Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What do YOU like books to start with?

Good morning, everyone! Thank you, Casa Ladies, for having me at your beautiful Casablanca Blog site. I come here often and I love looking at all the gorgeous covers you have displayed.
But, today there’s no time to linger because it’s party time! The music is loud and lively, the multi-colored confetti is falling from the sky, and icy-cold champagne is flowing into bottomless flutes. What? Oh, I know, I know. I hear some of you saying that you just returned from RWA National Conference in New York City, and you partied there for five days. You can’t drink another drop of champagne, you are still pulling confetti from your hair, and your iPod is on silent mode for the first time in years. Good enough. We’ll pass on the party this time, and I’ll go straight to talking about my July book—A Gentleman Never Tells.
You know, I still have the notes from a workshop given years ago by one of my favorite writers, Sandra Brown. She said, “Get your characters into terrible trouble right away, on the first page if possible, and then introduce some ‘good griefs’—the calamities that are going to make the terrible trouble even more terrible.” She goes on to say you need at least four of these in a romance book. I’m not sure I always have four, but I do know that romance readers get bored with too much happiness early on in the story. They want some angst and misery before they get to the kiss and make-up, happily-ever-after at the end of the book.
So with that idea in mind, the first thing I did in A Gentleman Never Tells with Lady Gabrielle and Lord Brentwood was place them in a situation they didn’t want to be in and then watch them cleverly worm their way out. In a Regency romance, a good way to create a “good-grief” is to plunk the hero and heroine in the center of an outrageous scandal that all of Polite Society is talking about. And that’s exactly what occurs when Lord Brentwood is caught in Hyde Park at daybreak kissing Lady Gabrielle, who happens to be another man’s fiancĂ©, and the daughter of a powerful duke. And if that wasn’t enough trouble for the Viscount to be in the middle of, he lost his mother’s dog, too.
Lady Gabrielle is dependable, sensible, and obedient. That’s why she had accepted the practical, unemotional marriage her formidable father had arranged for her. That’s what those of her kind did—or so she had always believed until early one morning, when her defenses were down, she threw all of her upbringing away for the chance to spend a few passionate moments in the arms of a handsome stranger.
But kissing the stranger didn’t free Lady Gabrielle. She only thwarted the shackles of one arranged betrothal to immediately find herself stuck in yet another forced engagement. But, the strong-willed lady isn’t going to give up her freedom so easily. She has plans that her father and Lord Brentwood don’t know about and scandal and mishaps becomes the order of the day as they search for London’s notorious dog thief.
So tell me, do you like books that open with terrible “good griefs” on the first page, or do you like to start off with happiness before the trouble comes and be entered in a chance to win one of two copies of A Gentleman Never Tells?
Please visit my website at ameliagrey.com or email me at ameliagrey@comcast.net for more information about me and my books.


  1. I am all for good grief for the characters in the beginning. That way I am more likely to emotionally connect with the characters. I tend to gravitate towards emotional books and with any grief there is always the anticipation of good to come. If there is a hero in the picture, it might highlight his heroic qualities early on or put in a motion a scenario where he is truly needed and his arrival perfect-timing.

    I am also fine with happiness at the start, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, just so long as the conflict is worthy of the story, no too predictable or cliche. It really depends on the story and the characters.


  2. Good morning Na and everyone! I'm happy to be here with you today and will check in throughout the day to see if any of you have comments for questions.
    Na, I with you. Bring the good griefs in early. As someone once said, open up with your hero or heroine up a tree and then start throwing rocks at them.

  3. Amelia,
    I love a heroine who can think for herself particularly when she's been raised by duke and swathed in ballgowns night after night. Best of luck to Lord Brentwood, and your dog thief angle is a "why didn't I think of that!?" hook. Who won't turn the pages for a pup in peril?

    As for openers, as long as there's tension from page one, I'm not wedded to the calamitous first scene. It's hard for the second and third scenes to hold up to the pacing. If the first scene is more built around stage-setting, question-dropping, intriguing circumstances, then the pace can build over the first chapter.

    To each, etc. Best of luck to you, Lord Brentwood, and his lovely if stubborn fiancee.

  4. You throw rocks at my wolves and they're bound to bite back, Amelia! LOL

    There's nothing worse than a story droning on about how wonderful everyone's life is. That's not fun. We want to see trouble in paradise.

    Making our characters work for their happily ever after helps then to grow. :)

  5. My first editor ever told me to put my characters on a shaky tree limb and throw rocks at them. It worked!
    I like a strong first line and even stronger first page because that's what draws the reader to want more.
    LOVED visiting with you at RWA!!

  6. I think the "good grief" moments at the beginning of the story helps the reader get to know the characters more quickly. I think it starts the story with more momentum than if it started all sunshine and rainbows. I like all kinds of stories so I am just as satisfied with happy beginnings.

    user1123 AT comcast DOT net

  7. I'm looking around at the books staring at me to try to think on how they started (but I think most of them are books I haven't read, so it's not helping much). LOL Anyway, I think it's going to depend on the book. I imagine most will start with the good grief and conflicts, but some might start with happiness, and not stay that way and then go back to it. It's going to really depend on the story that an author wants to tell. For me, however it begins, just be interesting and I'll keep reading! :)


  8. I love the Sandra Brown quote - she does write great stories and I love the concept of "good grief." But the fact is, I like anything that starts with a dog:) You had me from "bow-wow!"

  9. Amelia, thanks for a great blog - love the Sandra Brown quote!

  10. Hi Grace, I like tension on the first page, too, though through my many books I've not always done that. As for pups in peril--I've never had a dog so I had to rely on info from family and friends.

    Good Morning Carolyn, I knew I had heard that about the trees. It must have been from your former editor!

    Terry, I'm not going to mess with your wovles! Unless they are in the shape of one of your very manly hunks!

    StacieDM, I completely agree with you and love the rainbows and sunshine at the end of a story.

    Lois, you are so right. Just keep it interesting all the way through. And I love that picture of the space shuttle. Any chance you have seen one lift off? I've always wanted to but haven't and sadly, it looks like there is only one chance left for me to see it.

    Joanne, too funny about I had you from the bow-wow, if you only knew how many people I talked to and what I read about large dogs, old dogs, and little dogs. I had to start wondering why a dog thief had such appeal to me.

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  12. Yes! I love books that open with a "good grief." If I don't know what's going to happen, I'll keep turning pages.

  13. Hi Cathy, I started reading Sandra Brown, I think when I first started reading! Okay, she's not that old, but she is still a favorite even though she moved away from romance years ago.

    I'm with you, Shana. I like the "good griefs".

  14. Wonderful blog, Amelia. I love Regencies and Regency-Era Historicals, so I am already drawn in because of the time period. :)

    As long as there is a strong enough hook, I don't have to see the characters in terrible peril in order to relate to them, but it does make for a more interesting read. :)

  15. I like both. Sometimes I think the good greif in the beginning is a bit much and a little unbelievable. As long as I am able to believe in the story and the characters I don't care either way.


  16. Honestly, either is good with me
    :-) I am not a picky reader-- as long as the end has an HEA, I'm good!

  17. Oh,yes, C.H opening with a hook grabs me every time.

    I like your thinking, Danielle. Like them both!

    Chelsea, it's not a romance if it deosn't have a HEA!


  18. For those that read the first lines or paragraph when looking for a book, angst at the beginning may be a good way to grab their attention. I'm okay with either and usually decide by the blurb in the back. Your book does sound wonderful!