Friday, November 29, 2013

(9) Romance: RETURN TO ME

TITLE: Return To Me
GENRE: Romance

Abandoned by her actress mother, then again when her fiance deploys for World War II, eighteen-year-old Sadie Stark vows she would never surrender her own child. But when she discovers her fiancé's bomber has crashed over enemy lines, she must find the courage to persevere and make the right choice for herself and the child she carries.

Sadie watched from the farmhouse as a pick-up truck rambled up their lane. When the tires crunched across gravel near the front porch that sagged like their sway-back mare, she repinned a stubborn wisp of gray hair that had escaped her carelessly twisted bun at the nape of her neck.

The truck puttered to a stop.

Sadie watched as the woman peeled her toned thighs from the sticky vinyl seat and eased down to the ground. She studied a piece of paper and then looked up, catching Sadie's gaze. Then she hoisted a bag of groceries in her arm the way a mother lifts a child.

"May I help you?" Sadie asked curiously. She didn't recognize this woman, although her gait was oddly familiar.

"Yes, I hope so," the woman replied. She took the porch steps slowly, squinting in the sun, her puckered cheeks the color of a ripened peach. "I stopped at the market asking for directions and Ruth Dalton? She directed me here, and asked that I bring your groceries. I hope that was okay."

"Thank you. Please, come in."

A breeze sucked the checkered curtains to the screens and then released them to tinker with the chimes as the women retreated inside. The woman's flip-flops lapped at her heels as she followed Sadie to the kitchen.

"I'm looking for Sadie Stark."

Sadie froze while looking through the window at the pond under the great willow tree. Their tree. The sight of it evoked feelings she'd buried for many years.


  1. The attention to details is quite wonderful. I loved the mention of the woman's toned thighs peeling from her seat, and Sadie's selective attention to how the woman lifts her grocery as if it were a child. The familiar gait was also a moment of intrigue.

    At a certain point, the details started overwhelming the story, though. I had to reread the passage, especially the part when the woman explains that she was directed here. I wasn't sure why Sadie would be surprised that the woman was looking for her. It doesn't seem like anyone else is living in the house.

    Another moment of disconnect was Sadie's reaction. Instead of reacting to the woman's statement (a character would usually start asking questions, like who is this woman, what does she want with me), Sadie chooses to reminisce about a tree.

    One last question I had was about the logline. The genre is romance, but the focus seems to be on Sadie's child, rather than a love interest (who is presumably killed in battle). Perhaps "drama" would be more accurate?

  2. I'd echo lookinglass's comments. There are some really nice descriptions in this. I particularly like the line about the breeze playing with the curtains and wind chimes. Sadie's affect feels oddly flat, though. I'd expect more nervousness or at least curiosity about the stranger in her house.

  3. I'm curious to find out more about these two people. I'll agree with previous comments that the description was well done, but tended to overdone in spots. It was also very passive. "Sadie watched" in two consecutive paragraphs. Perhaps changing it to describing what she is seeing. "A truck rambled up the driveway."

  4. Having read this over again, I'm guessing this is a present day scene when Sadie is old (gray hair) and the WWII-era stuff will be told in retrospect (like The Notebook)? So I did stumble a little from the pitch to the opening scene.

    I also liked the details of how Sadie notices the groceries are carried like a child, very telling of what's to come. I agree that some of the scenery details are a bit much right now since a character has been introduced and the reader wants to know why she's looking for Ruth. Maybe keep the wind chimes line OR the tree, but not both.

    I also wondered about this being a romance given the pitch focuses on the child and there is no mention of another love interest perhaps after her fiance is MIA/died. Keep in mind a romance has a Happily Ever After with someone. The pitch seems more like a set up with things that happened, but I don't quite get what choice she is making--we already know she isn't abandoning her child, so unless she tries to find her fiance herself, what is she choosing?

  5. (sorry, looking for Sadie, not Ruth)

  6. It is hard to really get a grip on what this story is about, the genre, and when it will be taking place.

    Also thought it was odd that she chose that moment for a willow tree on her own property to suddenly evoke feelings in her.

    I did like the description of the breeze and curtains.

  7. Love the details! Nice flow to the writing.
    I did notice that 2 paragraphs start with "Sadie watched."
    I also got confused when the woman was speaking - is it that Ruth Dalton gave her directions? First time I read through, I thought she was asking Sadie if Sadie was Ruth Dalton (I read it as: stopped at the market and asked for directions and asked for Ruth Dalton.)

  8. The logline was vague and unclear. I wondered who Sadie would be 'surrendering' her child to, and I wondered what 'persevere' meant in this context -raising her child on her own? Searching for her fiancé? It just doesn't give a clear indication of what the story is about.

    The page itself doesn't grab. There's no atmosphere or mood here, which you could do easily because you do description well. My thought is that you're using it in the wrong places. If we saw the truck, we'd have a sense of time and know if it was happening now, as Stephsco suggests, or if we're actually in the 1940's. If we see the home, we get a sense of Sadie's socio-economic status, how she lives, etc.

    I liked the somewhat familiar gait, and feel like it is foreshadowing something, like maybe this woman is her fiance's sister.

    The asking directions sentence reads awkward ending with Sue Dalton. Maybe combine it with the following sentence.

    The women 'retreated' inside. Retreat is moving backward, and while Sadie would retreat inside, the other woman is entering, going forward, so perhaps change 'retreat?'

    I also wondered why she was looking out the window. She has a strange woman in her house and it would seem she would be paying attention to her, simply out of courtesy, if nothing else.

    For me, most of this is simply too vague to hold my interest.

  9. I like your descriptive word choices for the most part. They evoke a clear picture for me of an aging solitary woman viewing a stranger with curiosity and a bit of suspicion. I have to agree with the others that the final sentence brings the scene to a dead halt. Are you going to do some back story here? Is Sadie prone to catching sight of the tree and reliving old feelings at odd moments? Would the simple mention of her name by a stranger cause her to react in this way?

  10. Overall I like this one. The conflict setup in the logline is very clear and compelling. The opening here has a slightly ominous tone to it, which draws me in.

    To me the writing felt a little thick with qualifiers. It does help set the scene, but also makes for denser reading. Also, the one item I tripped over was the woman asking about Ruth Dalton. From the first sentence I know we're in Sadie's POV but this caused confusion as Sadie seems to answer to the name (or else I've missed something or misread what's going on).

    Anyway, I think I would keep reading because I'm intrigued enough from what I've read here and also the general plot.

    Best of luck with it!

  11. This one has nice detail and mood and I like the sense of anticipation. The way I interpret the opening is that this is the MC as an older woman faced with the daughter she gave away for adoption.

    My question is based on logline and opening, is this a romance novel primarily? Those have strong expectations that must be met for genre fans, about the story being focused on the romance and an ending in which couple are together. It seems more like a novel with a romantic element to it?

  12. I think you have a very intriguing premise. However, I think you may want to clarify if the conflict focuses on the romance, or her choice regarding the child, as this will influence the category/genre of the story.

    When I started reading this, I didn’t feel like I was fully engaging in the historical setting. There are a lot of details given to the surrounding, but the atmosphere/tension seemed lacking. If this is set in WWII, I think any unexpected visitor would bring anxiety. Or a yearning for news, etc. Going deeper into your character’s POV to establish this would not only allow reader to engage with your character more, but also set up the general tone for the book. If this is a book that starts in the present and then recounts the events of the past, then I think you want to make that clear in the logline.

    Good luck!