Saturday, December 4, 2010

#1 Regency Romance: No Other Tart Will Do (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: No Other Tart Will Do
GENRE: Regency Romance

Struggling to keep her sordid past a secret, Regency London's prim and proper Miss Wescot spies on the daughter she'd given away and hunts for the blackmailer who threatens to expose her as a former courtesan. In order to silence the blackmailer, she must join forces with her daughter's father--the ruthless earl who blames her for his wife's death.

A half-baked plan was better than no plan at all.

Miss Caroline Wescot straightened her feathered mask. She inched out of the shadows, squinting against the light of the chandeliers, and crossed the gallery of the mahogany staircase. The smell of alcohol and cheap perfumes mingled with the cigar smoke rising from the card room below. One of the more pleasant odors, considering this huge beehive was a brothel.

A sense of belonging caressed her spine, and she tipped her nose up in denial. She'd lived a respectable life for most of her twenty-five years, including the last four. And earlier, she'd sat in the Duchess of Kidvale's opera box. Well, she didn't belong there either. She didn't belong anywhere, really, most especially not near her own daughter. The daughter she must protect.

Caro grasped the railing with gloved hands, and a blur of masked faces glanced up at her, some taking a second look. They stared. Heat trickled down her low-cut bodice like sweat oozing between her breasts. Any of them could be her blackmailer.

Three days. She only had three days left to raise a fortune--

"One of your old regulars is being shackled," the House Mistress' husky voice said from the stairs to Caro's left. "Interested?"

Instead of answering, Caro leaned over the railing. She wasn't here to take clients; she came
to dupe the Earl of Greybridge into handing her a fortune. A risky plan, certainly, but he was
willing to pay good money to find Cee--one of Caro's aliases.


  1. I like the character you are building here and am intrigued by the opening scene. There is a tad too much detail in the beginning and I'd suggest you try to focus a little more on one clear thing. As it is, I find myself slightly confused as to where she is. There's a staircase with chandeliers but it appears to overlook a card room and is a brothel. If you were trying to show that she was overwhelmed by a new situation, this might not be too bad, but it sounds like she is comfortable in this scenario.

  2. I like the log line, except "in order to" which I'd shorten to "to."

    In the 3rd para, I wonder how a "sense of belonging" can caress one's spine? And, I was confused with the specific "including the last four." Why bring that up now if you aren't going to explain it yet?

    In the 4th para, the heat trickling down her bodice is plenty, you don't need to repeat with "sweating oozing between her breasts."

    5th, no need to cut the sentence with "--." It is a complete thought and can just end with a period.

    last para, I'm confused. Taking clients seems like something she's done before (obvious from logline) yet you said above she was respectable during the last four years and she's 25. So was she a harlot when she was 21 for one year? I'm struggling here with math when I should be lost in the story. You mention fortune twice, can you switch it up some? Again with the "--" in the last sentence is not punctuation you need here.

    Again, I do like the idea of your story, your logline is really good, and I see the tension right away, but the little nitpicks are in the way right now for me. Best of luck! This is a story I'd like to read. Keep going!

  3. I like the way you introduce her and set up the scene, but there may be too much information. I think you are concentrating more on letting us know the plot, than the character and that can be risky. I tend to like to know the characters a bit before their lives are torn a manner.

    Great job, thanks for sharing.

  4. The first line does a nice job of establishing Caroline's precarious situation and the smoky room with its masked patrons adds nicely to the tension.

    There were a couple things that took me out of the moment:

    - How does she know the blackmailer is in the room with her? That assumes the blackmailer is one of her former associates, but couldn't it just as easily be a former client?

    - If she hasn't done this for four years, wouldn't the House Mistress be surprised to see her and not asking her if she is interested in working? And if Caroline is wearing a mask, then how does the House Mistress recognize her?

    A little tweaking and this is a good setup. Nice job and good luck!

