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First Page: unpublished manuscript tentatively titled “REMOVED”

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I’ve hidden the content and hidden the author’s comments because this first page is about getting critique on unpublished manuscripts not a forum for authors to submit material that is already published.  I feel like it is an inappropriate use of the commenter’s time who reads and provides comments for free.

This is partly my fault. I think I don’t do a good job of identifying that this is for unpublished manuscripts.  I apologize to the DA commenting crew and pledge to do better in the future.

Before each page goes up, I try to email the author and alert them that the page will be up for critique. In the future, all emails will emphasize that the piece must be unpublished.  Thanks.

Spoiler (reason given above): Show

May, 1814, London
Now is the winter of our discontent…
William Shakespeare, Richard The Third, Act 1, Scene 1

“I have decided the moment is at hand to repay Jonas for his constant interference in my life,” declared Lady Miranda Leighton, “and who better to help me than my best friend.” She batted her eyelashes in an exaggerated flutter and pasted her best look of innocence on her face.

Lady Juliet Quinn, said best friend, turned from her place of contemplation on the window seat with a mixture of curiosity and dread. “I had thought your brother left you alone and as such you had no need for schemes against him. Why ever do you want to engage him now? I have been in such charity with your family and have successfully avoided attracting their ire for nearly five years. They quite think me the best of ladies,” she quipped with a wink at her friend. Juliet took a breath and renewed her argument. “And do not forget our past dodges were quite the failures and usually resulted in damage to our wardrobes and freedom.” She did not add that she also found it useful to avoid Miranda’s brother, Jonas Leighton, Duke of Dorset now these past two years, since she used to follow him around as a pup with a lovesick expression pasted on her adolescent face. She gave an involuntary cringe of embarrassment over the memories of her past infatuation.

“You know my mother adores you as a second daughter, as did my dear papa. And I had been very content being beneath my brother’s notice until the start of the Season. In fact, he had quite left me alone since he went to university, until papa passed and Jonas became great high lord of the family. No…this is all about his suffocating behavior of late. Since assuming the title and heading our family he has grown even more alarmingly stale and morose, but only recently has he begun to constantly monitor what I do, where I go, and who I see. His boring stuffiness I can tolerate; his daily interferences I cannot.” Miranda stomped her dainty slippered foot to add emphasis to her frustrated comment, her mouth turning down in a frown.

“These past two years have undoubtedly changed your brother’s life in myriad ways. You were previously his sister; now he sees all the responsibilities he has toward you. I am sure he only -”

“You mean I am his liability, not responsibility. I understand Jonas had his life changed dramatically, as we all did when Papa died so unexpectedly, but as you said it has been two years. What I cannot fathom, and will not suffer, is why he has decided that he can ignore my feelings and wishes and bend me to his will. Even Papa did not do that. It is too much and he goes too far!” Her frown had now transformed into a full-blown pout and she plopped down indelicately onto her bed.

“Don’t frown, Randa, you’ll wrinkle.” Juliet studied her friend’s downcast expression for a few moments. “So tell me then, what has your brother done?”

“The better question would be ‘what has he not done?’” Miranda threw up her hands in exasperation, rising from the bed to stalk back and forth across the plush, dusty pink Aubusson carpet in her bed chamber. Juliet kicked off her slippers and tucked her legs under her skirt upon the window seat, settling in to hear her friend’s rant.

“Jules, he has required me to keep an account book of how I spend my pin money, with a threat to lessen the amount if I do not cease buying ribbons and bonnets. He has forbidden me to receive any calls from gentlemen unless he is available to chaperone. I am allowed no more picnics in the park, and you know of his decree that I cannot leave a ball room for a breath of fresh air without him or my mother in attendance. His announcement at breakfast this morning, however, is the final straw, and I know you will agree.” She paused for dramatic effect and straightened her skirts. “He has decided to remove from Town this week! He will not even wait until later in the summer when the rest of Society departs. He thinks I am spending too much time shopping and dancing and not focusing on finding a suitable husband. Suddenly, at the ripe old age of twenty, he has decided I need to be betrothed by summer’s end. Insufferable!”

Juliet could not hold back her laughter at the end of her friend’s petulant tirade and quickly clapped a hand over her mouth to quiet her outburst. Her gray eyes sparkled with mirth even as she gave voice to an apology. “I am sorry for the burdens you must now bear under the new duke, but I do have to agree with your brother. You have an overabundance of ribbon.” She flicked her glance to the three small drawers of Miranda’s wardrobe currently spilling onto the floor fripperies of varying styles, colors, and accents.

