with the concept, I, like a few other posters, found the blunt statement of this theme distracting.

    Maybe … don’t come out and say this?
    You have the opportunity to go slow and subtle and let the reader discover the Taming idea for herself, along about page 87. She becomes complicit in your creation of the fictive world. You give her that moment of clever.

    As mentioned above, ‘shrew’ doesn’t quite match the character in this scenario. If you don’t lay your Kate=Kate comparison out like a patient etherized upon a table, you need not explicitly call her a shrew.

    My other thought …
    Over-the-top works. Just a hair beyond over-the-top doesn’t. Mostly you don’t go that hair beyond.

    Sometimes, perhaps, you do.

    Example: The popcorn.
    This business says — ‘Folks treated this scene like a show.’ It captures the vulgarity of the audience and the melodrama of the moment.

    But when you use this popcorn construct, you’re also saying, ‘somebody left off watching the fight, went into the kitchen, got out a bag of popcorn, popped it in the microwave for three minutes, put it in a bowl and came back.’
    I get a little ‘not so much’ whisper in the back of my head.

    Ben and Jenny brought dining room chairs to the front window,
    or
    MaryAnne took out her iPhone and sent pics to her sister-in-law,
    or
    George and Tina brought out bottles of [insert microbrew] and took in the show,
    feel less contrived-for-the-purpose-of-making-a-point.

    Example: aka the Shrew.

    Again … I get a tiny, tinny disconnect. I’ve never actually heard the word ‘shrew’ used to describe a woman.

    So.
    Overall — interesting, full of energy, hook-ish, and characterizing.
    In a few, easily amended details — slightly jarring.

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  28. A
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 19:00:19

    I really like the author’s voice, very much a storyteller.

    I’m on board with other posters who found the Shakespearean references overdone. I think an author of this quality could employ greater subtlety in connecting the stories. I found the repeated references patronizing; I felt like the author considered me too ignorant to pick up on the clues and figure it out as I read.

    Retelling a classic is always a mixed bargain, but it can be done successfully. The film “Clueless” did an excellent job of retelling Austen’s “Emma,” retaining the novel’s substance without employing heavy hinting, or even borrowing names/places from the original. I’m a rabid Austen fan, and it did not even “click” to me that “Clueless” was a retelling of “Emma” until I was a good third into the film. Originality allowed me to enjoy the film in its own right rather than enjoy it because it retold a favorite.

    A real problem with this page, IMHO, is the presentation of Kate Minola as “shrew of Padua Lane” due to a domestic altercation with her philandering husband. Most wronged spouses are not happy campers when infidelity is proved, and though I recognize the author’s effort to exagerrate Kate’s overreaction to the point the neighbors pity her husband, I’m disgusted the neighbors would label Kate a “shrew” for her anger and for kicking her husband out. If she was a “shrew” in normal, daily behavior, it’d be different.

    I also don’t get the nosy neighbors. Why are they sympathizing with “cowed husband” and munching popcorn? If Kate’s “overreaction” is really so bad, why aren’t they phoning the authorities? I get there’s a comic element to all this, but since their sympathies appear to lie with “Husband” it would seem they’d call the police or something. Fiction has to make sense and this doesn’t.

    I do see some “bugs” in the technical writing. Eliminate unnecessary words; they’re “fattening” your story, affecting pacing and “flow.”

    Example:

    On Padua Lane, they still talk about the night that Kate Minola kicked her cheating husband to the curb-’according to town lore, her shrieks could be heard as far as Verona Avenue. No one was ever exactly sure how Kate found out about the affair, and no one dared ask her. But on the night in question, the quiet of Padua Lane suddenly erupted into a domestic volcano of Vesuvian proportions. The hot orange lava of Kate's rage seeped out their windows, flowed out the doors, and ran down the street, singeing everything in its path.

    This is a dozen words shorter:

    No one knew how Kate Minola found out about her husband’s affair with her hairstylist/sister/cousin/best friend/secretary/maid, and no one dared ask her.

    Padua Lane’s residents still whisper about the night Kate kicked her cheating husband to the curb. Town lore confirmed folks heard her shrieks blocks away at Verona Avenue. Neighborhood peace erupted into a domestic Mount Vesuvius. The hot orange lava of Kate's rage seeped through her windows, flowed out the doors, and ran down the street, singeing everything in its path.

    I like the premis of this story and would definitely consider reading more. : )

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  29. Sinister Twist
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 00:38:32

    I liked the page, but I agree with many others- the whole Shakespeare thing felt a little forced, especially the “shrew” bit. It’s a bit old fashioned- most people would just call her a b*tch nowadays. I’d read it, but my enjoyment would’ve been damped some by the forced Shakespeare reference.

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  30. BlueRose
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 04:12:08

    I liked this, I liked the tone and the voice and the humour. I would read more and I don’t say that very often on these posts.

    I agree with the poster that commented calling this woman a shrew (who had thrown her husband out for *his* transgressions ) was not a particularly fair label to attach. Good on her I say!

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  31. Sinister Twist
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 13:40:05

    The more I thought about it, the more I wondered “Why is *she* being called a shrew because she got angry that *he* cheated on her?” I didn’t read all of the comments & I’m glad that other people are mentioning this. Is this to say that she drove him away by being nasty? Is the whole book going to have her become a model wife?

    For us to assume that she’s a shrew, we’d need to have some sort of clarification in the very beginning that she’s an unpleasant person to talk to. Something like:

    “It wasn’t unordinary to see Kate screaming/arguing with her husband, but this time it was far more animated.”

    If the neighbors are only judging her from what they see & are taking the husband’s side (that he cheated because she was a shrew), then there needs to be something up front about how this isn’t the first time she’s argued with him or that she’d been seen being horrid in public or spied in private. There doesn’t have to be any big huge explanation, just a little bit so it doesn’t throw people off.

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  32. Cherie Denis
    Dec 20, 2009 @ 13:54:58

    I must be asleep this afternoon. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t even latch onto the references (blatant or otherwise) to Shakespeare.
    I have a ton of things I should be doing and instead I’m sitting here wishing I could read more.
    Funny thing, I saw this same fight one night when I was a girl. The screaming, name calling, clothes on the lawn and the wife chasing her husband around the house with a knife. It all ended when she set his clothes on fire and the police drove up. The whole neighborhood was standing on their lawns, open mouthed, wondering what was going to happen next. Other than calling the police (no 911 in those days), not a soul moved to stop the show.
    Finish the story, Rosemary. I can’t wait to read it.

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  33. Lilac
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 01:26:29

    “On Padua Lane, they still talk about the night that Kate Minola kicked her cheating husband to the curb”

    This is a great opening line — except for the spousal violence part. This is obviously not a turn-off for everyone, but it definitely is for me. I would immediately drop any book that began with the husband “kicking his wife to the curb.” I suspect a lot of other readers would too, but somehow there is a double standard where people think abusing a man is okay, even amusing.

    If it were less violent, less abusive — or if it was made clear somehow that the “curb kicking” was figurative, I’d be more interested. I love Shakespeare and am intrigued by reinterpretations. However, I just can’t stomach the thought of neighbours sitting down with popcorn to watch a spousal assault take place.

    I like the writing, and I like a feisty character, but abuse sucks.

    ReplyReply

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