Michille: First Lines

heath-when-the-duke-was-wickedEvery now and then, I (or my daughter, another voracious reader) bring home a bag of random books. This time, it was a bag of books from a colleague. We sat around the dining table after dinner tonight (last night for those reading this on Thursday) and read the first paragraphs of several of the books. There were several Debbie Macombers which I brushed off. I’ve read her stuff before and it’s great, but she doesn’t even open the bedroom door, much less close it after the kiss, and I like the sexual tension in stories and she doesn’t deliver that. There was a Nora Roberts and since she breaks a lot of rules, I wasn’t surprised that hers didn’t deliver the expected (it was a prologue), but Chapter 1 nailed it. We added in a Fern Michaels, a Susan Wiggs, a Lorraine Heath, a Kresley Cole, an Elizabeth Hoyt, and a Jayne Ann Krentz. In the interest of brevity, I’m going with the first lines of these books. It was illuminating to discuss which first lines intrigued us into an interest in reading further. Here is what we read.

  • Nora Roberts. Island of Glass. A man who couldn’t die had little to fear.
  • Fern Michaels. The Scoop. It was an event, there was no doubt about it.
  • Susan Wiggs. Table of Five. Hey, Miss Robinson, want to know how to figure out your porn-star name?” asked Russell Clark, Bouncing on the balls of his feet toward the school bus.
  • Lorraine Heath. When the Duke Was Wicked. Prologue. On the morning of February 2, 1872, I, Henry Sidney Stanford, the seventh Duke of Lovingdon, Marquess of Ashleigh, and Earl of Wyndmere, died. (Chapter 1 was better – The Duke of Lovingdon relished nothing more than being nestled between a woman’s sweet thighs.)
  • Kresley Cole. The Player. “I know my fairy tales,” I told my cousin.
  • Elizabeth Hoyt. The Raven Prince. The combination of a horse galloping far too fast, a muddy lane with a curve, and a lady pedestrian is never a good one.
  • Jayne Ann Krentz. Family Man. Technically speaking, Luke Gilchrist was not a bastard.

Which one intrigues you enough to read more?

11 thoughts on “Michille: First Lines

  1. What a selection you had, Michille! There’s a few here I’d be tempted to read further. I like the Nora Roberts a lot—that short sentence really nails the character, I think, and we don’t even know his name. Plus I think it’s a very well-written sentence. The Fern Michaels—I’ve read her before and liked her work, but I’ve never liked the first word of a sentence, much less the first word of a book, to be “It.” And whatever else the “it” is, it’s an event, not a person, so…I’m not as interested in that one.

    The Susan Wiggs promises a rollicking good time. If the book doesn’t deliver that, I’ll be really disappointed—and it’s hard to maintain rollicking. So I fear that one a little bit. The Lorraine Heath—the prologue first sentence is further proof that one should never write prologues. The first sentence of the first chapter is better, but it doesn’t grab me. I think maybe it’s because I don’t really believe it. Or I’d believe it only if substantiated somehow.

    The Kresley Cole tells me nothing, and I am not intrigued. The Elizabeth Hoyt is promising, and I like the Jayne Ann Krentz, too. So I’d read the Roberts first, and then the Hoyt and the Krentz. My backup would be the Wiggs. The rest I’d skip.

    This reminds me of a workshop I went to at RWA one year where…Julia Quinn and two other historical writers (I think they were historical writers) did a workshop on first sentences. It was terrific and highlighted how important that first sentence is. And I should know—I often make purchase decisions on just the first sentence.

    Fun post, Michille! What a treasure trove of books you got. And what fun it is to think about what makes a first sentence work for readers.

    • I have another one on my desk that my daughter gave me for Christmas. Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us. First line: As I sit here with one foot on either side of the ledge, looking down from twelve stories above the streets of Boston, I can’t help but think about suicide.

      I don’t really like first person so I didn’t like that right off. The next line is, “Not mine own,” which clarifies greatly, but still.

      I usually give books the first paragraph to grab me. I have a shelf full of recommended books. I will occasionally pick one up and put it back down when it fails to grab my attention.

  2. I’ve been tidying up my Golden Heart entry (done, thank goodness!). My opening scene needed a complete rewrite, so first sentences have been much on my mind. Jenny Crusie did a great blog post called ‘First Sentence Submission’–if you could give an editor (or reader) just the first sentence of your book, would they read on? (Here’s the link: http://arghink.com/2016/05/book-done-yet-first-sentence-submission/ ).

    I think Jenny has some great first lines–they set up the book in one sentence. That’s what I tried to do. A pet peeve of mine is when I read something funny and showy and engaging, but then when I read on, the first sentence has nothing to do with what follows. You can tell the author’s spent ages finding a show-stopper, but it’s false advertising. If it’s not a true promise of what follows, then it’s just a way to really, really annoy this reader 😉 .

    I’m with Kay on her selections, Michille. Nora, then Elizabeth Hoyt, then JAK. Then the Susan Wiggs. I read one of hers last year (the pirate book) and it was an excellent romp–this promises more of the same.

    • I would read Nora and JAK anyway because I love their stories. I just read the Heath and while it was a decent read, the conflict on his part was “I won’t let myself love again,” which I hate. On her part was, “I will only marry for love,” which is totally not believable in a historical. Give me a Courtney Milan style conflict, please.

  3. Hoyt, Krentz, Wiggs
    Hoyt – Instant trouble. You’re already picturing it and it sounds like it’s from the guy’s perspective.
    Krentz -color me instanatly intrigued – great intro to probably the two main characters already seeping with tension and you can feel the skin in the game – simple, but very effective.
    Wiggs- I wanted to put this first, but also fear it might have a hard time living up to itself. With the name Mrs. Robinson & the joke… I was first put off by it coming from a kid, rather than a bad pick-up line. Then my mind thought- “Holy crap, what if she is a stripper on some of her off school bus driving time, or was one. What a story!” Her reaction in the next line would be more telling, but I would read that next line.

    • I’m with you on the Wiggs. Plus, it sounds like a stupid Facebook post. Figure your porn star name, your elf name, your Game of Thrones name. I think Hoyt is at the top of my list, too, when I finish what I’m currently reading (the Hoover book and an old Nora Roberts book).

  4. This post is so fortuitous! I’ve been revising act I of my Victorian romance book, and have been wracking my brain for an inviting first line. Mind if I share and solicit feedback?

    Here are the first two sentences. Would you read on? Anyone who wants to play, please leave comments for me!

    “Daniel Hallsworth, recently restored Marquess of Edensbridge, hung off the edge of a sail rigging and pondered whether death in the Bay of Biscayne was preferable to life in England. Thus far, the bay was winning.”

  5. Pingback: Michille: Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 52 – Eight Ladies Writing

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