Everyone’s having contests. I wanna have a contest, too!

(Ab)using my librarian status, I wrangled an ARC of The Leopard Prince out of Elizabeth Hoyt a few months ago. Having adored The Raven Prince, I was positively salivating to read TLP, and I’m delighted to report it’s definitely drool-worthy. It’s warm and witty and very sexy, with endearing, engaging characters. And all this is evident from the very first paragraph of the book:

After the carriage wreck and a bit before the horses ran away, Lady Georgina Maitland noticed that her land steward was a man. Well, that is to say, naturally she knew Harry Pye was a man. She wasn’t under the delusion that he was a lion or an elephant or a whale, or indeed any other member of the animal kingdom—if one could call a whale an animal and not just a very big fish. What she meant was that his maleness had suddenly become very evident.

Since that’s about all I’ve got of my second book right now – the first paragraph – this seemed a good time to talk about first lines, and what makes a good opening to a book. Hoyt’s is such a fabulous example, because not only does it crystallize the funny/sexy tone of the book in a paragraph, it gives an immediate sense of the historical setting AND hooks the reader with the promise of an exciting event – a carriage accident.

Not that I would compare it to Hoyt’s brilliant opening .. it’s more like a poor girl’s version of that idea… but I tried to do some similar things with the first paragraph of Goddess of the Hunt. This is the opening of the Prologue, a scene that happens eight years before the rest of the book, when Lucy is still a girl. So the sexy bit can’t show quite yet – but I did try to capture a bit of Lucy’s personality and the book’s humorous tone, while hinting at an exciting event to come:

On the fine autumn afternoon he nearly shot her head off, Lucy Waltham decided she would marry Sir Toby Aldridge. One day. There was the small matter of surviving to see her twelfth birthday first.

But of course, there are as many great openings as there are great books! And I’m in need of a little inspiration this week. So share the opening of your own WIP, or the opening of a favorite book that really hooked you – and I’ll pick one lucky commenter at random to receive:

*A new copy of The Leopard Prince (even if I wanted to give away the ARC – which I don’t – I can’t, because it’s out of state at the moment. And because I figure it’s only right to reward Ms. Hoyt’s generosity by actually purchasing the book myself. )
*A bookmark for TLP, autographed by Ms. Hoyt herself
*A one-pound box of See’s chocolates. (If you live east of the Mississippi, you may not have had the chance to taste See’s. It’s goooooood.)

I’ll give you until Saturday midnight PST to enter, then I’ll post a winner on Sunday. I’ll also post the opening of my own new WIP, tentatively titled Goddess of Beauty.

Let the inspiration flow!

20 comments to “Winning Beginnings!”

  1. Maggie Robinson
    · March 29th, 2007 at 4:08 am · Link

    Oh, this is fun. The following is an excerpt from something whose title keeps changing (Midnight is in there somewhere), currently languishing, waiting to be heavily revised. 🙂 I just adore the opening of GOTH.

    Cynthia Elling awoke mummified by a coarse linen sheet. After a vigorous head-tossing, her eyes were at last uncovered. She saw an unfamiliar room in the early morning light, no lumpy feather bed to the right where her stepsisters should have been gently snoring away.
    She turned to her left and her heart stopped. She was hungry. She was uncomfortable. She was married. Lying on his side beside her was Sir Harry Chalmers, naked as the day he was born, one arm flung carelessly across her breasts.
    He brought her closer to him in his sleep, a lazy smile upon his lips—lips that so far hadn’t even kissed her, even when the vicar looked at them expectantly at the end of their marriage ceremony. Surely two people who were so anxious to be married that they had dragged him from his slumber in the middle of the night must share a grand passion. But the baronet had simply lurched off with his bride, nearly forgetting to sign the register.

  2. Alice Audrey
    · March 29th, 2007 at 8:22 am · Link

    This is the first line from Serpant’s Teeth:

    Half way up the cliff, between a sky heated by three suns and a rocky death should she fall, Leela reconsidered her escape plan.


  3. Tessa Dare
    · March 29th, 2007 at 11:04 am · Link

    Both of those are fab!

    LOL, Maggie – “She was hungry. She was uncomfortable. She was married.” How could I not be desperate to read more?