  5. Your logline definitely hooked me! The setting here is great and the sensory details in the first part did a nice job as well, especially the "smell of alcohol and cheap perfumes mingled with the cigar smoke."

    "Heat trickled down her low-cut bodice like sweat oozing between her breasts." The last part here could be cut- it's repetitive and not a terribly pretty picture.

    I'm not sure about the reference to being shackled either. I think I know what you're getting at, but it threw me and I had to read it a couple times.

    I'd read on!

  6. I've read this opening before, and it still makes me want to read on. There's two changes that would make it a stronger beginning for me. The first is the third paragraph. It's all backstory, and I don't think we need any of it yet. You've already mentioned a blackmailer, which I think would be enough to hook most people, and further down the page we find out she used to be a prostitute/courtesan, so we find out about her background without being confused by the maths.

    The second is a minor one. I don't think the line 'Heat trickled down her low-cut bodice like sweat oozing between her breasts.' works. I had to read it a few times. I think you mean the heat was like sweat, rather than actually sweating, but because heat and sweat are closely linked it seems like you're saying she is actually sweating. Can you find another way of describing this?

    Apart from that, this was a good start and I would read it.

  7. Good start.

    As intriguing as this is, I felt there was a little too much backstory at the very beginning, which slowed down the ideas of plans and awesome masks. I also admit I got tripped up trying to do the math with her age, and if she hasn't been doing this job in a while, doesn't the House Mistress know about it, since she's asking about other clients?

  8. I love the premise! The excerpt could use tweaking and I agree with most of what's been said above.

    Good luck!

  9. Very nice job with the sensory details and setting the scene. I could see the place, smell the place, feel the heat.

    I liked the tension within the character herself as she is reflecting on who she was, who she is now, how she sees herself, etc. Made her three-dimensional to me.

    I must admit that I felt a bit confused as well with the math. It seems as if she's there for work as the mistress asks her if she's interested in a previous client. But then again she's been clean for most of her 25 years, especially her last 4 so she must have been "working" as a teenager??? It tripped me up and took me out of the story.

    Intriguing plot though. Good job.

  10. I love the premise of this story and the writing. As someone mentioned above I'd cut out the paragraph of backstory and build Caro's personality and the setting in a tension focused way.
    This is good. I'd read on....

  11. I like your query paragraph, but I wonder--could you add a bit more motivation as to why she wants to silence him (I'm thinking it's more for her daughter's benefit--that would make me more sympathetic to her, certainly.)


    "A sense of belonging caressed her spine" seemed like an odd turn of phrase to me.

    The third paragraph makes it seem as if the daughter's in the brothel, but I don't think this is the case.

    Heat trickling like sweat seems a little redundant.

    I think this is a good hook--very intriguing, and I'm impressed with how well you put the conflict into the very first page. It's clear and interesting, and I'd read on.

  12. Loved this, very atmospheric and intriguing, but feel like you're trying to cram too much in there - and agree with others' points about sweat/ timing and some parts being confusing.

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  14. What a web you weave, of a sensual, perverted regency world painted in dark tones like Moulin Rouge.
    I may be the only person who liked your warped description of sweat and heat. I think it's a matter of tone, of building a character with an unusual and perhaps unreliable understanding of the world.

    Also, I see her getting permission from her old madam to 'hang out' and don't see the confusion others have mentioned about why she's in the brothal. It's obvious to me, she's on a mission only, but is delectably conflicted by the surroundings.

    I love your character and story.

  15. Logline - You do a nice job here of piquing my interest in the whole story.

    Except - I really like your opening line. You tell us a lot about your main character just from that single line. This is clearly not someone who has a clear-cut plan and guaranteed success (which makes for a much more entertaining read).

    There were a few places where your wording struck me as being an odd turn of phrase. In particular 'a sense of belonging caressed her spine' and 'Heat trickled down her low cut bodice'. Both of these phrases actually pulled me slightly out of the excerpt.

