Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Through Charlotte's Eyes
GENRE: YA historical SF

I only came into Polaine Bakery for a croissant after dreaming of its buttery flaky deliciousness so unlike anything back home. But after one look at the fruit tarts, crème brulees, and chocolate eclairs, I had to have more. I dug into my wallet to see if I had a few more loose euros. Nothing. Zilch. I grabbed my dad's credit card and clung to it as I prepped myself to order way too many sweets.

Je veux, I repeated under my breath. That verb always tripped me up, despite Mom teaching me French years ago, but I wanted to sound more Parisian when I ordered.

The door chimed, and the already crowded line pushed forward as a newcomer with olive-colored skin forced his way to the counter. The other customers grumbled. As he slid past me, he stopped, his eyes growing as wide as macaroons.

My gaze skittered to the case of pastries. He probably just wanted to see the tarts, and I stood in the way. Stepping backwards, I bumped into the woman behind me. "Excusez-moi," I whispered.

She crossed her arms and glared.

The strange guy, with his tousled dark hair, took one step toward me—and my breath caught. His black eyes bore into mine, like he knew me. Goosebumps tickled my arms.

“You look—“ his deep voice startled me. Before he could utter another word, I tossed my credit card into my bag, not caring if it landed in my sketchbook or travel diary, and made a beeline for the door.


  1. I really, really like the setting in this. What's not to love about a French bakery in France? Your first line was great, too. The things that made me wonder was that I saw it was historical but it felt very contemporary. I also would've liked a little more of a hint as to why the guy unnerved her so.

  2. Oooh. I like it! The macaroon metaphor is hilarious. I really love the immediate way you bring the reader into the scene. I know we're in a Parisian Bakery in modern day and I know that your character feels self conscious about her French. And I'd definitely keep turning the page to see why she is so quick to head to the door.

    I too was thrown by the historical genre and the modern day setting, but I assume that at some point the story switches to a different time period. If not, of course the credit card has to go and the phrase "zilch".

    My impression was that it was a little overwritten when she shares her first glance with the mysterious guy. In one paragraph we have tousled hair, breaths catching, eyes boring, and goosebumps. I prefer a bit lighter, more subtle touch. All of these at once made it feel melodramatic to me. That said, I'd definitely keep reading anyway because WHY DID SHE RUN AWAY? I must know. :)

  3. I like this, too! I wondered the same thing, why it's categorized as historical. Can you ground us immediately in the time period?
    Also, I think the MC reacts too strongly too quickly to the guy looking at her. I think there has to be more reason to react the way she does.
    I would keep reading, though! Good luck!

  4. Very nice but of course the genre and the opening 250 make no sense so that's where a query would come in handy. Obviously with euros this is modern day and not historical. Her reaction to him is a bit much if she knows him - i.e. she would know he was handsome etc and if this is the first time she met him then it is too much and makes no sense. Walk down the street and you see great looking guys and girls at every corner - so there has to be something about HIM that causes this strange reaction. Let us know what it is up front - othersie we think it's a 12 year old who saw Justin Bieber.

  5. I'm hooked! I adore this. I took French in college and would pick this up in a heartbeat.

    I would advise that perhaps you could look into your phrasing, to make it more unique. Tousled hair, eyes that bore into MC, goosebumps tickling the arm. These are all common descriptors.

    But I think you have a story there, and for me that's always the most important part. Good luck!

  6. I also got confused by the idea of "historical SF" as a genre. My first thought was that euros haven't been around that long, so it can't be THAT historical. Maybe she's a time-travelling girl from the future or something? (Does SF denote science fiction?)

    That being said, I loved the intro. The macaroon line was great! (Mmmm, macaroons...)

  7. I love the voice. As a foodie, your first paragraph hooked me. I have to agree with the other comments about the guy's description and her running out the door so fast. I'd definitely keep reading but those last two graphs feel like they could use a lighter hand.

    Oh, and pretty sure the French is macaron, with one "o". I've eaten enough to know this, fortunately and unfortunately!

    Great and thanks for sharing!

  8. Intrigue, suspense...and pastry. Love it!

  9. I thought this was well done and would love to read more. Because of the title and browsing the crit dating from last week, I'm guessing this is the Charlotte Corday story and we'll soon end up back in the French Revolution. I can so imagine all the places you can take this. Best of luck with it!

  10. Beautiful descriptions. They made my mouth water. You've clearly used setting to your advantage. I'm hooked. However I would suggest being more original when you describe the boy. How many times have we heard "tousled dark hair" before? And "goosebumps"? Really visualize this boy and describe him. With all his beauty and his flaws.

  11. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 18, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    I'm confused on how this is "historical" but maybe it's a time travel story? At any rate, I'm riding middle ground with this one. I didn't hate it, but didn't love it either. Hopefully you'll find someone who does love it. Good luck.

  12. The French bakery setting for the opening is lovely. Like the other commenters, I was confused about the historical category, but it seems that we’ll get there. I felt that this meeting with the strange boy was melodramatic and the descriptions of his “olive-colored skin” and “tousled dark hair” fell flat. Perhaps more action, rather than this small interaction would have intrigued me more. I’m not sure why the MC ran out, but I wasn’t hooked enough to want to find out.