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First Page: Untitled – Contemporary Romance

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Revenge was not sweet.

It burned in his mouth and gut like acid. It seared his throat and lungs.

It long ago had charred his heart.

Raphael Vounó stood in front of the business that harbored his age-old foes. The business he now owned, as well as the crumbling building it was housed in. London’s icy rain slanted against the skin of his cheek and jaw. The chill did nothing to lessen the burn inside.

It was time. Finally.

He pushed open the hotel’s battered, steel door and strode in. The room was empty, but the low sound of a radio slid under the door behind the lobby desk. He did not glance to the right or left. He knew exactly where everything and everyone was in this cramped excuse of a building. His investigation had been thorough. Nothing was left to chance. Not this time.

Striding past the desk, he didn’t hesitate. His hand slapped the scrapped wood of the door.

There he was. The first of his two enemies.

The man had aged over these last ten years. But he still lived, unlike Raphael’s own father. Loukas Vounó had not been as lucky as this old man.

Whose luck had just run out.

The old man lifted his head from the papers strewn across his desk. His blurry eyes were hazy and tired. His skin drooped in gray flaps along his jaw. The years had not been kind, and today this enemy would find out that his remaining years would be even worse. “Who are you?” he muttered.

Leaning against the doorway, he gave the older man a mocking smile. “You don’t recognize me, Drakos?”

The hazy eyes slowly cleared. The man sat up. And then the curses flowed.

Raphael ignored them all. There was nothing this man could do or say that would hurt him. Not any longer. He’d spent the last ten years planning and plotting for this moment. Unlike his father, he took nothing for chance, trusted no one. He’d purposefully built a wall of protection around himself, his family, and his business. No one, certainly not Haimon Drakos, could touch him or his.

The old man glared at him. “Get out!”

Raphael laughed and prowled toward the desk. “No.”

“I will call the police and have you thrown out.” Drakos’s words were edged with forced bravado as he uneasily reached for the ancient phone on his desk.

“The police are now your friends?”

The seated man gripped the phone in his shaking hand. “They will come and enforce my property rights. I own this place and I demand you leave.”

“Demand?” Raphael slid his leg unto the wobbly wooden desk. Crossing his arms, he smiled. “You will no longer be making demands. Not here. Not anywhere.”

“What do you mean?” Drakos’s voice quivered.

Leaning down to stare into the man’s eyes, he delivered the first blow. “I own Viper Enterprises.”

The old eyes widened in horror. “No!”

“What’s going on?” The voice came from the open doorway. The familiar lilt, the unique slur at the end of the words…all unmistakably her.

Enemy number two.

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. SAO
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 06:16:10

    I’d be on board for a revenge thing, but this has the over-the-top emotion that drove me away from Harlequin. Obviously, I’m not your audience.

    Or maybe it’s the HQN tendency to throw a ton of conflicting emotions in one scene: Drakos looks tired. Then curses flow (anger), then his hand shakes (fear) then his eyes widen in horror. I don’t buy it.

    Rafe burns with revenge (um, actually I think it’s anger, but no matter). But then when confronting the man who (I presume) caused his father’s death and (I presume) the burning revenge/anger, he smiles and laughs and thinks there’s nothing Drak can do to hurt him. Um? That charred heart? The acid in his lungs? Or was that the comment of an omniscient narrator before a POV change?

    I probably would be on board for strong, consistent emotion. If revenge is sweet, Rafe laughing would be great. If anger burns his gut, let him be angry.

    Nits: Normally, it’s anger that burns and revenge is what the angry man thinks is the cure. If the revenge is painful, letting go is the cure.

    You have a bunch of typos “Unto” for example. There are too many dramatic para breaks, which reduces the impact of each.

    I don’t understand why Haimon didn’t know his hotel had been bought.

  2. Marianne McA
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 06:40:39

    Nitpicks: seeing it’s billed as a contemporary, I imagine he’s not immortal, so ‘age-old’ seems an inappropriate word choice. Similarly, unless he’s omniscient, he can’t know where everyone is in the building, so that claim threw me out of the text – wondering how he could tell if someone had just nipped to the loo.

    All the rage and revenge isn’t my cup of tea, but I know dark heroes are popular, so good luck.

  3. Ros
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 07:40:55

    I am a HP reader and I am your target audience. I love it. I’d definitely keep reading. Good job.

  4. Jamie Beck
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 08:07:22

    I confess I have a similar reaction to the extreme and inconsistent emotions in this opening scene. They don’t ring true, or even as strong, when they come on and switch so quickly and intensely.

    This is billed as a contemporary, but it doesn’t read like one. The dialogue, in particular, seems stilted and unnatural, especially between two men. “I will call the police and have you thrown out!” If this old man is some kind of criminal, it’s more likely he’ll whip out his cell phone and bark, “I’m calling the cops.” Similarly, “They will come and enforce my property rights. I own this place and I demand you leave.” Nothing about that sentence sounds authentic coming from an aging villain (perhaps if it were being said by a female attorney, it would sound realistic). Right now the dialogue reads like you are trying to feed info through dialogue to get to certain words or places (like using ‘demand’ to feed the next line of dialogue about not getting to demand anything anymore).

