First Page Feedback – Without a Doubt

Sandra P has a Harlequin Special Edition opening!
If Mason Gray were to summon up a favorite female fantasy his ex-girlfriend Tara Michaels would rank up there with Angelina Jolie or Cindy Crawford. For bonus points he could even remember how Tara had felt wrapped around him as she sighed his name.

Although considering she walked out on him three years ago, it was unlikely Mason would get the opportunity to relive any romantic encounters.

“Who’s that guy Tara’s talking to?” Mason pulled the tap to pour a draft while he  surreptitiously spied on his ex-girlfriend.

Tara hadn’t been exactly thrilled when Mason had talked the manager of the Alley Cat Bar  to allow him to bartend a few nights a week as research for his next book. She hadn’t come out and accused him working here just to get close to her again, although he wouldn’t have denied it if she had.

“That’s Jeff.” David Bronner accepted payment for a Margarita from a pretty brunette and  headed for the cash register. “Tara and Jeff dated for a few months, but they’ve been broken up for a while now.” David after depositing the money into the cash register returned with the woman’s change. “Not sure why he’s been hanging around again, but he and Tara seem to have a lot to talk about.”

David moved to wait on another customer while Mason served the draft with a variety of uncharitable thoughts spun through his mind. Naturally Mason had considered Tara had moved  on given the length of time he and Tara had been broken up, but this was the first sign of serious competition he’d encountered. Maybe it was time for an intervention.

“Hey, Tara,” he said, pausing at her side, “care to introduce me to your friend?”

The smile on his face was pretty much an illusion as Mason had basically disliked Tara’s  friend on sight. The guy in front of her reeked of grace, charm and too many hours spent inside a spray tanning booth. Jeff’s pretty boy looks no doubt made him popular with the ladies, although if he was here to sweet talk Tara into reconciliation, he was going to have to get in line.

Mason had been here first.

Expecting her to give him a look that could wither glass on a lesser mortal, Mason was a  bit nonplussed when she simply supplied the introductions with a non-glass withering look on her face. “Mason, this is Jeff. Jeff, Mason.”

Scooping up a couple empty bottles of beer, she then turned towards the trash can where the bartenders deposited the recyclables.

“Sorry I can’t stay and chat,” she added, “but duty calls.”

Then after tossing then a blithe smile she scooted off to the far end of the bar. Leaving Mason to chat with Jeff. Alone.

Yeah. This probably wasn’t going to go well.

“You’re Mason Gray,” Jeff said, his pleasant tone not suggesting that he was aware of the
past Mason shared with Tara. “My younger brother loves your books.”

First Page Feedback from Susan Litman

You’ve got a smooth writing style, and I like the idea that the hero is a writer, working in a bar to do research for his book—she establishes this immediately. Also set up right away is the fact that Mason (said hero) is still pining for his ex, Tara, who also works at the bar, except that “sulking” might be a better word—he comes off less heroic than borderline stalkerish. Too, his concentration on Tara’s physical attributes in his sexual fantasies makes us wonder if we want to root for this hero to get her if she’s the heroine! What about who she is as a person? A couple of other points about the execution in the opening:

  • Quite a lot of backstory dump in the first paragraphs, not only about Tara and Mason’s breakup but apparently about her breakup with Jeff, a guy we see hanging out in the bar whose presence upsets Mason.
  •  There’s a lot of description here, and much of it seems negative. (In fact, Mason paints the very ex-girlfriend he claims to miss in a rather unfavorable light, which reflects pretty poorly on him.  Again, in terms of setting him up as a hero, this isn’t working to great effect.)

There’s a nice energy to the story and the setting is good–reunion romances do well in Special Edition. Just make sure we want the hero and heroine to get back with each other!