Friday, November 30, 2012

(13) Romance-Historical: Stormheart

TITLE: Stormheart
GENRE: Romance-Historical

When a resourceful bluestocking is ensnared in her half-brother’s perverse game of revenge, she finds an unlikely form of escape, a convict transport bound for the British Empire’s most notorious penal colony. Her goal to remain another overlooked prisoner is thwarted by a forbidden attraction to the ship’s brooding surgeon.

London, late September, 1824

Fog stole around Emily Starling’s prison uniform, brown serge stamped with broad arrows. She willed her trembling legs not to clatter the ankle chains and closed her eyes, feeling the rough grit of exhaustion. Rows of moored ships stretched along the wharves, masts rising toward the dawn like a primeval forest. She hadn’t seen the sky in ages, but even the muted pinks and oranges brightening the underbelly of the low cloud couldn’t lift her spirits. The driver halted the open cart in front of a waiting vessel. It wasn’t a particularly impressive ship, blue with a thick white line painted around the hull. No black ferryboat of the underworld—looked as sinister as a dependable workhorse. The other women, surrounding her like herrings in a barrel, jockeyed for a better glimpse of their home for the next five months.

She fought for a calming breath and caught the hint of wood smoke in the air. Autumn had always been her favorite season. Such a cozy time of year, perfect for curling by a well-stoked fire with a book. The apple trees back home in the garden must be turning crimson, ready to yield their tangy fruit. Her stomach tightened, protesting the dungeon’s final breakfast of cold marrow soup.

“Ain’t you a fine bit o’ muslin?” A hatchet-faced guard dragged her to the worn cobblestones, shattering her attempt at self-distraction. He bent to unlock the shackles and tickled her calf with an insinuating stroke.


  1. By 'London's most notorious penal colony', I assume you mean Australia? Sounds like an intriguing story!

    "Rows of moored ships stretched along the wharves, masts rising toward the dawn like a primeval forest." I love this line - it paints a vivid picture for me of what she's seeing.

    I'm wondering if you perhaps need to have something about why she's a convict on a ship so we have a better idea about her. You mention something about it in the logline but I'd like to know more.

    I'd read on.

  2. Very good opening. I'm hooked! I like how you evoke the senses through the wood smoke, the crimson apples and their tangy taste. This is right up my alley in genres and I'd like to read on.

    For the log line, I suggest revising the last line a bit. It's strong, but it could pack more of a wallop. Maybe instead of 'Her goal to remain another overlooked prisoner is thwarted', you could have something more dramatic like 'Her survival on the vessel is threatened by...'

    If you have time to return a critique, my entry is #19 Everett Quartet.

    Good luck!

  3. The logline here has a totally awesome premise--I assume from the date she's headed to Australia which is totally great.

    I feel like the excerpt didn't really start until the line of dialogue at the end. The first two paragraphs set the scene, but get bogged down with a lot of description and similes so that nothing is really happening. I'd suggest condensing the writing there to move to the action faster, the possibly working in some more description after things get going.

    I'd keep reading as I want to know what happens to Emily once she's on the ship.

  4. This was lovely writing, and I could picture the scene perfectly. The only hang-up I had was when I came to the line: "No black ferryboat of the underworld—looked as sinister as a dependable workhorse." I knew what you meant, but I think it might read a little more clearer as: "This was no black ferryboat of the underworld. It was about as sinister as a dependable workhorse." It also seemed as though you did your homework on the history of the time period, so I would definitely read on :).

  5. Wow! Unusual premise. I'd read on.

    The description bogged down a bit for me though. Not sure if that could be helped by tightening, as others suggested, or just by breaking into smaller paragraphs (especially that first one). Good luck!

  6. The logline for this romance seems fine: we know who the heroine and hero are, though I wouldn’t mind knowing more about their conflict rather than her half-brother’s revenge plot. But the opening paragraphs didn’t do it for me. I think they got bogged down in description, and I might suggest starting at the third paragraph. Also, if boarding this ship is her plan to get out of England, why is she trying to distract herself? Is she really a prisoner, or just pretending? It doesn’t fully jive with the logline, so hopefully the rest of the intro will clarify that.

  7. You write beautiful description here. I agree with everyone else that more action needs to take place in your opening, but that could be as simple as having your main character see the guard and feel his eyes on her to hint that he's going to approach by the end of the scene. Maybe that's another reason she's trying to distract herself...The writing here is really beautiful and I'd definitely keep reading.

  8. I agree with the others: beautiful writing, a bit too much description for the first page. I think you could work a little more action in with it to keep things moving. Also, maybe this is just me, but I had no idea what a bluestocking was in the logline, which kind of tripped me up.

  9. Your descriptions are very vivid. Like A Little Push, I had idea what bluestocking was. But, I must say that I got a bit impatient with all the descriptions. The memory of the apple tree and the book completely removed me from the story. I think the premise is good, and you write well, but interweave more plot movement into this setting.

  10. Love this! I had no idea what a bluestocking was, but I guess it means rich person?

    You've included nice details, and you set the stage nicely. I like her surprise at the ship looking mundane, and the man stroking her leg. I thought the trip down memory lane re: crimson apples didn't really fit in, but the rest of the excerpt was great.

  11. Never read a historical romance with this setting, so hurrah to you for choosing a fresh and unique concept (to me anyway).

    While there was nothing wrong with the writing, and you certainly have a flair for word choice and description - I think you may need to have a "darling-killing session" and dig into the story...there is plenty of opportunity for action...good luck!

  12. Interesting setting, way to pick something different and build a romance around it. Super intriguing! Your first line doesn't quite hook, but you have so much to work with, I think you can easily manage to pull something dramatic out. I agree with the others to get a hint of why she's there within the vivid descriptions. We want to get the feel that she's out of place among the prisoners--or is she? The "autumn had always been her favorite season" is something you could lead with, and then immediately show the contrast of the prison ships. But I wouldn't spend too much time on reflection beyond that.

    I would definitely keep reading, it sounds like a great story.

  13. Hmmm, server timing issue. How about 100 pages instead :)