Here is today’s first page critique – ‘A Rose to Love’
My comments and feedback follow.
“So, what’s she like?” Will asked as he took a sugar packet and stirred it into his coffee. They were sitting in a booth in the Coffee House next door to their private detective agency.
Jesse, tapping on his laptop keyboard, barely looked up. “What’s who like?”
“You know.” Will narrowed his eyes and leaned forward in the booth. “The woman who’s moving into the apartment upstairs. What’s her name again? And doesn’t she move in today?”
Jesse took a sip of his coffee before replying. “Guinevere Russo and yes. She should be here any time now.”
“So, what’s she like?” Will raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
“I don’t know. I haven’t met her. I only did a background check on her.”
“I thought that was the whole point of a background check.” Will had learned long ago to never doubt Jesse’s thoroughness. Because of his expertise, their clientele included several lawyers, various businesses and even the police departments in and around Chicago. Not only was Jesse expert at background checks, he was amazing at finding people who didn’t want to be found.
Jesse sighed and looked up from his laptop. “Yes, but sometimes, even with the best and deepest background checks, there are surprises.” In their detective agency, Jesse handled the ‘cyber-investigations’ and Will did the more ‘hands-on’ field work. His expertise was in noticing details about people and at crime scenes. They were a good team. Jesse helped Will to become more savvy on the Internet and Will got Jesse out of the office for surveillance work, on-site crime scene investigation, and other jobs that required two sets of eyes.
“Nah, you’re too good.” Will dismissed Jesse’s reservations. The man even did some work for the FBI and CIA. Will doubted there would be too many surprises. His partner was just very cautious. “So, is she pretty?”
Jesse’s eyes widened and then he frowned. Will couldn’t tell if he had touched a nerve or if the man was distracted by whatever he was doing on his laptop. He tapped at his computer some more before replying. “No, she’s not pretty, not like Hollywood pretty. She’s …” He looked up at the ceiling then back at his laptop. “She’s beautiful, but that doesn’t mean much.”
In all the years he had known Jesse, Will had never heard him describe a woman as beautiful. This should be interesting.
First of all, I’m proceeding on the assumption (based on both the title and this first page) that this is a work of romantic suspense.
My initial feeling, reading this first page, was that it was the start of a pretty clear (and possibly all too predictable) ‘set-up’ for a romance. Although I thought the style worked well – the sentences are lucid and the back story introduced succinctly and successfully – there wasn’t much in the way of real suspense. Not enough at least to get me intrigued from the get go. The fact that Jesse was a background checker extraordinaire who had never described a woman as beautiful wasn’t quite enough – at least for me.
The strength of this as a first page, however, is definitely in the writing style (I liked the fact it was clear and cleanly written). However, I needed more ambiguity and tension to feel compelled by the story. To me this page read more like a romance and less like a mystery/thriller/suspense novel. The fact that Will and Jesse own a private detective agency suggests that this book will involve both romance and suspense – so I think a first page needs to balance both elements to succeed. I also was a little confused as to why they felt the need to do a thorough tenant background check on the person moving into the upstairs apartment – sounded like overkill unless there’s something more to the story than on the page.
It could be that the author needs to start the book off at a different point in time – perhaps when Jesse first sees Guinevere Russo and suspects there’s something that the background check missed. We need something that shocks, disrupts or at least throws us off guard as readers. We need to be shown, not told, that there’s something intriguing as well as beautiful about the new tenant upstairs. As Jim is always saying, the explanations can come later…
BTW- One little nitpicking quibble – Coffee House should only be capitalized if this is actually its name – otherwise just coffee house…
So TKZers what’s your feedback on this as a first page?