First Page Feedback – At His Disposal

Here’s the opening for AT HIS DISPOSAL by @elledoo – aimed at Presents!

If Raffaele Ferrarotto thought for one minute he was going to ignore her, he was dead wrong. Olivia shifted, trying not to feel exposed as her driver wound the car through the streets of New York City, bound for the Plaza Hotel and the party Mr. Ferrarotto was hosting. The man had so boldly refused to see her two weeks earlier when she showed up at his offices in the city demanding answers. She never made it past his secretary before being dismissed. It appeared that Mr. Ferrarotto didn’t have time for a little girl looking for a lost sibling. She wasn’t a child, and tonight Raffaele Ferrarotto was going to learn a very valuable lesson.

The car slowed and her door opened by a slightly stunned doorman. Good. She felt a smile pull at the corner of her lips as the smooth material of her gown whispered across her skin. Without turning she knew the man was getting an eyeful of the dramatic back of her gown. When she saw the light pink silk chiffon creation in her friend’s shop she knew it was the dress she was looking for. Seemingly demure with a simple scoop front neckline, the wide pearl-beaded trim continued around the back to scoop low and attach just above her bottom with a loose bow. The style left most of her back and sides exposed while still giving a classic romance vibe. Quite frankly, it made her feel powerful and naked all at once. She loved it.

Stepping into the ballroom she was taken aback by its beauty. The arched double doors were mirrored by the private seating areas set across a sea of towering centerpieces overflowing with fragrant flowers. The dim light of what had to be thousands of candles gave the large room an intimate feeling. Like all of this was done for one person alone. As her eyes followed the columns to the frescoed ceiling she imagined she was that one person.

“Amazing isn’t it?” The words were spoken so close to her ear she stumbled forward in surprise. A cool hand gripped her elbow to steady her and she fought not to pull away from the touch.

“I was just thinking that.” She turned, offering the man a smile. The candlelight set the perfect scene for his dark good looks. It danced across his high cheekbones and defined jaw. It also drew attention to his dark, calculating eyes.

“I know.” He returned her smile but it didn’t quite make it to his eyes. Like he knew he was making her uncomfortable and was enjoying it. “I saw you from across the room and thought to myself, surely if a room could up put that look of wonder on this woman’s face then I have to meet her. I have to find out what else could bring you pleasure.”

He was smooth, she’d give him that. Smooth and probably as oily as his predatory gaze suggested.

And the feedback from The Presents Team…

You have a unique voice and the reader’s interest is certainly piqued.  (What is she going to demand answers for?! What’s going to come out of the mouth of this gorgeous Italian alpha?) In order to give these crucial opening pages more immediacy though we would suggest that you throw the reader into the heart of the action and have the book open with Olivia standing at the door of the event room. Layering in more dialogue right at the start would also help the reader to get a real and immediate feel for who these characters are going to be – you want people invested in Olivia and Raffaele and curious to see their journeys as soon as possible! 

Hopefully this helps while working on the manuscript. Remember-get the reader intrigued as quickly as possible! We’ve had a couple of stories starting in a car–skip that and open the door, unless there’s a really, really good reason for it! 🙂

24 replies on “First Page Feedback – At His Disposal”

I’m going to go out on a limb and very respectfully disagree with the editors. *runs like crazy*

I LOVED this. I loved the opening and the line where the doorman got an eyeful of the back of the dress.

Really good job making me feel what she did as she stepped into the ballroom.

WOW this is compelling! I agree with the editors that it could start right in the action, but I didn’t find it’s start in the car distracting, like I sometimes do in other cases.

The description of the dress is PERFECT!

No problem with disagreeing, Elle! There are many ways to start a story in a gripping fashion. It’s just we see SOOOOO many titles with a setup opening that we’d often rather start in the moment.

Too, we’re just seeing the first page here–when considering the opening in the first chapter, reactions might change.

But there are great specific things here! 🙂 Congrats!

Thank you so much for the feedback! Definitely some food for thought! It’s funny that you mention layering in more dialog—the next 300+ words are mostly that. 🙂 Thank you again for taking the time to read my words!

Although the descriptions were great, most of the story is either telling what has already happened or what will happen in the future. It’s just my opinion but the heroine came out a little too arrogant, being overly confident in her looks. I didn’t care too much about who’d made her dress and all. Also, if the heroine has such an agenda, knows hero is hosting a party and where, and knows his name, I feel the heroine should have at least used the internet to see how he may look (that is, if the man at the end is indeed the hero himself). Clearly, from the dialogues, the hero is seeing the heroine for the first time. Rather than thinking what else could bring her pleasure, shouldn’t he be thinking who are you and who invited you? The sexual tone that bounced off of him (wink wink) was too strong for my taste. He’s thinking pleasure and she’s thinking oily LOL. As I mentioned earlier, you gave great descriptions. If you start at STEPPING INTO THE BALLROOM…. and work on the dialogues a bit with bits of your great descriptions, your opening will be stronger, I think. All the best with your writing and a big thank you to all the editors for their hard work.

Thank you for you comments, Sara. The man she’s speaking to isn’t the hero…but a business rival. The hero comes in a second later and catches the two looking cozy chatting away.

No worries. When I hit the word limit just before introductions were made I figured there’d be confusion.

Attractive he is 😉 he pops back up a few times later on and may or may not be in league with a few other secondary characters.

We are all like little birdies fresh from hatching imprinting on the first male we see. The oily comment made me

We are all like little birdies fresh from hatching imprinting on the first male we see. The oily comment made me suspect not the hero.

It’s interesting about the comments. I’m halfway through a recent Presents that has an almost identical set-up. Not exactly the same as motivations and various bits and pieces were different. But it started with the heroine prepping to gatecrash a party given by the hero after failing to get an appointment with him at his office. Aside from that issue the writing in this excerpt was vibrant and descriptions really clear.

I’m pretty sure there is nothing new under the sun. But if you do it well enough it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t until I read the comments that I thought…yes actually this is a common set up.

I’m just happy that I poked the Gods and lived to tell the tale.

I just felt rebellious this morning. 🙂


the “little girl” reference threw me but I’d totally keep reading this if there was more.


Thhaannnnkkkkk youuuuuu! I get a little squiggy when I enter things like this so it’s always great to see people actually enjoy my words enough to want more!

I loved this! I very much liked her kick butt attitude and confidence. So interesting, reading so many differing opinions. 🙂

Olivia is no shrinking violet that’s for sure! Thanks for reading and liking it!

Brilliant. I can see what the editor is saying but then again loved it also. Different set up car breaks down and rides a horse to the event. hahaha sorry only kidding and Fiona is right a well written piece puts it own twist to old set up.

Ha! Or car breaks down and she has to “borrow” some poor bike messenger’s ride. Nothing like showing up in formal wear on a mountain bike.

Thanks for reading!

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