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First Page: Unpublished Manuscript (romance/thriller)

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“I’ll always love you, Kitten.”

Sophie opened her eyes and stared at the specks of light that played on the ceiling, the reflections of a clear moonlit night. She exhaled deeply and wiped the stream of moisture that had tunneled down her cheeks. She had not had that dream in months.

That night they took Adam. Ten years ago.

It had been mid-summer in the Shenandoah Valley when she had decided to ride her bike down one of the forbidden trails and she nearly ran down a hiker—Adam. Her bike had skidded to avoid him and she went hurtling into the air. What followed were scraped knees, a trek back to his cabin and three weeks of an idyllic love affair.

Her mother was on vacation with her latest lover; no one would miss her.

That night they took him began like any other night: Adam cooked and they would linger over dinner over a glass of wine. He would then lead her to the couch and start kissing her, undressing her and finally making love to her. He was gentle, he was feral, he was everything to her. All was hazy, it always was and Sophie blamed the wine for the trancelike way Adam had taken her. His touch scorched her skin with need, she craved him endlessly, and she watched the amulet he wore swing hypnotically as he moved inside her, filling her insides with satiety and then longing as he spoke to her and repeated his words of love like a mantra.
The door to the cabin burst open, interrupting their interlude brazenly. Men in black combat gear poured into the living room. When they dragged Adam forcefully away from her, she started screaming.

“Don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him!”

Someone put a blanket around her, covering her naked body from the sudden loss of warmth that was Adam.

“Sophie …”

It was her mom. Her mother’s eyes were burning from unshed tears and anguish.

“Mom, tell them not to hurt him. Please, Mom,” Sophie begged.

She tried to go after Adam who had been allowed to put on some jeans before they led him away. Her mom and another person, a female police officer, held her back.

“Don’t Sophie, I’m so sorry baby…”

“No…no…no…you don’t understand!” Sophie yelled as she wrenched herself free and tore after her lover.
Her attempt was foiled as she was intercepted by two more police officers. Adam was about to be put inside a police cruiser.

“Adam!” She shrieked, her voice raw with agony.

“Let me talk to her,” Adam said hoarsely. “Damn it, let me talk to her.”

“Oh no you don’t you sonofabitch,” the cop replied tersely.

“Kitten, I love you,” Adam declared as he struggled against the officer. “I’ll always love you, Kitten.”
An angry scream sounded from behind Sophie as her mother flew past her and stopped in front of Adam. A slap cracked loudly amidst the turmoil of the night.

“She’s sixteen, you sick bastard!” Her mother screamed furiously. She slapped him again. “ You took her innocence you asshole! How could you? How could you?”

Adam’s shoulders slumped in defeat as he looked at Sophie one last time and went into the police cruiser without further resistance. As the car drove away, Sophie crumpled to the ground, crying ceaselessly as she tried to crawl after him. Her mother, crying freely now, went down on her knees and tried to console her.

“Sophie, baby…”

“Don’t touch me!” she hissed and shouted angrily “I love him Mom. You all took him away from me. You took him away and for that I hate you. Hate you!”

“Baby he’s a monster,” her mom attempted to explain.

“He’s not …”

Sophie continued to sob. Her love for Adam was etched in her heart, she knew it. He was her one true love and they took him away. He was gone forever.

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. wikkidsexycool
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 07:10:10

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this.

    I’m not sure what I’m reading. I couldn’t tell if this was a paranormal or a contemporary. If it’s a contemporary, then her being underage without knowing his age wouldn’t have me reading further, because he comes across as much older.
    But I suspect there’s more, only with the backstory and then suddenly her mother bursting in from out of no where, your story gets confusing. I’m thinking this is a paranormal by the way you listed the men in black combat gear, and dropped hints like “feral” and his amulet, as well as his “I’ll always love you, kitten” (sorry, but I gotta say that for some reason this took me way back to Father knows Best, where he called his youngest daughter Kitten. At least I think it was the youngest one).

    I don’t mind Insta-love, but you’ve also thrown in the mother who’s never there so your heroine reads as particularly vulnerable, so I’m not sure if it’s “love” she’s feeling or rather, she’s grateful to have someone to spend some time with.

    This needs something else. It’s always tricky to start out describing a sexual encounter upfront before a reader has the chance to know and bond with your characters. I appreciate your boldness, but right now the male lead, whether this is a paranormal or contemporary, well, he comes off just as you wrote the scene, as if he’s having sex with someone not past the age of consent. And I don’t think that’s what you want for your hero.

    I’d suggest beefing up his arrest by giving the reader more info on how he was taken. After so much care in their lovemaking scene, the rest came off like a standard “boo-hoo, I love him” but by that time I didn’t care. As a reader you lost me because the writing faltered and the scene got confusing.

    But you do have skill with words, I just think by spending more time on what it is you want the reader to know about the characters, and really delving into how you want them portrayed the first time someone gets a sense of them is so very, very important. So the same attention and time it appears you’ve taken with their love scene should be given to their parting, even the dialogue, so it doesn’t read so uneven.