    And AA – that’s so perfect – in one sentence, you’ve got action, setting, and wry humor. Love it!

  4. Leigh
    · March 29th, 2007 at 11:06 am · Link

    Wow- I love all these beginnings.

    The current first line which will soon be tossed with the majority of ch 1.
    “If something didn’t happen soon, he was either going to lose his fortune or his mind. He didn’t care which.”

  5. Leigh
    · March 29th, 2007 at 11:08 am · Link

    I also love ‘She was hungry. She was uncomfortable. She was married.” LOL.

    My original first line reminds me of ‘reconsider her escape plan’
    ;-). “Perhaps sailing across the Atlantic had not been the best idea.”

  6. Sara
    · March 29th, 2007 at 11:36 am · Link

    Since I’ve got two prologues, I decided to just go with the opening line of chapter one:

    Perched precariously on the banister of the long portrait gallery so as to better observe the party in progress one floor below, fifteen-year-old Isabella Weston was faced with the devastating sight of her true love dancing with another woman.

    And Maggie, if you think you adore the opening of GOTH, just wait until you read the rest of it! 😉

  7. beverley
    · March 29th, 2007 at 12:14 pm · Link

    I’ll bite…

    Thomas Armstrong had heard his fair share of crazy propositions in his twenty-eight years, but this was by far the most outrageous.

  8. AprilsMom
    · March 29th, 2007 at 1:29 pm · Link

    Love the opening lines of GOTH! How about Margaret Dumas’ “Speak Now” (a romance/mystery novel): “Okay, here’s the stereotype: A woman will date a serial killer because he has cute eyes and she’s the only one in the world who truly understands him. A man will dump a supermodel who holds a Ph.D. in physics because she gets a hangnail.”

  9. Tessa Dare
    · March 29th, 2007 at 2:13 pm · Link

    Ooh, more great examples!

    Leigh, either one of those would definitely keep me reading!

    Sara, I love how yours gives us great insight into Izzie’s personality by painting a vivid picture – her hanging over the balcony. Shades of Romeo and Juliet – sigh.

    Bev – Now that’s a hook; I automatically want to know more about Thomas – and what crazy ideas he’s seen in the past – and then how this particular one beats them all.

    And Aprilsmom – thanks so much for that example, because it’s A) definitely compelling, and B) a great example of another type of opening … what I’ve heard referred to as the “statement to the jury.” I think I tried using those types of openings a few times in Fanlit.

    This is great – I’m learning a lot!

  10. Jacqueline Barbour
    · March 29th, 2007 at 3:26 pm · Link

    Hi Tessa,

    Elizabeth Hoyt definitely has a way with opening paragraphs. TRP’s was also stellar, as I recall. You can count me out of the contest, though, as I have already read TLP (also in ARC form!) and I intend to purchase a copy when it comes out (gotta support those starving authors, especially if you love their books).

    I think the opening paragraph of GOTH is very catchy and love the others posted so far. Everyone is so talented!

    Since you’ve already seen the opening(s) to A Scandalous Liaison on my blog, I’ll post the opening of Lady Libertine instead.

    Remy Giroux refolded the slip of paper on which the figure was scrawled and handed it back to his host. His prospective employer hadn’t become obscenely wealthy before the age of forty by throwing away money. For such an exorbitant amount, he must want Remy to do something dangerous or illegal. Possibly both.

    Great idea for a contest.

  11. Lenora Bell
    · March 29th, 2007 at 8:53 pm · Link

    Oooh, wonderful contest, Tessa! I’m reading the Raven Prince in eBook format right now and loving it.

    All the first paragraphs people have submitted are excellent, although I, too, was completely seduced by Maggie’s “She was hungry. She was uncomfortable. She was married.” I even think it could go earlier because it’s such a strong hook.

    And I love the “…the small matter of surviving to see her twelfth birthday.”

    You can’t talk about first lines/paragraphs without this one from the inimitable Jane Eyre:

    There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

    So perfect!

    And here’s one from Edgar Allan Poe:

    During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

    Gives me chills every time!

