Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #31

GENRE:   Contemporary romance

The irritatingly dramatic voice sliced through her eardrums.

 “Claire Gibson! Where have you been hiding?”

Sometimes she cursed the day she moved to this small Pacific Northwest island. Couldn’t she get a stinking cup of coffee without running into half the people she knew?

Okay. One person. Just her luck for it to be the biggest mouth in town.

 Claire dug a five-dollar bill out of her jeans pocket, slapped it on the counter, and grabbed her extra-hot vanilla latte. “Thanks, Tyler.”

“Take care, Mrs. G.” Tyler gave her a sympathetic smile from behind the register as she turned to leave.

“Hi Bea. Sorry. I’m in a hurry.” She attempted to brush past the large woman.

 No such luck. A simple shift of weight was all it took for Beatrice Atwell to block her exit.

“But I’ve got wonderful news.” Bea leaned in confidentially, although her volume didn’t alter a bit. Apparently she’d never learned the difference between inside and outside voices that any sane mother taught her children. “I’ve found someone for you.” She bared her teeth in what was probably supposed to be a smile.

“Excuse me?”

“A man. He’s taking over Dr. Wainright’s dental practice. I know several women who would love to meet him, but you’re at the top of my list.”

As if anyone could replace her husband. Anger and tears fought their way to the surface. Claire focused on the anger. She’d cried enough in the last two years.


  1. This is a good opening, we learn a lot about Claire without info dump. Something about it didn't quite hook me, but I would probably read on at least a few more pages to see what happens. Good job!

  2. "A simple shift of weight was all it took..." Hilarious. I can just see this large, meddlesome woman in my head.

    I think this is a good set up. I can already see the conflict building -- Claire may be trying to close off her heart, but things are about to change in her life. I would read on.

    Love the title, btw.

  3. I agree with A Little Push's comment. Great job on not dumping info. The first line didn't grab me right away. From what I know of Bea, you could describe her voice with something different than 'irritatingly dramatic' for better effect. Love that her voice sliced through Claire's eardrums (keep that part!)

    Introduction of Beatrice Atwell is what hooked me. I get a clear picture of Claire based on her opinion of Bea. I would read on to see if Claire's sarcasm stays strong throughout. I like snarky main characters :)

  4. The fact that the first sentence contains an adverb is a bit off-putting for me. "The shrill voice sliced through her eardrums" sounds smoother to me. Also, "she bared her teeth in her version of a smile" flows better, too.

    The rest is wonderful. You show (not tell) the back story and suck the reader in. Good job.

  5. “The irritatingly dramatic voice sliced through her eardrums.” No it didn't, but I can see just what you were trying to achieve with this sentence. I think you are on the right track, but I would lose the adverb and find another way to say the same thing.

    “Sometimes she cursed the day she moved to this small Pacific Northwest island.” This strikes me as a bit awkward, as an attempt to disguise exposition.

    I believe you mean to say that Bea “leaned in conspiratorially”, nor “confidentially.”

  6. I really like this. I feel for her already and want her to be happy. Great description with shifting the weight and the inside voice. Good luck! :)

  7. This was a cute opening. I grew up in a small town and knew people like Bea and find it hilarious that she's already trying to find a woman for the new doctor in town. It's very Pride and Prejudice (which I love). Something about the last paragraph gave me pause, though. If it's been two years, would she be so quick to tears? Anger, yes, but tears seem a little extreme for this simple situation. I would give it another page to see how Claire handles it.

  8. Love the understated humor here. Romance isn't usually my cup of tea, but I'd probably keep reading for the characters.

    I do wonder if after two years she would still be so raw over her husband's death. I don't think the sense loss has to (or should) go away, but her reaction suggests that it happened much more recently. To me, the anger seems much more realistic than the tears.

  9. I like everything about this except the first sentence. "Sliced through my eardrums" read awkward to me, as I got a pretty icky visual of knives and ears. But I love the voice and you've done a great job of characterization. I'd read more.

  10. I really enjoyed this set up. The way you describe the small town issue is perfect. I didn't think you really needed the line about inside and outside voices - it sort of sounded too juvenile for the rest of the prose. Otherwise, I thought it was great.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  11. I really enjoyed this! It has a fun voice, and after the first page, I'm rooting for Claire. I had similar suggestions to other commenters:

    *First sentence could be stronger.