    I wish you all the best with this.

  2. Marianne McA
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 07:39:23

    I think there are points where the writing could be tightened. For example, I know what you mean when you say: ‘Her mother was on vacation with her latest lover; no one would miss her’, but I was forced to reread because at first glance no-one’s missing the mother.
    Similarly I know what you mean when you say:’ covering her naked body from the sudden loss of warmth that was Adam’ but it’s such an odd way to put it that it threw me out of the text. As did some of your word choices – when she’s filled with satiety, or the door brazenly interrupts them.

    In general, while I know it’s a dramatic scene, the writing is so dramatic it almost works against itself – phrases like ‘the turmoil of the night’ sound well, but aren’t easy to decode, which pulls the reader out of the narrative.

    What I liked about the piece is simply that I have no idea where it’s going – I’d guess the amulet was magic, and Adam an evil magician type, but the page doesn’t read like fantasy so I’m puzzled, and that sort of enigma always wants to make me read on.

    I would say, however, that 16 is very young so I couldn’t have Adam-as-hero unless a) it’s AU, or b) it transpires that he was 16 himself at the time.

  3. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 07:57:43

    I think I’d keep reading, but it would be with a sort of morbid curiosity to see whether this is a going to be as big of a train wreck as it seems like it might be.

    If this guy is the hero – this guy who got an abandoned sixteen year old drunk and had sex with her, this guy who calls her “kitten” as if he’s glorifying the fact that she’s underaged – if he’s the hero, it’s a train wreck.

    I’m thinking maybe this is one of those NA wish-fulfillment stories where the boyfriend is abusive and that’s apparently part of the appeal? Not a sub-genre that appeals to me.

    Maybe this is going somewhere else, though. If you can pull it off, if you can write a narrator who initially thinks this asshole is a hero and then spends the rest of the book realizing he’s actually a loser, then I’m IN.

    In which case I’d love it if you’d tighten up your writing.

    I think you need to look at your imagery – how does a moonlit night cast “specks” of light on the ceiling? Do you really mean that tears “tunneled” down her face? (‘Cause that’s kind of gross).

    Would you consider “The” night they took Adam instead of “That”? – “That” jarred me both times you used the phrase.

    Three weeks together and they always have sex the exact same way? That seems a bit tedious.

    The response by the police seems excessive. The West Virginia age of consent is 16, so I guess they’re busting him for something more significant than statutory rape, in which case why is her mom there and what ARE they busting him for? Hmmm… if her Mom’s actually a super-cop of some sort and Adam actually IS a monster (like, he did something more than sleep with a sixteen year old) and you add that to your heroine’s process of realization…!!!

    There’s some verb tense stuff and some comma stuff that I’d look at too, but it’d be kind of like redecorating the Titanic if this pair is actually your true romantic pairing for the book.

    I’d like to read more, just so I know where you’re going with it!

    ETA: Apparently the age of consent in Virginia is 18, so this WOULD be illegal, but it would just be a misdemeanor, not something that justifies this level of police response. So I’m still hoping the guy is a terrorist or something that makes it all make sense.

  4. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 08:05:14

    @Kate Sherwood:

    ETA: included above

  5. Patricia
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 08:43:43

    I feel like we’ve seen a whole string of First Pages that start with a single enigmatic sentence followed by a longer paragraph that doesn’t quite explain the sentence’s meaning. What is, I think, intended as an attention grabber to pull the reader in has instead started to become cliche and now immediately turns me off.

    Beyond that, I find it hard to relate to the main character’s longing for Adam. His actions are wildly inappropriate and I’m surprised the MC still can’t see this ten years later. At this point I’m on the mom’s side. (Although I agree with others that the military-style response seems excessive and bizarre.) If Adam is supposed to be the romantic hero, he would have an enormous mountain to climb to win back my loyalty.

    Finally, I don’t like that this story starts with a dream and them immediately launches into a flashback. That is two levels of removal from current events. I don’t think either “no flashbacks” or “don’t open with a dream” should be hard and fast rules, but in this case it’s not working for me.

  6. Mary
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 09:31:20

    From this page, I’m assuming that Adam is either a) not the hero and that our heroine will come to realize that or b) he’s not actually that much older than her (like 20 or something) in which case the police response seems especially over the top.
    Also I could see the police having that sort of response if he was a repeat offender or something of that sort.
    What I’m saying is that I want to know more, and I would probably read on to figure out the situation, but I would probably stop if Adam is way older than her and meant to be the hero. Also at the moment the heroine seems kind of…eh? I guess when she’s 16 she shouldn’t be totally like able because she’s a stupid teenager (at least that’s the vibe I’m getting) but that she’s still hung up on it 10 years later is making me a little unsure if I like get.
    The writing is a little over dramatic for my taste, but that’s a personal opinion and I’m sure there are people who like this style.
    So all in all I guess I would read on, with reservations. There’s nothing really wrong in the page itself, it’s just feelings I get about the plot that are putting me off.

