First Page Feedback – A Simple Deception

This could be the week for exciting weddings! Here’s our first Historical submission, A Simple Deception from Vanessa Grace….

It was the wedding catastrophe of the decade.

Oh, but the ton would love it. An American heiress marrying the eligible Mr. Clyde Mosley had caused a stir behind the lacy fans. The fact the bride was a widow setting aside her mourning veil a full month early in order to become engaged had clattered tea cups against their saucers. But this! This was going to have polite society reaching for their smelling salts.

Sarah Armstrong gripped the cushioned arms of her chair and willed herself not to
scream in outrage. It wasn’t her style. Calm and collected; that was her. She stared across the polished mahogany desk at Baron Hampton, Clyde’s father. Not ten minutes ago she had been upstairs in the guest chambers, attaching a lace veil to her blond curls. Once the final touches to her wedding attire was in place, her future father-in-law was to escort her to the church. Now she felt ridiculously overdressed.

“I’m so sorry, Sarah,” said Hampton, compassion shining in his brown eyes. “This is a

He bore the flushed visage of humiliation, but Sarah suspected his high color had little to
do with personal embarrassment. She noted how he carefully avoided looking at his son. Clyde slouched on a sofa in the corner, a full brandy snifter in one hand and a half empty decanter in the other, a look of detached boredom twisting his boyishly handsome face. As horrific as the situation was, Sarah felt relief she wouldn’t be marrying the bastard.

Turning her attention away from her faithless fiancé, Sarah focused on the other two
people in the library. Sir Vernon Grey, a Baronet and Hampton’s business partner, glared at Clyde. Grey’s daughter Joelle sat in an armchair across from Sarah. The girl’s noisy weeping made it difficult for Sarah to concentrate.

Lord Hampton hissed in frustration. “A complete disaster,” he repeated. “I’m afraid, Sarah, I see no alternative. I don’t blame Grey for demanding Clyde marries Joelle, after
compromising her honor like this. A baby makes it even worse.”

Joelle gave a rather loud sob and buried her face in a fresh hankie. Startled by overt
display, Lord Hampton frowned at the girl. Sarah bit her lip at the inexplicable urge to giggle.

Joelle was being a tad dramatic, despite the seriousness of the situation. After all, she wasn’t the one being left at the altar, Sarah was.

“Yes, it’s time Clyde owns up to his responsibilities,” continued Hampton. “But this
leaves you without the husband and future I promised you. And a sticky legal tangle, because of our contract. So unless you agree to renegotiate, Grey will leave the company and we’ll be forced to dissolve our partnership. The company will be sold, and quite honestly, it is the only positive venture within my holdings these days.”

“Which would leave Mr. Mosley without the means to support any wife.” Sarah’s calm
voice sounded false to her.

And here’s the Feedback from the Historicals Team!

I must say I loved the opening line; adding that ‘catastrophe’ defied the readers’ expectations immediately. It set the scene in a few simple words, pulled me right in and made me want to find out more.

 The reaction of the ton was a particularly fun way of reflecting on the situation and I loved the humour this brought – making us aware that this ‘disaster’ perhaps isn’t so serious. It leant the page a tone of irony a little reminiscent of Jane Austen – classic!

 Having said that, although the scene was set nicely, I did clamour for more information. I was intrigued to know what the contract entailed and the role the heroine has to play in the business, but the impact on her life is not immediately obvious, which might be a turn off for some.

 I was a little confused about the heroine’s real feelings. Is she truly relieved? Terrified? Angry? The whole spectrum of emotions here is interesting, but perhaps a bit overwhelming!

 Also, perhaps I’m just greedy (or a little impatient) but I wanted to see the hero! With a cheating fiancé and two older men in the room, I was casting my eye around for that a man who was going to spark the chemistry. I wanted to spot the potential for passion right from the off-set; that would have really held my interest!!

 Overall a nice, fun tone and an intriguing set-up but just missing that enticing hero. 

Thanks to the Harlequin Historical team for the great feedback–and to Vanessa for an exciting story!

9 replies on “First Page Feedback – A Simple Deception”

Hi Vanessa,
I liked the humor with which you started the story. The introduction of too many names all at once was too much for me but I liked the ‘good riddance of bad rubbish’ feeling the heroine is likely feeling. All the best.

Love this, Vanessa! Like the Historical team commented, I too was looking for the hero. But you’ve got such a great start that I’d keep reading. Loved the teacups and smelling salts lines and the way you’ve contrasted the two women. Nice job!

Wonderfully funny beginning, Vanessa. Like others, I did want to know who our hero was, but 500 words is short. Anne Stenhouse


I would love to have seen a little more introspection on how Sarah felt.
Love the tone, the humour and the flow. As long as you introduce the hero in the first chapter. Ex. his name and her reaction to it, to coming face-to-face with him I’m okay not immediately meeting the hero in a historical. My historical romances are mostly men in kilts, but I would buy this book due to how you captured my attention and your use of humour.


Not my usual read but loved this beginning. I could see the lace fans waving like mad and whispers of gossip. Nicely set.

This is a very engaging read. The only thing is that I wasn’t quite sure of the time period. The ton reference suggested Regency but the rest was hard to place. I always thought wedding veils were a little later more Victorian.

Loved it! The humor was a great touch in a potentially disastrous situation. I, too, kept looking for the hero, but as long as he shows up in the first chapter, I don’t see a problem with him not being in the opening scene. I did wonder about the heroine’s use of the word ‘bastard’. I can see her using the term in a contemporary setting, but not so much in a historical.

I think I’d sob if I had to marry Clyde, too. “Bastard” works for me–unless, back then, it was only used more literally than it is now? Great opening! 🙂

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