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

27 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 07:38:30

    Unlike yesterday’s “middle of the story” extract, this is an “As you know, Bob,” start. I neither know these young ladies, nor care about what happens to them in the past. The similarity to yesterday’s scene is that this is a “reaction” scene, to use Evan Marshall’s terminology. Nothing actually happens. You should always start with an “action” scene, to start the story off somewhere positive and draw the reader in. Show her misbehaving.
    I have to admit that I had to force myself to read the second half of the page because after the first, I started to skim. It’s too obviously a set-up to be of any interest.
    There are some anachronisms and Americanisms here, too. “stomped” and the shudderingly awful nicknames. Randa? Really? Far too modern for my taste. “Dodges” is used in the modern sense, too.
    No, I wouldn’t read on. But you could devise a scene in which the brother’s strictures become obvious, and the reason for them. If she’s that wilful, you’ve lost me anyway, because it sounds more like spoiled petulance and a bid for attention rather than any serious desire to be something else.
    Your point of view is shaky, too, so I’m not sure which of the girls is the heroine here.

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  2. Marianne McA
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 07:41:19

    I wonder about the wisdom of naming a character ‘Juliet Quinn’ in this subgenre: perhaps it’s meant as an homage to Julia Quinn, but it struck me as odd.

    Apart from that, I thought the dialogue needed more work. To my ear it’s all over the place – faux historical one moment: ‘I have been in such charity with your family’ and modern sounding the next: ‘since he went to university’.

    Also, I’m a little confused about how Jonas intends to find Miranda a husband by leaving town – perhaps you could have her explain his plan a little more.

    Good luck.

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  3. coco
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 07:53:54

    I must agree with the others – it simply doesn’t work as an opening scene. It makes the complainer sound a little odious and the other girl unkind, which I am sure they aren’t but we don’t know what happened, we didn’t get to feel either the one girl’s lack of freedom nor the other’s hidden love.
    I assume she is the heroine, Juliet Quinn? It really bothers me that in this scene she is the one who tells her more rebellious friend that she is overreacting because her brother monitors her every step. That’s not how I want to be introduced to a heroine.

    So yeah, instead of telling us what happened through dialogue, actually let something happen. Let me get acquainted to the heroine in a more flattering setting and one where she actually does something.

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  4. DS
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 08:13:45

    I gave up quickly due to the dialogue. There’s a false archness about it that made me cringe. The batted eyelashes finished me off with reading any more.

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  5. Jamie Beck
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 08:29:29

    Two historicals in two days…this is my lucky week!

    It took me three reads to really identify why this isn’t grabbing me.

    At first blush, I thought Miranda was the heroine because you open with her talking, etc. It took me a second to realize Julia is the protag (that this told from her POV). And I assume Jonas will be her love interest. I like the idea of this set-up – that Julia is going to be working against Jonas to help her friend, yet obviously has lingering romantic feelings for him (am I right?). I think this would be clearer if you started the entire piece with a revised version of the first sentence of the second paragraph….along the lines of: Lady Juliet Quinn turned from her place of contemplation on the window seat and viewed her best friend with a mixture of curiosity and dread. Then jump into the conversation.

    The second issue is the wordiness of this dialogue. There is so much of it, and very little else (little emotion, little sensory description, etc.). Also, like yesterday’s piece, some of this dialogue just doesn’t sound right for the period. Moreover, it reads like you are using it to cram all the back story into the first two pages. Written this way, it’s neither natural nor compelling.

    To me, two good friends “plotting” would jump right to the heart of it. Miranda would start off by begging her friend to help her thwart her brother’s plans to marry her off by the end of summer. Get to the meat of it…we can learn about Julia’s relationship to the family (and that family’s history) in bits and pieces through internal dialogue sprinkled throughout the opening chapters. What we need in the beginning is a reason to (a) care about Julia, and (b) want her to end up with Jonas.

    I really like Julia’s personality and, as earlier stated, the set-up/conflict she’ll have, so you’ve hooked me with (a). But I’d like a few more details about her and Jonas’s past. Just a sentence or two of her reminiscing some specific memory of a private moment with Jonas, perhaps something sweet or special he did or said to her when she was young. A hint that maybe he, too, had some connection to her beyond her relationship with his sister. That would have me totally rooting for Julia and very eager to meet Jonas.