  12. India Carolina
    · March 30th, 2007 at 12:02 am · Link

    Opening for Twist of Fate

    Present Day: Somewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago

    Gwen’s life had always gone according to plan. One exception—and here he came now. Like a Viking riding a dragon-headed longboat, Dr. Christian Benson crouched in the enemy raft.


    Not an official entry. Just love playing. 🙂

  13. Maggie Robinson
    · March 30th, 2007 at 5:47 am · Link

    I just got both Raven and Leopard Princes in the mail yesterday (don’t know how I missed Raven, but it never did seem to fly up here). Thanks for the positive feedback!*blushing* It’s odd, but until recently I just wasn’t thinking about how you’ve gotta knock ’em dead right from the first. I have to rip up two finished projects, but only after I get current WIP done. But it’s so tempting….

  14. Tessa Dare
    · March 30th, 2007 at 7:28 am · Link

    Jacqueline – that’s a great beginning! Definitely intriguing, with the promise of danger and high stakes.

    Lenora – what great examples. It makes me wonder how I could have forgotten my personal favorite: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

    And “India” – how wonderful to have you drop by! Don’t be a stranger. And you know I love that beginning – and that Viking!

    And a few notes:
    No one needs exclude herself from the contest – if you’ve already read TLP, I’ll be glad to substitute another book. If you’re diabetic, I’ll come up with something other than chocolate. The winner will be selected at random.

    So keep them coming!

  15. CM
    · March 30th, 2007 at 11:39 am · Link

    This is also not an official entry, but:

    “Freddy,” said the low voice behind the library door, “if you don’t unhand me this instant, I will be forced to hit you.”

  16. Mary Danielson
    · March 30th, 2007 at 12:49 pm · Link

    Oh, what a fun post, Tessa! I’m with everyone else – the opening of GOTH is just perfect. It leaves me hooked already!

    And I’ll bite too, here are the first lines of The Robber’s Heir:

    I wish I’d worn better shoes. Dying in old Converses is not a poetic way to go.

  17. Tessa Dare
    · March 30th, 2007 at 8:43 pm · Link

    What’s with these “this is not an official entry” comments? Um, this is not an official contest. You comment, you’re entered.

    Merryday, I love it! You do that YA/chick lit voice so well. Although I have a fondness for old Converses. I could think of worse footwear in which to go. 🙂

    CM – thanks for providing an excellent example of the in medias res opening. You know I love starting scenes (and ending them) with dialogue. Especially surprising dialogue that begs explanation.

  18. Lindsey
    · March 30th, 2007 at 9:10 pm · Link

    Wow! These are all so awesome. What a fabulous contest idea!

    This is an official entry. In fact, I’d like some sort of time-stamped receipt – preferably with an official seal – to prove that I submitted before the deadline. 😉

    This is from my prologue (if I keep it), which is a series of letters:

    I assure you, Alicia, that when I offered to host my niece for the season, I had no plans for her coming-out to be quite so literal! All of London is abuzz with the scandal of Harry Lancaster bringing her out – out of my chaperonage, out of her ball gown, and consequently out of polite society for good – and I dare not even repeat what has been said of her coming…

  19. Gillian
    · March 31st, 2007 at 5:31 am · Link

    Hate to follow such awesome intros, but I’d do just about anything for chocolate. 🙂

    “Sir!” Mycroft’s tone assured impending doom.
    Elliot Hardwicke’s quill continued its scrawl across the parchment. If p is prime, and a is any integer . . . Fermat’s theorem sang with glorious precision; the beginnings of order in a vastly chaotic discipline. True mastery of mathematics required unwavering dedication and brooked no interruptions—
    “Cook cannot complete dinner preparations, sir. There appears to be a dead body in the kitchen.”
    Although some statements might justify a momentary loss of concentration.

  20. Tessa Dare
    · March 31st, 2007 at 7:32 pm · Link

    OMG, Lindsey – a first paragraph that has me LOL not once, but twice! First with her literal “coming-out” – which I actually first interpreted as its not-so-literal modern meaning and wondered, gee – is Harry short for Harriet? And then .. tell me there’s a word after that last “coming…” ? Or at least a cigarette?

    And Gillian, mmmm – humor, a mystery, and a math-savvy hero in one paragraph. I’m sold.

    Thanks, everyone!