A Single Title Contemporary–so HQN!–from @AvaQuinnWrites. This heroine has some interesting rules…
Rules. Sheridan Ward lived her life by three. It was because of those rules that she sat in this nameless bar on another Thursday night somewhere in West Texas.
Her gaze swept the honkytonk and she sighed, feeling as worn down as the sole of a rancher’s boot. Most of the time she liked rules. They helped her make her way alone in this crazy world. Everything worked out in the end if you followed the rules. That’s what old Jim had taught her. And he’d been right. Mostly. Only now they’d become more like a cage that locked her away from the life she really wanted. A life that would soon be within her reach.
Sheridan tamped down the ridiculous flare of hope that lit inside her at the thought and concentrated on the real reason she was here.
Rule number one: Know the game better than anyone at your table. She flicked a glance over her shoulder at the crowded bar. After an hour casing the place, she was damn sure she knew the game better than anyone in here.
Besides, even though the honkytonk was jumping like a grasshopper in a chicken coop, she’d snagged the third stool on the left at the bar—her lucky spot no matter what dive she walked into. Right now she’d take luck anywhere she could find it. Lord knew it was the one thing her rules couldn’t counteract.
She picked up her beer and took a long swallow then placed it back on the coaster—right in the center, with the label facing her.
Rule number two: Know your marks better than they know themselves.
She swiveled around and leaned an elbow against the top of the bar as she took in the joint. Everything she needed to know about the people who frequented this place was
written all over it. Dark wood paneling covered the walls. Steer horns and elk antlers vied
for room among the tattered sports pennants from glory days long past.
Neon signs threw their unnatural light across the smoky dance floor as couples shuffled their feet to the mournful rhythm of the country music. Others nursed their beers as they slouched at the waist high tables that corralled the dance floor.
But sitting pretty at the far end of the room was the real reason she was here. Half a dozen competition grade pool tables with cowboys at each and every one of them. From her seat, she had the perfect angle to note stances, grips, follow through, though she barely took in the men themselves.
Not tonight. Tomorrow she’d choose her marks after studying each player—the skills, the eyes, the body language. That part she’d been a natural at from an early age out of necessity. Now it helped her to survive in a different way. She shook off the depressing thought and focused on the present and her most important rule.
Rule number three: Trust no one. Especially the law.
First Page Feedback from Allison Carroll
Full disclosure—I’m a country girl. I love the personality in this first page. From the colorful colloquialisms to the rustic setting, I was on board. Thinking about the market, though, I realize too much of this kind of “flavor” can be a turn off for readers. I think you stay on the right side of that very fine line, and you do it by making the heroine multidimensional. She’s not just colorful colloquialisms. She’s smart and resourceful, perhaps devious, definitely a loner, and these are all compelling characteristics. That said, I’d recommend being mindful of how heavily you use this country vernacular as the story progresses. You want to leave a little salt in the shaker (ok, clearly not as good with the expressions as you are;).
The rundown of the rules gives this opening structure and momentum. I like how we see the heroine utilizing them as she sets up her con. I’m intrigued by her, but I don’t quite feel sympathetic toward her. Is there a way to soften her a little more for the reader? She’s alone, living on the wrong side of the law, feeling caged, but hopeful. Perhaps tease out a bit more what she’s hopeful about, giving the reader even more reason to root for her.