    I hope this helps. Of course, it’s only my humble opinion, which you are free to wholly ignore! I think you’ve picked a good trope and have lot to work with here. Good luck.

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  6. Jane
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 08:39:33

    @Marianne McA: The Julie Quinn thing was the first thing that struck me. I wouldn’t be able to read the book without think of the author and not the author of the book!

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  7. BHG
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 08:52:39

    I thought the title and first page sounded familiar.

    This has been published (as of October 13th) and is currently #1 (congrats to the author!) on Amazon in Historical Fiction > Regency.

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  8. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 11:45:46

    From the reviews:
    “Believe it or not, there are readers who will criticize a historical fiction novel if it isn’t representative of actual past events in time and, based on that, will write negative reviews. I hope that does not happen to this little treasure. Please keep in mind this story is fiction by definition.”
    well, I guess that’s telling us! So “historical” means nothing any more? Because it’s fiction, you can make up what you like?
    I’ll get my coat.

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  9. hapax
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:03:48

    Congrats to the author on publishing.

    I do very much like historicals, so I hope that in future stories, the author works on polishing — or perhaps “roughening up” — her voice. This one sounded strained and arch to my ears, rather as if the author was trying too hard.

    P.S. Author also used the “quite the X” constructions three times on this page. I think that it can now be retired for the next three books…

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  10. hapax
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:12:04

    Holy cow.

    Just checked on Amazon, and not only does the cover feature a young lady posing in what wouldn’t pass for underwear in Regency times, but one of the elegant young ladies goes on to exclaim “Bugger it.”

    I wish the author every success, but definitely not for me.

    ReplyReply

  11. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:29:00

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @Lynne Connolly: As pointed out in a later comment, I published this book a few weeks ago, after addressing and hopefully rectifying many of the points you enumerated. Thank you for your critique.
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  12. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:36:08

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @Marianne McA: I hate that you found my prose “faux historical.” I aimed for a writing style mirroring the Regency without losing clarity in my pursuit of authenticity. It’s a fine line to walk for readers in our modern age of 140 characters or less. I had a diligent editor that was ruthless wielding her red marker against anachronism and modernity, but it was after the submission of this First Page. I pray the final product bears that out. I appreciate your observations.
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  13. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:40:29

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @coco: I was aiming for a heroine who felt some sympathy for both parties – Miranda and her brother, Jonas. She understood the plight of both parties and unable to support one over the other. Again, I after editorial critiques since this submission, I addressed the back story and tried to clear up the ambiguity of the relationship between Miranda, Juliet, and Jonas. Thanks for taking the time to offer your suggestions.
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  14. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:46:24

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @Jamie Beck: Your critique resonates completely and nailed exactly what was lacking, and was pointed out by my beta readers and editor. I was fighting with my story over what to reveal, what to hint at, and what to save for later. I made some errors in my choices and they were thankfully enumerated. Thank you for your input – it is greatly valued.
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  15. Jane
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:48:57

    I’m for deleting this thread given that the book has already been published. Let me know commenters, as this is not supposed to be a forum to flog one’s books.

    ReplyReply

  16. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 13:09:08

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @hapax: Covers are such tricky business for authors. If too bland or tame, then they fail to catch a reader’s eye. If too modern or flashy, then they fail the rest for period authenticity. If your book contains explicit scenes yet your cover is chaste (no “bodice ripping”), then readers can feel misled over the sensuality of the story. Even font choice can render a book a hit or a miss. I’m not offering excuses, but am trying to explain my choice. The only aspect that concerned me over my cover was I would have liked the lady to have sleeves, or perhaps a wrap. While her gown was not an empire waisted muslin or damask silk, I thought it not so far modern as to seem underwear; perhaps more along the Grecian gown influence that cropped up during this time period. I understand your critique and hate to have caused such distress.

    The two female characters introduced here are are written as well-bred ladies with a few breaks with the tight strictures of Society while by themselves. Miranda chafes at being controlled and only speaks such with her closest family. It is a vulgarism that perhaps she uses as her way of thumbing her nose at propriety, yet she does not use it in mixed company of Society. I think men and women throughout the ages have had their ways of blowing off steam or “rebelling” against the rules; this was my way of having Miranda, a duke’s daughter, being her own person, yet without making her a mere caricature of a rebel or archetype of a modern woman stuck in Regency dress and dialogue. I apologize for the offense it gave and thank you for your observations. I truly appreciate all opinions!

