Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Between the Devil and the Blue Sea
GENRE: Historical Romance

As Eliza Baxter stepped onto the gangway of the convict ship, Nautilus, a September wind brushed over her cropped scalp. The Union Jack snapped high up the jackstaff as the fog snaked beneath the hem of her regulation prison uniform, a serviceable brown serge stamped by a broad arrow. Between the gaps in the planks, the Thames lapped against the mahogany hull, grey waters ripe with the sewage of London.

She had not survived the past four months to be daunted by the jeers of two hatchet-faced guards.

“Ey, would you look at this fine bit o’ muslin?”

“Hullo love, fancy a bit of leg-over once we make the high seas?”

Dodging between their swagger, they pressed close enough for her to smell the stale gin staining their breath.

Eliza stood before a desk, staring at a pen poised in a manicured hand. She lifted her gaze to meet the impatient face of a young lieutenant.

“I beg your pardon?” she said.

“Your name.” He repeated, ogling her bosom.

“Move your bloody arse Duchess.”

Eliza grimaced at the gravelly voice accompanied by guffaws. Her former cellmate, Bertie.

“Enough,” a tall gentleman commanded from up the quarterdeck, tucking a black ledger under his arm. The small cleft in his chin deepened in annoyance as his daunting stare extinguished the trickle of laughter behind her.

“My name’s Eliza Byrd.” She was relieved to hear herself pronounce her alias convincingly. No telltale hesitation.


  1. Hooked! The only lines that became confusing for me were the two starting with "move your arse" - maybe they could be saved until after she gives her alias or move "her cellmate, Bertie" in front of "she grimaced". Also, can a chin cleft get deeper? Otherwise, the perfect amount of description and polished so well it shines!

  2. I'm on the fence with this one. The second sentence tripped me up and I had to read it several times. I would read a litte further.

  3. I'd get rid of "As" at the beginning of your opening sentence. I think "as" weakens the sentence. "Eliza Baxter stepped onto the gangway of the convicet ship, Nautilus. A September wind brushed over her cropped scalp..."

    Also I was confused when she stood before a desk, because I thought she was on a gangway to the ship.

    Other than that, though, I think you have a great premise. Good luck!

  4. I'm interested - I'm a sucker for historical anything. But one quibble: if her hair is closely cropped and she's been enduring hardship for 4 months, would she really have manicured hands? Or would the nails be cracked and caked with dirt, or the fingertips blistered, hangnailed, etc? I'm sure you're planning on addressing her identity and situation in depth, but this tripped me up right away.

  5. Fantastic. Love to read the rest of the novel.

  6. I want to read more of this, and I don't even like much historical fiction! You've established right off that the MC is not what she seems, giving your story an immediate mystery.


    I would send this back with a form rejection because your grammar needs work, particularly your dialogue formatting. I do edit, but if I see this many mistakes in this short amount of space, I know that it will take me a lot more time than usual to get it up to the standard where I'd feel comfortable shopping it to an editor.

  7. It comes across as a fun read. I love the tone of it and it has nice pace.

    It reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean for some reason.

  8. Historicals are not my thing, so grain of salt and all that for my comments...

    I got tripped up, like someone above, because I don't know what Union Jack and jackstaff mean. I also got pulled out of the story when she abruptly appeared at a desk. It's on the ship, then? The sentence that starts with "Dodging between their swagger..." confused me because I first thought they were dodging between their own swagger.

    Other than that, I like the surprise that she has an alias.

  9. thanks everyone, these helpful comments helped me revise and it's so much clearer. I really appreciate the feedback.

  10. I like the premise as well and would like to see where this goes. I agree with @A Little Push about removing the "As" in the first sentence to rework it. I also felt a little tripped up by "cropped scalp." I get the intension but maybe a different way of saying it would work better - I know you don't mean her actual scalp has been cropped, it's her hair exposing her scalp. Which would be awful in historical times for a woman to lose her hair!