First Impact: Dead Reckoning by Aline Carriere

— August 15, 2012 (8 comments)

Time for another First Impact critique. Remember, if you share your thoughts in the comments, you are eligible to win a 10-page critique from Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Your critique doesn't have to be long, just useful!

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Thank you to Aline for submitting the first page of her erotic historical adventure novel, Dead Reckoning. (Don't worry if erotic isn't your thing -- it isn't mine either, but the page below is totally PG).

Keep in mind all this is just my opinion. If it doesn't feel right to you, ignore it. Any in-line comments are to the right, overall thoughts at the end.

First Page
(Author's Note: The reference to Flint from "Treasure Island" is intentional as "Treasure Island" is an integral part of the book.) 

The pirates found Anne below and roughly brought dragged [or some stronger verb] her to the deck of the ship. They pawed at her and pulled at her clothes; her hair unraveled and fell in golden curls on her shoulders. When she pushed their hands away, others took their place.

“Here comes Flint,” one of the men said and they stopped their jostling. “Look what we found below, Cap’n.” The men parted and revealed Anne disheveled, confused and trembling.

“Where is Captain Cole?” she demanded. Flint glared at her with piercing green eyes and she looked down. No sooner had she done so, he He lifted her chin with his hand and forced her to confront him. Flint was a name even she had heard whispered in fear – a pirate who was a curse to the civilized world and a legend among pirates. She fought to meet his stare. She did not want to appear weak, but her body betrayed her. She could not stop from shaking and tears formed in her eyes. She sensed his command and strength and in horror realized he was her only hope.

A couple phrases here made me
question whose POV we're in.
“Your Captain and those of the crew who would not join us are dead.” Flint took in the struggle within her and dropped his hand. She did not look down, but rather at the men around her as though to challenge them.
What mess is he talking about?

“Gregor, take her to the great cabin,” Flint said, “and the rest of you sort this mess before I get my whip.” He walked past her without looking at her again.

In the last sentence, I just think the
humor hits better if 'considerably'
is applied only to the second one.
Anne Davis, newly turned eighteen, was had been a passenger bound from Boston to Bristol aboard the Merrilee on a glorious April day in 17 – with a cargo of molasses, spirits and rum. She had been on her way to meet her fiancĂ© for the first time across the ocean;, an arrangement she looked forward to with dread and hope, and which had now been replaced with considerably more dread and considerably less hope.

Adam's Thoughts
If I read erotic novels, I would absolutely keep reading this. It's well written, with voice, tension, and two great characters from the start. We learn a lot about Anne even before the final paragraph, just in the way she responds to Flint with both fear and attempted challenge, and in how "even she" had heard Flint's name.

And Flint, too, is an interesting character. He steps onto the stage with authority, but shows a hint of compassion as he sees her fear and chooses to drop his hand. It's such a tiny gesture, but it speaks a lot.

I honestly don't have a lot to say about this. The only thing is I'd be careful of sticking inside Anne's POV. There were just a couple of phrases here and there that threw me out of her head for a moment: when the men "revealed" Anne in para. 2, and then in para. 4 when Flint takes in her struggle (made me wonder how she knew he was doing that) and again when looks at the crew "as though" to challenge them (doesn't she know whether she's challenging them or not? I'd say something like "in a weak attempt at challenging them" or something).

But that's me being nit-picky. You really did a great job with this, Aline, as far as I'm concerned.

What do the rest of you think?

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  1. This is a really good opening and I don't have much more to add to the critique. Just one thing. I've heard that head-hopping in erotica without staying strictly in an omniscient pov is more acceptable than in other genres. I don't know if that's true, though, since I don't read erotica.

    But I'm guessing that based on your last paragraph and the mention of golden curls (which isn't something a limited third pov would probably think of), that you're using an omniscient pov. If that's the case, you actually get a bit too deep in your characters' heads at some points. The third paragraph especially.

    This is a really good opening, though! And even though I don't read erotica, you have me interested. :)

  2. What time did this go up? I could not, for the life of me, find it in my reader. I had to come here manually. Anyway, I'll be back in a bit.

  3. I liked it. It got me thinking it is some kind of new take on Treasure Island, but that just might be me. I've read a lot of pirate stories that paint pirates in a favourable light. It is nice to find one that is closer to how they really acted. (But not too much as well. If that makes sense.) Were it me, I would keep reading for certain. I like the style, it is flowing and not forced at all. And I think I could grow to like Anne, and Flint. Especially he.

  4. Okay, I'm back. I don't read erotica, heck, I don't even read romance, but I thought this was pretty good. Others have mentioned the potential POV issues, so I'll just point out one sentence I tripped over.

    "She could not stop from shaking and tears formed in her eyes."

    Now, I'm no grammarian, so I can't tell if this sentence is technically wrong or anything, but I think this would read better if you could write it into two clauses. Maybe something like:

    "She could not stop shaking, or keep the tears from forming in her eyes."

    Just a thought.

  5. Oddly, I blogged about POV today! And I agree with Adam's comment that the POV warbles in that one paragraph. If you really want to do the male POV in this erotic romance, the tension will be better if it's separated out.

    For me, the last paragraph felt a little distant in POV as well, so I think Emily's comment about this being purposeful is probably right. But I find it less engaging, especially in erotica, a genre that relies on evoking, um, emotion more than others. If it's parody, then the distant POV works grand, but if you're playing it straight, I would like to be drawn closer to her POV. #justmy2cents

    One last thing, and obviously I can't know from just this little bit, but the "damsel taken hostage by pirates, sexual awakening ensues" storyline is a little cliche - not that it can't be tremendously effective (esp. as erotica), but I'm hoping that you will twist it up into something unexpected as the story goes on!

    Great, lively start to the story! :)

  6. Well, I'll just mention what no one has mentioned before me:

    1) When she pushed their hands away, what others took their place? If she succeeds in pushing the hands of the pirates away who else it there putting hands on her? This is rather nit-picky but your first paragraph should be flawless, I think.

    2) she's confused and trembling, then she demands that Flint tell her where her captain is, then she looks down, afraid because she's heard that he's a curse and a legend among pirates. I'm wondering what motivated her to demand that he tell her where her captain was.

    3) "an arrangement she looked forward to with dread and hope, and which had now been replaced with considerably more dread and less hope." <--The arrangement was replaced with more dread and less hope? I'm not sure how to tell you why I think this is wrong. I think the "and" throws what follows back to "arrangement" instead of dread and hope.

  7. Excellent edits. The only other thing I'd change is "tears formed in her eyes" (which makes one wonder where else they'd form) to "her eyes welled with tears," which is more emotional than the verb "form."

    Other than that, I like how it begins, with a spunky character in dire straits, and of course I'd be hooked by the connection to Treasure Island.

  8. I have a soft spot in my heart for pirates. =]

    Be careful that certain words aren't repeated too often within sentences and paragraphs. For instance, instead of "a pirate who was a curse to the civilized world and a legend among pirates," I would change the first "a pirate" to "a man." That's really nitpicky, but it threw me out of the story for a second so I thought I'd mention it.

    I'd love a bit more setting within the first few paragraphs. If Anne is dragged on deck from her bed, how has the scene on deck changed? Are there bodies where before there were coils of rope? Are there any signs of a fight that could tell Anne more about what happened? (As if getting dragged and assaulted wasn't enough of a clue... but still.)

    Overall, I really liked it! I would definitely keep reading. The world needs some more well-written erotica.