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  17. eenayray
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 13:12:18

    Buried Comment (Reason: reason in post)   Show

    @Jane: Thank you for the opportunity to share my First Page. I apologize that the time between my submission and publication caused this to be a forum for advice after the fact. I appreciate the suggestions and commit the advice to heart for future writings.
    ReplyReply

  18. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 13:38:35

    Late to the party, and after reading this has been published and readily available, I’d vote to have the thread removed. While it is interesting, and somewhat instructional, to read the ‘before’ and ‘after’…it defeats the purpose of the First Page.

    ReplyReply

  19. Kate Sherwood
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 14:06:27

    I think we’ve found several other First Pages that have been published in the time since they were submitted to Dear Author, so if you remove this one, do you also remove others?

    How long is the wait between submission and being posted?

    ReplyReply

  20. Jane
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 14:12:14

    @Kate Sherwood – I try not to post published MS. Authors have graciously emailed me to let me know that the piece has been published so I can pull it from the queue. Unfortunately, there is about a two month delay in submitting and posting.

    I just don’t want this to become a breeding ground for “oops, I published, tee hee.”

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  21. hapax
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 14:50:00

    I *personally* don’t mind that this MS was already published. I love these First Page comments because I take them as mini-writing seminars and want to see how Real Live Readers react to Real Live Writing.

    I pretty much have to force myself to comment because my writing criticisms tend to be blunt and to the point (that’s the kind of feedback that *I* want) but I know that it can come across as harsh and mean, and I don’t want to discourage anyone.

    However…

    And I say this with all possible kindness…

    I will probably give up reading these and certainly never comment again if these threads become a forum for the authors to respond and explain that no, our criticisms are all wrong, we’re just not reading things correctly.

    ReplyReply

  22. theo
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 15:54:37

    @hapax: I agree. I’ve always learned a lot from these and would hate to see any of them removed for any reason short of an online brawl.

    Sometimes I comment, often I don’t, but whether anyone does or not, I also have to agree that the author feeling they have to explain things about the first page rather puts me off from things like oh…actually buying and reading the book.

    Whatever happened to ‘thank you for your comments’ rather than trying to decode what happens if A does this to B or you’re not reading C right?

    And Jane, in this day of self-publishing, how can you know if a first page is submitted on Monday and self-pubbed on Friday? (yes, I understand the lag time, but still) If you don’t get a response when you let the submitter know, you’re posting in good faith. It’s the author’s responsibility to email you and ask that you take them out of the loop. They know they subbed it. Since they generally read and comment here or at least read regularly, the “I forgot” doesn’t work.

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  23. SAO
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 07:03:32

    I found the author comments fairly obnoxious, given that the gist of all of them was, “this was fixed, but I greatly value your comments.” No, obviously, she didn’t need or want them. All she wanted was a forum to advertise her book. But frankly, a page of as-you-know-Bob is not much of an advertisement.

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  24. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 09:59:43

    I’m with SAO. Patronizing comments don’t really help especially when they’re not true. There are next to no changes on the published first page, certainly none of the ones we suggested. “Stomped” and “dodges” are still there, and there are still a plethora of “quite”s. So whoever edited it had little historical knowledge and not much grammar, either. Unless the author overrode the edits, of course.
    Had a closer look at the cover. Definitely underwear. Absolutely no resemblance to anything that would have been worn in that period. Low waistline, no sleeves, cut deep at the back, modern tulle skirt, and isn’t it in mauve?
    And that “bugger it.” Anachronistic and wrong. Does the author know what the word means?

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  25. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 10:21:31

    @eenayray: You didn’t actually rectify any of them.

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  26. Beth
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 11:56:40

    In the author’s defense, the wait time for First Page is about 2 months (at least it was for me, and mine went up a few weeks ago). Though I will say I’m not entirely certain how the author could have rectified the problems between this post going up and publishing, unless she submitted edits.

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  27. Ros
    Nov 09, 2013 @ 18:22:49

    This first chapter also appeared in the current Harlequin So You Think You Can Write contest here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18680920-lord-love-a-duke

    ReplyReply

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