Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Playing All the Angles
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Isabelle hadn’t stopped grinning since Calais. She, her mother, and her eldest sister were making a whirlwind through Paris, shopping and eating, and spending far too much money on a possibility. They were loading up a trousseau on the off chance that Dominic would be proposing soon.

“He will,” her mother had dismissed any doubt. “He’s got that look about him.”

“What look?” Isabelle asked.

She grinned wickedly, “The look of a man who came asking your father for his blessing last week.”


Elaine laughed at Isabelle’s cry of despair. “I’m not spoiling anything,” she waved. “You still don’t know how, or when.”

“But now you know to be ready,” Alora agreed.

Isabelle groaned, but had to smile. They meant well. “I suppose I will.”

“And ready you'll be,” Alora sang again, swinging a filmy negligee from a rack. “White with blue trim. Perfect for a honeymoon.”

“I hardly need white! I’m quite sure that what we did last weekend disqualifies me from all shades even remotely approaching that shade!”

Elaine, put her fingers in her ears and hummed, “Things I don’t need to hear, darlings.”

They laughed together, falling on one another for hugs, delighting in the company. In the late afternoon, as they sat in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, sipping coffees and sharing chocolate éclairs, Isabelle sighed happily. “The only thing missing is Eve. I wish she could have made it. She knows all the best places—and she can get into them, too.”

Elaine and Alora exchanged a look.


  1. When does the action take place? Is it in the past? If yes, how long ago? I cannot visualise these people and understand their attitude, unless you give me a clue about 'when' we are!

  2. I was intrigued by the excerpt. I'm wondering if the proposal really will come, and what has happened with Eve. The only issue I have is with Isabelle's response regarding the negligee--the word "shade" is used twice. Maybe substitute "color" for one of them? In any case, nice work.

  3. Maybe it's just me, but the characters seemed awfully young in their behavior. Even Isabelle, who is supposed to be old enough to be married. I do like the mother's reaction to her statement about what she did last weekend, that part felt very real. I feel the mention of Eve could have been a lot more interesting, but at the moment, it seems like a passing mention. Isabelle's attitude right before, makes it sound like she only misses Eve for very shallow reasons.

  4. Very happy mood and good dialog. I also like the way you give us information, showing us through dialog instead of telling for most of it.

    The first paragraph is a bit telling though.

    As happy as they all are, there's a lot of smiling and grinning here. Perhaps add some variation to the happy expressions and also give us a bit more of what Isabelle is feeling directly to keep the POV firmly from Isabelle's perspective. At least, I thought Isabelle is the heroine.

    I'd read a few pages more to see what surprises them.

  5. This is fun and playful, but a bit too chaotic for my taste. It reminds me of some of Jane Austen's more ecentric families and, while I like the writing, I don't think I could read much more of it.

    I did like almost everything up to the point that the negligee came out then we get a bit of almost singing and dancing.

  6. I really liked this, with the exception that it does not read contemporary to me. The voice feels historical, and I'm curious if this is a 20th-century set historical that maybe the author was suggested to label as contemporary (I had similar varying opinions on genre with my 1960s-set YA).

    If this is contemporary, the voice really should reflect how people actually talk. The dialogue here is formal, starting with "the look of a man..." and the reaction, "mother!" Specific word choices like "spoil" and "I suppose I will" contribute to this sounding less modern-day.

  7. I would certainly like to know the time period, since "Contemporary" can apply to a larger range than the last ten years or so. The contrast of that more old-time feel and this very modern relationship where Isabelle is telling her mom about her sex life seems off to me. And they're falling on each other for hugs in a negligee store in Paris? Not sure how much the saleswomen would like that, even today.

    The shift to late afternoon could be more active. It should start a new paragraph, but that sentence could also be split in two:
    "Late that afternoon, they sat [or rested? from the whirlwind?] in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, sipping coffees and sharing chocolate éclairs. Isabelle sighed happily." I'm not 100% sure this is physically possible, by the way, did you check that? Does the shadow of the Eiffel Tower fall on a cafe in the late afternoon? Or are these women with a decent amount of money sitting on the Champ de Mars (and does the tower's shadow fall there in the late afternoon?) sipping carry-out coffees?

    I like the active dialogue, but I feel like you might miss key moments of setting because you're trying to get to the line "Elaine and Alora exchanged a look." within the 250 limit.

  8. I enjoyed it. A little confusion on whose name was whose, but other than that, I'd like to see what happens next.

  9. I also wanted to know when this was. I read it thinking late 1800's because of the language used, but when she spoke about her sex life in front of her mother, I went and checked the genre and saw it was contemporary. It doesn't feel that way to me.

    The characters also feel superficial, like there is no depth to any of them. Perhaps that's because you have so many, you can't spend much time on any one of them?

    Perhaps take another look at language and give us more of an inside look at your MC.

  10. There is a nice energy to these opening paragraphs, but I wanted a deeper connection to Isabelle and the other characters. The opening line is great, but the immediate switch to a superficial recounting of what they’ve been up to lessens the tension – what happened in Calais? It was also unclear what time period this was taking place in.