Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil ThursdayThrough a series of unfortunate events, my volunteer from last week, when I was without internet connectivity, is no longer available for this week. And I didn’t get the next volunteer’s critique to her soon enough for today’s post. So I’m taking a turn in the RPT hotseat myself.

If you’ve ever considered being a Red Pencil Thursday volunteer, now is a great time to submit your material. I have only one more person in the queue! Check out the details.

This is the opening from my new series, Somerfield Park. It’s a comedy of manners, not unlike the misdirection and mistaken identities in My Lady Below Stairs. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.


“Where one stands on a matter depends upon where one sits. When someone else is holding court on one’s settee, spreading delicious falsehoods, one is tempted to brand them a liar. When one finds oneself on the same settee practicing deception, one considers it being economical with the truth.”
~ Lady Phillippa, Dowager Marchioness of Somerset

 June 1817

The Importance of Being Scandalous

Chapter 1

“What the devil do you think you’re doing?” Richard Barrett demanded as he climbed down from the hired carriage, pushed open the garden gate and thundered up the overgrown walk.

The young woman wielding a wicked pair of shears continued annihilating the runaway rosebush with evidence of malice aforethought. Prickly cuttings spilled from the basket at her booted feet. Peeping from under the broad brim of her straw bonnet, the girl glanced over her shoulder at Richard, and then turned back to her pruning.

Without a word. Most of the time, Richard was benevolently neglectful where servants were concerned, not bothering to even notice them. But he certainly wasn’t used to them ignoring him.

His friend Lawrence Seymour ambled after him, hands in his pockets, whistling tunelessly. Lawrence was only along on this trip for moral support. If Richard wanted to dally on his way home to Somerfield Park with an unscheduled stop at Barrett House, he knew Seymour wasn’t one to complain.

Dallying was one of the things Seymour did best.

“I said,” Richard spat through clenched teeth, “what are you doing?”

“What’s it look like?” she muttered. “Writing a book?”

If she knew who he was she’d never be so cheeky. Richard was about to give her a blistering dressing down when she looked up and held his gaze with a pair of astoundingly blue eyes.

“Do forgive me. I simply despise being interrupted when I’m working on something,” she said in a slightly more conciliatory but not at all deferential tone. Her voice was low and strangely musical, with an unusual lilt he couldn’t identify. She certainly didn’t sound like one of the local girls who went into service on his father’s estate. But then she ruined her blue eyes and lyrical voice’s effect. “In case you’re not as bright as you look and truly don’t understand my purpose, I’m trying to undo years of neglect.”

Richard drew himself up to his full height, but didn’t blast the girl with the outrage he felt. He’d leave it to Mr. Hightower to give her the sack.

“In case you’re not as bright as you look, may I point out that you’re cutting the bush back too far?” Ordinarily, he wouldn’t care, but Richard’s grandmother, whom he adored, had planted that bush, or at least had ordered it planted. The dowager marchioness might arrange cut blossoms in crystal vases, but she drew the line at any activity which involved perspiration. “You’re going to kill it.”

“Perhaps.” The young woman shrugged and tucked away the straggling lock of dark hair that had escaped her bonnet. “But if


My Lady Below Stairs

Now it’s YOUR turn. Please weigh in with your thoughts about my first 500 words. Since this is an unusual Red Pencil Thursday, I’ll be doing a giveaway too. One of the commenters will win My Lady Below Stairs in their choice of Kindle or Nook format.

PS. Remember you can subscribe to my blog by email by clicking the link in the left hand margin beneath the navigation bar. That way you’ll never miss another Red Pencil Thursday!

12 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. Kylan Alexander says:

    I struggle with a like/dislike of fight scene openers. I won’t stop reading a book with one but they tend to be harder to like the hero and heroine, for me at least. I don’t think the majority of relationships start that way so it always feels like a bad start to me. That said, I do like the idea of the story and the characters. I would rather see an argument between Barrett and Seymour, or Barrett and the Dowager, or even the Dowager and Sophie, if there were one. Just my thoughts. Still love your books and will read this one!

  2. Marcy Shuler says:

    I really like this opening, Mia. I can’t wait to see what Sophie’s response is. I also get the feeling that Richard’s friend is about to chime in with his own pithy comments. LOL

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks, Marcy. Seymour is a good foil for Richard and I hope he’ll get his own story eventually.

  3. Mia says:

    Thanks, Marianne. Snark is hard to manage in a period piece, but that’s what I’m going for with Sophie Goodnight (my heroine’s name). And while she may be common, her mother was the daughter of a baron and Sophie’s actually a great heiress whom Richard’s family is convinced he should marry. This scene is the first of several missteps by both of them.

  4. Marianne says:

    I love when the “lower class” puts the upper crust in its place. And I love snarky women. They’re hard to pull off without making them sound bitchy. I think you did it well. Her cool, calm and collected demeanor give her a lovely air of innocence…with a bite!

  5. Thank you for this week’s RPT, Mia. For a brief eexcerpt, this passage presents a vivid, dynamic picture of the characters. We also get a feel for the setting and social milieu. The parallel between the rose-bush clippings and the prickly mood of the heroine is clever. And I think the title is cute.

    Still, I must confess that I don’t care for this sort of opening, what I call a first fight scene. The hero and heroine meet for the first time, or the first time after a long separation. And get into a blistering argument.

    Yes, this is the most popular way to open a romance. Obviously most readers, writers, and editors like it. So why don’t I?

    Four reasons. First, it’s impossible or close enough for anyone to come off well while arguing. In a typical first fight scene, the hero will strike me as a bully, the heroine as a harpy. How can I fall in love with one and identify with the other?

    Second, as you’ve reminded us, the opening sets the tone for the rest of the novel (well, should). A first fight scene sends me the message that the rest of the story will be a series of quarrels between the hero and heroine alternating with sex scenes. Not my idea of real romance. That might be the wrong message, but I’m unlikely to keep reading and find out.

    Third, there’s the matter of verisimilitude. In real life, a relationship that starts off on the wrong foot rarely gets on the right one. What kind of a relationship does an argument with a stranger usually lead to? None at all.

    Last, an opening of a type I don’t like precludes one I do. A protagonist I’m supposed to identify with, and in romance fiction the reader always should, is one in an interesting situation. Therefore, IMHO, the opening scene should focus on that situation.

    I don’t see that this one does. I can’t even tell what the (as yet unnamed) heroine’s situation is. But the excerpt is very brief. Maybe if I read the full scene, I could.

    There you have it. I hope I don’t get kicked off the blog!

    1. Mia says:

      I’d never kick anyone off for speaking their mind, MaryAnne. That’s what RPT is all about. Thank you for your reasoned comments. I’ll take them under advisement. ;-)

  6. Love every word! :D I can’t wait to read more! :D

    If you ever need an extra beta reader…hint hint….:D


    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Aren’t you a sweetie, Suzan? Thanks so much. I’ll keep that offer in mind.

  7. Hi Mia,

    I really like this opening. You can feel the tension between these two characters.

    In your first paragraph, I would place a period after carriage and then carry on…He pushed. It seemed to me Richard’s thundering wouldn’t last as long as his dismount and walk.

    Also, I hope the woman goes toe-to-toe with Richard with her horticulture knowledge. The piece ended before we heard her comeback on killing the bush.

    I totally enjoyed this opening. Lots of action and conflict.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Good catch. Barbara. My sentences do tend to waffle on sometimes. I need to look for ways to make them shorter.

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