Wednesday, May 13, 2009

6 Secret Agent

TITLE Girl From Gurian
GENRE YA Historical Romance

Gurian Sultanate, Philippines, April 1765

15-year-old Crown Princess Juzliza clamped her lips until the urge to sneeze passed, averting disaster.

Whoever decorated her boat with hundreds of flowers should endure a day’s lecture from Hajj Ibrahim.

Alas, most likely he ordered the flowers.

Hajj Ibrahim, her tutor and advisor to the sultan, did not expressly forbid sneezing, but could have easily added it to his rules:

Stare straight ahead. Look stern so people will not think you are frivolous. Keep your hands still at all times. And Juzliza’s favorite: no falling out of the boat.

“Even accidentally?” Juzliza had asked, wide-eyed. She smiled now at the memory of his disapproving expression.

How glorious to jump in the water and cast off all these trappings, which said to the world she was ready to be married off!

Instead, she sat still in her gilded palanquin with an itchy nose as slaves rowed her sampan away from the palace, down to the main bay where guests waited. Legions of guards trailed her in smaller boats.

Who would dare harm her here?

A school of fish darted out of the way in the clear shallows. Juzliza leaned to watch them, then realized her mistake.

Her nose, catching a strong whiff of orchids, twitched yet again.

This time, she could no longer suppress it. She sneezed into a lace handkerchief and steadied her headdress just as her handmaiden screamed.

It’s just a sneeze, Juzliza thought, annoyed at Remina, then realized something else was happening.


  1. I'm hooked if no other reason the unique setting. The character seems something of a innocent princess trope, but I like that. And the tease that there is something else going on beyond what is obvious is deftly done. I'd definitely read more!

  2. This is an awesome setting. Great imagery. It's very different. I was kind of weirded out by the sneezing, but then the last line was a great zinger! I'm hooked.

  3. Please tell me your 15 y/o princess is going to get older before she marries or is kidnapped or any of a number of things this era would find wrong. That's just too...eww for me. The book would go right back on the rack. Sorry.

    Also, I know you're keeping this authentic, but if I have to stumble over name pronunciations every time I read them, I put the book down.

    I do like the writing and the imagery, but for me, this didn't work, for the reasons above.

  4. I'm torn on this one. There isn't anything really WRONG with it, but I'm not hooked. It is probably in part because I'm not much of a romance fan, and really not much of a historical romance fan.

    With that in mind, I'm going to try to explain why this doesn't work for me. Juzliza just comes across as a rich b***h princess. I read this and didn't like her at all, but I didn't dislike her enough to care what happens to her (as in hope she falls into the water and gets eaten by something).

    As I said, it's a personal (probably genre-related thing), so do with it what you will.

  5. I'm not hooked either but not because it's poorly written. I'm not a romance fan, so it's probably just me.

    I wish that you would have said or at least described what that something "else" was. A loud noise, a splash, blood. I wanted to be shown what it was.

  6. I tripped over the names as well. Does Juzliza eventually have a nickname instead? Maybe there is a variation of the name that would be easier to read?

    I like the very different setting, and I like the writing voice.

  7. There are a few spots where the writing could be tighter/smoother, but overall I liked this and your MC.

    Is there a more natural way you could work in her age, rather than just stating it in the first sentence? And I'd cut 'averting disaster'; I don't think you need it.

    A few other things you could cut: easily, wide-eyed.

    And you use 'realized' twice near the end. Try to find a stronger way to reword one or both of those phrases.

  8. INteresting until I came to the last sentence. "Something else..."

    But that would not deter me from the other interesting writing and setting.

    Perhaps the foreshadowing "who would harm her here?" is a little too obvious?

  9. (Without reading other comments...)

    I like this so far. I'm not sure if I'm hooked yet, and I think this is an instance where the book jacket would help convince me one way or the other.

    I think the writing is well done, and only had one tiny qualm:

    Juzliza says that Hajj Ibrahim ordered her to "look stern" and yet she smiles at the memory. That's understandable for a 15-year-old, but considering that she tried so hard to suppress a sneeze, I expected her to be a little more guarded with her emotions—particularly smiles.

    Like I said, tiny qualm.

    Good job establishing such a specific setting so well, though. And good luck!

  10. My biggest problem with this is the characters name. Juzliza. Based on the strength of the rest of this excerpt, I'm sure it's an accurate name, but occasionally - very occasionally - accuracy must fly in the face of not turning your readers off with things they can't say. A letter dropped here or there would make it much easier on the eyes: Juliza, Juziza, etc.

    And if I managed to get past the name barrier here, I'd keep reading to see if she turned out to be more than some empty headed twit, but if she didn't, I'd put the book down and never pick it up again.

    Over all, almost-hooked.

  11. I liked this! I liked the MC- she doesn't seem like quite so much an innocent to me- just pretending to be.

    The name is hard to say, but I got used to. And if its authentic name from the period, stick with it and the age too. That's the way it was for girls and its good for us to remember that. In some parts of the world girls are still being sent to brothels at this age.

    Good work! I would definitely read more.

  12. I was hooked by the unique time/setting of this. And I thought the writing was great. But I think I wanted to understand the scene more. I think because it's so outside what I know, I want to know why shes in the boat, and what this ceremony means and who the guests are, what her costume looks like... etc.

    But I'd be willing to wait and see if more of this comes later.

    Great job!

  13. Alas, I am not hooked by this one.

    I felt that the character of Juzliza fell flat for me. I didn't particularly care that she was on the boat or that she was told not to sneeze. You seem to try to sneak the hook in at the last sentence, but it's way too vague, and I would have stopped reading by that point. Put it earlier on in the novel.

    I do have to give you bonus points though, for what is obviously a well-researched and unique setting for a novel. Whether that will work to your advantage or disadvantage, I can't tell you, since I have no clue what happens next.

  14. Not at all bad, but there's no reason to make virtually every sentence its own paragraph. You set the scene well, without beating the reader over the head with details. Having raised three daughters to Juzliza's age and beyond, she seems realistic to me, within the confined context of so short a snippet.

  15. I enjoyed the setting and didn't have a problem with the names. (My book is set in China!) I DID expect her to sneeze and fall out of the boat when she leaned over, though.

  16. Hooked. I'd read more, mostly because of the locale and the different culture, but if I wasn't sucked into an entirely different lifestyle, I'm not sure how long I'd stay with it.

    I'd suggest more description so we can really see this.

    I liked Julz personality and I can the potential.

  17. I was hooked. The unique setting and the scream at the end were intriguing. I do agree that someone who was worried about a sneeze probably wouldn't smile, but that's a minor nit. I disagree with the commenter who said they hoped the 15-year-old didn't get married. I don't think this wedding ceremony is going to go to plan, but even if she did get married, it's authentic for the setting. I stumbled over the name too but I can live with it. I do think a nickname or something would help the reader.

  18. Wow, I was for sure pulled in. Want to know more. Good suspense built for the sneeze and the "Something else" that was happening. What could that something be???