  7. hapax
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 11:10:16

    I admire your courage for putting this out there, but it certainly did not work for me — not as a romance, anyhow.

    I pretty much got lost at “wiped the stream of moisture that had tunneled down her cheeks“; eventually I realized you simply meant “tears”, but the original image I got was rather icky, and threw me out of the story for a moment.

    And honestly, details like “riding her bike” and “scraped knees” already signalled that the heroine was pretty young; but as a mother of teenagers, finding out that she was carried off by an adult stranger, plied with liquor, and had repeated sexual encounters at the age of sixteen for three weeks before anyone noticed made me want to arrest the guy and her parents both, and get this poor girl into counselling and foster care immediately.

    So to learn that she’s still mourning her “love affair” with this guy ten years later doesn’t signal “romance” to me; it signals “horror story.”

  8. Viridian
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 21:07:13

    I like this. There are some writing errors — your word choices, as already mentioned, are sometimes poor — but I like the story behind it.

    Everything about this screams paranormal. She just happens to run into a hot guy with a secluded cabin? They fall in love for no reason in three weeks? They do it the same way every night… she feels like she’s in a trance, but she figures that’s just the wine. She finds herself watching his amulet. She’s clearly obsessed with him. He calls her a creepy pet name. Overall, I get the impression he’s a paranormal creature, a predator, and that he’s done this before.

    She has an irrational, possibly magical love for him. He’s an asshole who raped her and then fell in love with her. This could be good. If this is indeed a paranormal story, it’s a very well-done beginning. If it’s not, you might want to rethink this.

    (The whole “police burst in” thing seemed badly done. Why is the mom with them? If they’re a standard police team, why is their first move breaking down the door?)

  9. veron
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 08:43:33

    Thanks everyone! I’m the author of this first page and I found your input very useful, I have since tweaked this opening scene after I’ve sent my plot to a story fixer and taken out some key elements. The original plot was supposed to have Adam brainwash Sophie (she had something important that she would inherit when she got older), so @Viridian you did pick up that the amulet and the trance had a significance. The sentence in the beginning was the trigger. The original storyline was he gets taken away but makes a deal with the CIA to give up a “bigger fish”, however he comes back 10 years later to trigger the brainwash he had planted in Sophie —this according to my story fixer was too contrived so I dropped that plot line.
    When I’ve cleaned it up: Adam is a sexual predator, stalks/kidnaps Sophie and the whole forced seduction/stockholm syndrome thing – you’d all be glad he gets his due in prison. My friend who is also a trauma counselor (I had to make sure Sophie’s actions many years down the road was believable) read the entire story told me that she had to read the whole book several times in order to agree with me that the opening worked.
    After the comments here, I’ve decided not every reader will read the book twice or thrice before agreeing that it was an appropriate opening so I’ve decided to work in what happened in the raid within the story and wrote a whole new scene last night that plops us straight into the story.
    @patricia I’m finally convinced that a flashback/dream is a bad idea to start a novel.
    One thing that didn’t occur to me and have been pointed out here and my friend had mentioned it as well, is the mom being there. She said unless the mom has serious clout or an undercover CIA agent, she couldn’t really be there with the police officers.
    Yes, this book deals with espionage/CIA and other federal agencies.
    I do have problem with grammar (specially with my verb tenses …grr) and sentence construction. According to same friend, it was because I had learned all the bad grammar from television. English is my second language, but I hope to learn to write better. This book will be professionally edited.
    Thanks again! :)

  10. SAO
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 17:19:39

    I’m late to the party, but I felt the opening was confusing with too many changes of time.

    You start with unattributed dialogue set at point 2 (Adam being dragged away) on the timeline based on events on this page.
    You jump to the present (point 3) , Sophie wiping away tears.
    Then you jump to point 1 (the beginning of the affair)
    Then back to point 2, the night Adam disappears.
    This is a lot to keep track of. I want to be immersed in Sophie’s world, but I’m being jerked around instead. Worse yet, you end with “Sophie continued to sob. . .” Is she sobbing in the flashback or present? I don’t know.

    The other thing that stands out for me is that you don’t use the flashback to gain insight to Sophie’s character. How does 26yo Sophie feel about the events of that day? About Adam and Mom? About herself?

  11. veron
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 07:07:47

    @sao …I did realize I didn’t end it properly when I submitted this but I did add this line in the end.

    The grandfather clock’s muffled chime brought her back to the present. Sophie turned on her side and wiped away the rest of her tears. He was lost to her forever.
    But you are right. Looking at how you broke it down, I do see that it’s too much jumping around especially for a first page. My new first page begins at present time and stays in the scene.

    Also to everyone who got skeeved out by tunneled, I sometimes have difficulty pulling a word out of my head; when I do I put a placeholder word but eventually I used “streaked”. :)


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