    *Suggest either having Claire simply describe the island as "this small island" here and introduce Pacific Northwest location later, or be more specific: this small island in Puget Sound, in the San Juans, or in the Columbia River.

    *I had to read paragraphs 4-7 twice to make sure the "one person" she was referring to wasn't Tyler.

    *Personally, the "difference between inside and outside voices" made me laugh (I'm a parent) but I can also see the point of the commenter above about it distracting from her voice.

    *I can also picture tears and anger, even after two years, IF there's something really awful about his death (or abandonment). You might be able to hint at that here...

    I really did enjoy this and it's the kind of book I would definitely keep reading, based on this scene. Nice Job!

  12. Yes! I love a good romance, as long as there's no ripping bodices.

    I agree with a previous poster: a "shrill" voice would be better. I've experienced sliced eardrums so I know what you're talking about, but I'd hone it down to simply irritating or shrill.

    Love Bea! Know her well. I laughed at the inside/outside voice part. I think that about a certain someone every time she comes over and scares my cats with her booming and yes, overly-dramatic, voice (she doesn't pierce so much as puncture eardrums). I could also see her shifting her weight to block me from escaping. Maybe you know her and named her Bea? :)

    I do think you can still be that raw over losing your husband after two years. People heal in different ways and there is no set time schedule. Some hold onto the pain as a wall to protect them; if they fall in love again, they could get hurt again. I think that's where we're going with Claire, and it says a lot about her. And it sets us up for a struggle as Claire fights to not fall for the hot new dentist. Yay!

    I'm all excited about the setting you chose! I'm assuming the San Juan's, because Mercer Island is now wall-to-wall people. Any of the islands make for a perfect small-town romance.

    Love this and would definitely keep reading!

  13. Overall, well done, interesting hook. My pet peeve is adverbs, so I'd cut the one in the first sentence, and switch to description instead. I'd cut some of the niceties in the dialogue and get to the point earlier. Love the last line; would like to read more.

  14. I liked the writing here, the flow, the ease, the description of the MC's irritation and the well-meaning but unintentionally cruel matchmaker. I found Claire immediately sympathetic and I liked the voice. I found the sudden turn in the last sentence a bit jarring - it made me feel bad that I thought the situation light and amusing until then. I would like to read more, though.

  15. A great start! I am really intrigued. A few comments...
    1. The dead husband part is a little sudden/jarring. Can you draw it out - say something more like she just isn't ready?
    2. She knows Tyler - and Beatrice - that's two people. Just a small nit. This is great!

  16. Two Room Flat authorAugust 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the feedback.

  17. Love the premise. I do wish to read more narrative before the dialog sets in though. Maybe more set up in the first paragraph before you dive in.

    I don't think you need "small Pacific Northwest island." Maybe, "Sometimes she cursed the day she decided to move to an island." Tell us more about the location later. Just a thought.

    This sounds like a fun read. Good luck.

  18. Really enjoyable opening (dialogue, action, quickly shaped characters). Great job!

    But I'm going to disagree with the previous comment. Actually I think you could just start right in with "Clare Gibson!..." second sentence/dialogue. Then rework problematic first sentence as the second: Bea's irritating (or dramatic, or high-pitched) voice sliced through the coffeehouse chatter. [We can tell from Bea's question itself that she's inclined to the dramatic.]

  19. I think it could be tightened by editing a word here or there - like irritatingly dramatic. I also thought the awkward way we learn where she is was a bit too convenient. Other than that, I liked the set up and the humor. I wish it could go on a bit longer than 250 so I could hear her response to Bea. Also, if the dentist turns out to be the love interest I am wondering if he makes an appearance too soon in the book - unless this is a false start before the real love of her second life comes. But, a succesful opening that worked for me.

  20. This is a wonderfully sympathetic character--a widow who is still grieving stuck on an island full of busybodies. I agree with the other comments regarding "sliced through her eardrum." You could easily alter that. Also, I assume that Bea is the one person Claire would like to avoid is because she's so loud and nosy? I think I'm the only one who wondered about her age. The tone read younger but then Tyler called her Mrs. G.---shall I assume she's a young widow? All in all, very promising.