    It's a nice touch to add in the sense of urgency right at the beginning ('Three days. She only had three days left to raise a fortune--'). You certainly leave me wanting to read more...

  16. Logline - You might omit she has to search for the blackmailer ( or say - after hunting down the blackmailer) because in the next sentence she's joining with her daughter's father to silence him (implying he's been found.)

    Excerpt - I liked the idea but I thought, overall, it could use more work.

    A sense of belonging caressed her spine. - How does that happen?

    Heat trickled down her low-cut bodice like sweat oozing between her breasts. Any of them could be her blackmailer.//The comparison doesn't work. Trickling and oozing are two different things, and heat rises, and 'them' refers to her breasts, so you're saying any of her breasts could be the blackmailer.

    but he was willing to pay good money to find Cee--one of Caro's aliases.//Caro should be 'her.' It's her POV and she wouldn't think of herself as Caro.

  17. There's a lot of nice detail in here, but I'm wondering if it's too much. In the logline, we have a daughter (why is she spying on her?), a blackmailer (what are the stakes? what will she lose?), and her daughter's father who clearly hates her. I'm wondering if you can boil down the plot a tad more. My suggestion is to focus solely on the blackmail. What must she do and what are the stakes? Do those stakes even relate to her daughter? It's not clear as is, and if they don't, it seems like the spying is a subplot you could leave out until later. Your hook here is blackmail in regency times, so focus on how everything else ties into that.

    I'll second what others said about too much in the opening lines, too. I'd really hone in here on Caro's goal, which is to find the Earl of Greybridge. It doesn't matter right now if she led a respectable life; clearly she's being blackmailed, so it wasn't that respectable to begin with. I'm also not sure how heat can trickle like sweat; sweat trickles as an indicator of heat, yes?And why is she thinking about her daughter here unless her daughter is in the brothel? (If her daughter is in the brothel, well then that needs to be clearer as it's a source of tension.) These are little things you can cut and trim, thus leaving more room for the real focus of this scene--duping the Earl. Then I think you'll have nailed it!

  18. I enjoyed this one a lot. I did get slightly tripped up over "Caro"--it's not a common nickname for Caroline, and at first I thought it was another character. Maybe have her refer to herself as Caro in the first sentence, then sneak the full name in a little later?

  19. I bid to read the first 50 pages.
    Melissa Jeglinski
    The Knight Agency.

  20. I bid 100 pages.

    Laura Bradford
    Bradford Literary Agency

  21. I bid 125 pages.

    Melissa Jeglinski
    The Knight Agency

  22. Full MS! Do I win, do I win?

    Laura Bradford
    Bradford Literary Agency

  23. LOL You do!


  24. Aww, see what happens when you go to lunch!

  25. I'm not completely hooked. This is supposed to be Regency London, and the nickname "Caro" feels a little too modern, bringing me out of the world. Yet the prospect of the mystery does sound fun, and I like the idea of exploring the seedier, less-well-mannered side of Jane Austen's time period.

    Watch out for hiccups like "Heat trickled down her low-cut bodice like sweat oozing between her breasts"--is she sweating, or is the heat just like she's sweating? It's too close a comparison and throws me out.

    Also watch out for cliches like "the smell of alcohol and cheap perfume."

    This is just my own ignorance speaking in this question: isn't a courtesan someone who specifically serves nobility? Generally I wouldn't describe a house of courtesans as a brothel. But I'm not familiar with the terminology of this time period.

    At any rate, I didn't feel like the time period was evoked strongly enough, and with historical fiction it's a tightrope that you walk between too much detail and too little. I would have preferred just a little more detail.

  26. One more note: for some reason, I thought the daughter was grown-up and the single woman was older, so seeing that she's only 25 was disorienting. That could be strengthened in the logline with pithy, specific details such as how much time has passed since she was a courtesan or how old her daughter is now.

  27. "Car"o puts me bang into Regency England...association with Lord Byron's "Caro", Lady Caroline Lamb.

    The blurb definitely left me wanting to read more!