Today, I’m reviewing the first page of a woman’s fiction novel entitled The Master’s Inn. My comments follow – looking forward to getting input from this great TKZ community and bravo to our brave submitter!
The Master’s Inn
“Mom! Where’s my iPad?” Joanie bellowed.
Susan Brown, downstairs in her newly remodeled dining room in Sandpoint, Idaho, ignored the stomping noises overhead and her fourteen year old daughter’s frantic voice.
It sounds like a bull moose on the rampage up there.
Staccato stomping was followed by Joanie’s voice floating down the stairs as she talked to herself. She used every foul word in her teenage vocabulary—loud enough for Susan to hear. Something else to confront.
She shook her head in exasperation and reviewed the contents of her garment bag once again—no mistakes this time. Two other bags were packed and strapped by the front door. She wanted to surprise Bill by being ready to go on time tomorrow. He was a stickler for schedules and sometimes lashed out at any bump in his plan.
She hummed to herself as she scanned her list for the third time. As usual, she’d packed too much. But she hadn’t been able to decide what to bring. She’d whittled it down to two evening and three day outfits she could mix and match.
She tucked everything neatly into the bag and made sure the clothing was tightly strapped. It wouldn’t do to have wrinkled blouses—although the venue hotel in Las Vegas offered full valet service. Nothing but the best for Bill.
She lined up the bags by the front door where he would see them when he came home, then returned to the dining room and grabbed a clean microfiber cloth she kept handy and wiped the table where she’d had her bag. Bill had a critical eye—he would notice a blemish on the expensive table.
She stretched and looked at her watch. He would be home from his meeting soon.
She looked forward to the long weekend—only her and Bill. The one thing she didn’t look forward to was watching him compare her to the glamorous women they’d see on the stages and in the restaurants. She’d never had any reason to question his loyalty, but she knew—after all these years—that she didn’t measure up. She’d lost her petite figure and the glow had faded from her complexion.
She walked back out to the entry hall and looked at herself in the elegant full-length mirror outside the dining room. Her face turned red at what she saw.
Pudgy. That’s the word.
I liked how, as I continued to read this first page, the tension over Bill slowly began to build until the reader realizes just how much Susan is in his thrall, and how terrified she is of disappointing and angering him. That being said, I think that the dramatic tension could have been ramped up even more, so as to place the reader right at the moment Bill comes home. In some ways we get too much of her anticipation of what might happen if she doesn’t have everything exactly right for him and not enough actual conflict. Even the tension with her daughter is remote (just hearing her upstairs, rather than being engaged in an argument with her). I also wanted to know where her daughter figured in the upcoming trip – is she going with them or going to a friend’s place? Is Bill her step-father or just her mother’s boyfriend (and how does her daughter view Bill’s controlling nature?). I wanted a little more of this backstory to become invested in the characters and a little less about the house or the contents of the bags.
One thing I did ponder was whether Susan was going to be an unreliable narrator or if Bill really was as controlling as she made him out to be. As a reader I was torn between empathizing with her and being frustrated that she was so worried about satisfying his need for order and control. Given that the novel is described as women’s fiction, I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a suspense or mystery aspect to the story – but I have to say I already hope Bill gets what’s coming to him:)
- There was some repetition of words like ‘stomping’ and ‘strapped’ which was distracting and, as I looked down the page, 7 paragraphs all began with the word ‘She’. Although this might seem pedantic, it’s important to vary sentences so as not to appear repetitious or sloppy.
- I also noticed that, apart from Susan’s inner monologue and preoccupation with her appearance, we don’t actually get any description of her which made it hard for me to picture her in my mind.
- Although the descriptions of the house suggest a measure of wealth – expensive table, elegant full-length mirror, and remodeled dining room for example – the reader doesn’t actually get any specific descriptions to help visualize the scene. I would have liked a more sensory exploration of the house so I could imagine Susan in it (the glint of polish, the smell of cleaning spray etc.) as well as specifics that could be telling (such as the brand of bags, clothing etc.)
- Finally, the title of the book, The Master’s Inn, seemed a little incongruous as it evoked more of a historical fiction novel in my mind.
So TKZers what additional comments or feedback would you give our brave submitter?