    Also, as SAO notes, the set-up/premise seems faulty. One cannot buy a business or real property without signed contracts. Thus, the villain would know he sold his business/property, even in a foreclosure kind of situation. Thus, perhaps you mean to infer that his surprise is merely the identity of the new owner? If that’s the case, it isn’t clear. Also, ten years plotting to take down a man, and he’s never once laid eyes on him in all that time? Doesn’t seem realistic.

    I think you’ve tried to hook the reader with drama, but it’s overdone. Better to hook us by making us fall for your hero, his personality, and the motivation for his revenge. Personally, I’d be much more interested in a witty, sly hero who isn’t burning with anger 10 years later…but who is icy with it. Calculating. SAVORING the culmination of his plans.

    I’m assuming the girl is the villain’s daughter (and possible ex lover of our hero). I’m curious about her and her past with our hero.

    The general set-up/story conflict could work, but I’d considering toning down the melodrama. Let the dialogue and action flow more naturally.

    Thanks for sharing your work. I hope these comments can help you. Good luck!

  5. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 09:59:52

    All of the above comments sum up what I’d have to say…this is too much, too over the top.

    I’m trying to make sense of too many things to remember the story, which isn’t good. As mentioned above, the old man should have known his building was sold, unless he rents from Viper Industries and they weren’t required to notify him of a new owner. And that’s not what you want your reader wondering about. You want me reading with anticipation to find out who the girl is and what’s her connection with the acid-eaten, charred-hearted hero (?).

    And those aren’t really appealing descriptions. One and done might have sufficed. But I’m envisioning a version of Nicholas Cage from Ghost Rider.

    I’m also trying to decide what a lilt and slur combined sound like. I’m lost on that one.

    Thanks for showing us your work. There’s a story here, I’m sure, and a little polish and revision will bring it out.

  6. wikkidsexycool
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 10:48:08

    Hello Author,

    You’ve got a killer opening imho:

    “Revenge was not sweet.
    It burned in his mouth and gut like acid. It seared his throat and lungs.
    It long ago had charred his heart.”

    That’s what hooked the scifi/fantasy reader in me, but all the rest, not so much. I really wanted this part to be literal and not figurative “it burned in his mouth and gut like acid”. Your opening could be the start of a fantasy series with an unrepentant, sexy bad-ass alpha hero (warlock, or something else of your choosing) who’s part sin eater, etc. Or it can be a historical where you have spin off characters. Or you can continue with this being a contemporary, but right now I have to agree that this doesn’t read like one. Based on the dialogue and setting, it puts me in mind of NBC’s Dracula, where your hero is Jonathan Rhys Meyers and he sees the re-incarnated Mina for the first time (without the lilt and the slurring of her words. Maybe keeping only the lilt would work, since I get that you want her to make an impact, but a lilt plus a slur is too much. Perhaps it might be better to just let her character impress the reader, and how she haunts your main protag).

    Anyway, there’s not much more I can add except you’ve posted it here to get reactions, and there’s a fair variety to mull over. Thanks for sharing this, and it would be nice to see a follow-up, just to find out how this gets edited. I wish you the best with your novel.

  7. Kerry B
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 11:17:15

    I don’t read HP, but I liked this. I was intrigued, and didn’t feel it was over the top. I did think the villain should know his building had been sold, but that’s a small and easily fixable detail.

    As for the dialogue not being “contemporary,” I disagree. I thought it sounded like a foreign (Greek?) person, speaking English, but using the grammar constructs of their native tongue. Like a French speaker might say, “I *have much* cold,” instead of “I *am very* cold.”

    Good luck with this! It’s polished and interesting, and I’m especially curious about the “lilt and slur” of the probable heroine!

  8. theo
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 13:32:30

    The room was empty, but the low sound of a radio slid under the door behind the lobby desk.

    The room was empty. The faint sound of a radio wafted under the door behind the lobby desk.

    The only thing in the room was the sound of a radio coming from beyond the lobby’s closed office door.

    Just about anything but the picture of a radio sliding under the lobby door. That type of mix up plus the contradictory emotions and the spelling errors (I think you meant scraped door, not scrapped as in garbage) would cause me to put it back. A little sense of time and place would help as well since it reads more old world European rather than contemporary and a good revision to get rid of the inconsistencies and you might have a good story here. I don’t know yet.

  9. hapax
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 15:59:51

    I’m not usually an HP reader, but when I’m in the mood for drama-rama, this would suit me down to the ground.

    I loved the over-the-top emotion, the stilted foreign-sounding speech, the exaggerated imagery — I *adored* the slippery sleazy picture conjured by “the sound of the radio slid under the door”. If I had picked it up, I would read on, eagerly anticipating a ferocious alphahole billionare “hero”, a wronged ex-lover he falsely thinks “betrayed” him, and lots and lots of “punishing kisses” (or “pounding thrusts”, depending how graphic you plan to be.)

    You’ve set up definite expectations that there’s still a market for. So, if you’re not planning on going Old Skool on us, you might want to re-think your opening.

  10. Jason
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 17:12:19

    Loved the intro and the description of the London rain. This reads as fantasy to me, though of course it could paranormal romance as well. Some parts were a bit confusing – I’d love to see Raphael enter the hotel a bit quicker and have more dialog with the man he’s confronting.

    Keep going – this grabbed me from the start!

  11. Melissa
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 19:06:31

    I agree with Ros, Kerry B, and hapax. From this excerpt, I would expect an HP-type romance. I’ve kind of neglected HP’s lately, but I would keep reading this. :)

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