Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Miss Stewart's Seduction
GENRE: Historical Thriller / Romantic Suspense

Cambridge, 1733.

Revenge required precision. Tom Caldwell needed a steady hand to fell the Earl. Good thing he’d schooled himself to a single bottle of wine.

He thrust out his arms and sent rumpled papers fluttering across the table. With fingers reeking of ink, he rubbed his flattened cheek and arched his neck toward the window.

What did one wear, when one might die before sunrise?

No! Practice improved a man’s aim. Tom would have confidence, though his very limbs revolted. Stumbling to his feet, he lit a taper. God’s blood, his noxious breath could set the room ablaze. He huffed in the cold air, tripped on the hearthstones, stabbed and thrust at the embers with the fire iron as if he were preparing for a swordfight instead of – this.

“Robin!” Tom kicked at the chamber pot and fumbed with his breeches. The boy was surely awake. Servants, like soldiers on campaign, and swindlers, and god-forsaken swine as he knew himself to be, all regularly rose before dawn. Ruffians, the lot of ‘em.

The lad appeared in the doorway, head bowed. “Shall I stir thy fire, Sir?”

“No, no – too late for that.” Then, trying for a measure of kindness, Tom softened his voice at the edges. “Warm me some water, and have Mrs. Lang send up coffee and bread.” A last supper, before the night was entirely run out.

He sprawled against the mantel and massaged his temples. Drink was a Devil, alone. Better to have followed Alex’s example, Almighty bless him.


  1. I love the opening. But I'm not for sure what is going on after that. I did feel the historical setting and I would read the rest of the page.

  2. This is what I understood so far: Tom will duel the Earl before sunrise to avenge Alex's death.

    I got a good feeling for the historical setting and the character's state of inebriation. Both come through in the descriptions and sentence structure. I would read more.

  3. I love your opening line, but like the others, I got a little confused about what was happening after that.

  4. I love historical thrillers and I love the MC's self-deprecating attitude. He doesn't take himself seriously, not only does he think of himself as swine, but a ruffian as well. There is a feel of bravado there that I like.

    However, this is very disjointed. I like the first sentence. But then... I get lost. Why is his cheek flattened? Because he was wounded by the Earl or he slept badly? He talks about practice, but then he...takes a leak? Wakes up his servant? Practice what? Maybe have him consider his weapon of choice?

    Not sure what needs to happen here, but perhaps a bit more of him thinking why he wants revenge? He seems to have a very devil-may-care attitude, but possible and looming death is a serious thing to be thinking about, no? I say more inner thoughts and more bravado and more cause and effect (as in 'Practice improved a man's aim. Tom touched his pistol.' along these lines)

  5. Loved the wine piece. :) I'd take the "then" out of the sentence, "Then, trying for a measure of kindness".

    I'm confused as to what's going on, but I think he may be drunk? And preparing for a dual. But then it says the drink is the devil. So, I'm not too sure about being drunk either.

    This definitively has voice!

  6. I don't read a lot of historicals, but that first line pulled me in. I like your voice and your character, but I wonder if we could get a few more specifics soon. Good luck!

  7. I like the writing style and language. It seems true to the period, though I'm no judge on that.
    But I'm hooked enough to want to read more.

  8. There is a lot that I like about this opening. The voice is strong and descriptions are vivid and evocative. I like the Robin! paragraph in particular. There is a typo at what should be "fumbled." And I wasn't sure what to make of "thy fire" instead of the fire. I thought "thy" was familiar and a servant wouldn't say that to his master unless they were intimate. If that's what you're trying to convey, fine, if not then you might consider changing it to "the fire." I would like to read more.

  9. Love the first sentence. Not as much of a fan of the second. Is he a drinker? Or reformed? Is there a middle ground?
    The papers fluttering and what he should wear are distracting. Once you get to Robin - you hit your stride.
    What's next?

  10. The language is very historical and strong. I don't read historical fiction, so I admit I could be very wrong, but it seems that the historical voice is too heavy handed. That aside, this was well written and you showed us his drunken state as he prepared for a duel very well. We also know how he feels about servants, but even in that, there is a touch of softness. Good job all around.

  11. I think the best line here is "what did one wear when one might die before sunrise?". I wanted to know what was happening. However, the sentences just didn't flow and the result was a convoluted opening. I would keep a few sentences and rework the rest.

  12. Many thanks to everyone for your interesting and useful comments. I've posted a revised version of my opening (500 words, if you'd like to read more) on my website. ("The Duel")