Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Musing on Monday: Opening Paragraphs and a Giveaway

After sending my latest proposal to my agent (it’ll be going out to some editors in the next week or so…commence nail-biting), I decided it would probably be a good time to open up a erotic short I started writing at the end of the summer then set aside in favor of other projects when I reached an “OMG, I think this sucks” moment.

Rereading what I had so far, I don’t know WHY I came to the conclusion that it sucked. It’s actually–dare I say it myself?–pretty good. Yes, the scenario is far-fetched and, yes, given that I’m trying to keep it short (15k or less so it can go to Spice Briefs), the HEA might come (pun intended, lol) a trifle quickly, but I have to admit that as I was reading what I’d written, I completely BOUGHT that these characters were meant to be together and would have an HEA.

Okay, so now, having meandered far from the subject line of this post, I have to say that one of my favorite things about this manuscript is the opening paragraph. Although I’m not one of those who believes the opening of every book has to be mind-blowingly good, I am well aware that the first paragraph(s)/pages of a book can strongly influence how I feel about the characters and a great opening will make me want to read more as fast as possible. It’s also the case that opening paragraphs, even if well-written and catchy, can spoil a book for me. I won’t name the book, but there is one highly acclaimed romance that I simply never liked, and I think it’s because the first paragraphs distanced me from the characters and I just never came to care about them as a result.

Because I like this opening so much, I thought I’d share it with y’all:

It was a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Grace Hannington was the most inaptly named young lady in all of England, if not all Christendom. Within two months of her debut, she had ruined at least a dozen gowns—none of them her own—and half as many cravats by spilling tea, wine, or some sort of sauce upon them, trod heavily upon many a gentleman’s slippered toe, and broken the nose of one unfortunate chap with a misplaced elbow during a reel. That list of missteps did not encompass the full measure of the lady’s sheer gracelessness, however, for she was herself forever nursing some sort of self-inflicted injury, ranging from a sprained wrist and a stubbed toe to this evening’s glorious and ill-concealed black eye.

So, how do you feel about openings? Any books in particular that you think have stellar openings (or really bad ones, lol)? Or, if you’re a writer and motivated enough, share your favorite opening paragraph from one of your books. From all the comments, I’ll pick one poster at random to receive a copy of Erica Ridley‘s wonderful debut (with some great opening paragraphs), Too Wicked to Kiss, which officially hits the shelves next Tuesday.


  • Jane February 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    The opening usually makes or breaks the book for me. I have abandoned a book after reading the first few pages, but there are also times where I’ll read further and hope that the book gets better. I was hooked into Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” by the first line alone, “It was a pleasure to burn.”

  • Spav February 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I think openings are really important, but I’ve kept reading books after a bad opening because I thought that maybe they would get better as the story advances. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s as important if the book is part of an established series.

  • meaghan February 22, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    having an attention-grabbing opening is really important. i will give the book a few chapters if the opening is slower, but even if the middle part is hrad to get through if i was grabbed by the opening i will often read all the way to the end!

  • Barbara Elness February 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I think the opening is important, it needs to catch my interest so I want to keep reading – to find out what happens. One book that I can think of that grabbed me from the beginning is, Gail Carriger’s Soulless. It started off strong and kept going. Those types of books are the ones that I end up hanging on to.

  • maered February 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Openings are important, of course, but a weak opening doesn’t break a book for me. As long as we get a good chapter or two in, I’m happy.

    I really enjoyed Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt opening. It really established Lucy’s character and set up the book nicely.

  • Ericka Scott February 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Great opening…but then, I’m a fan.

    Openings are important, although I’ll admit that I’ve continued to read after bad openings if the blurb promised more. Sadly, I’ve also been horribly disappointed by some of those books.

  • Giada Mariani February 24, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I love the opening! I think it’s very important to write an interesting opening to catch the reader’s attention from the beginning. I have friends who abandon a book because of a weak opening. That’s not my case. I’m too curious to abandon a book after only a few pages.

  • Amie Stuart February 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I LOVE that opening–but you know that already LOL

    Ok here’s mine and this should come as no surprise–it’s one of my all-time favorites:
    The last time Lyn Coates had spoken with Joe Kendall she’d informed him, in no uncertain terms that if he ever stepped foot on her property again, she’d shove her pistol down his throat and feed him the clip and more than once in the eight weeks since, she’d daydreamed about all the painful, drawn out ways she could kill him.

  • Amie Stuart February 24, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I could do this all day long!

    Five fricken minutes.
    Less than five minutes after passing the “Welcome to Cash, Texas,” sign, barely a block past the town square, and she had ‘the laws’ on her ass. Fabulous. Abso-fricken-lutely fabulous.

  • Amie Stuart February 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm


    “What kind of guy do you take me for?” His husky voice bounced off the bathroom’s graffiti-laden tile walls as he tried to scoot away from me.
    What the hell had he thought we were going to do in the men’s room?
    I blinked up at him, guilelessly, my brown eyes wide while my hand cupped his hard cock. “I dunno. What kind of guy are you?”

    PS don’t enter me 😉

  • Jackie Barbosa » Blog Archive » Thursday Throwdown: What Authors Really, Really Want February 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    […] Barbosa History Made Hot « Musing on Monday: Opening Paragraphs and a Giveaway Thursday Throwdown: What Authors Really, Really Want Thursday, February 25th, 2010 Feb 25th, 2010 […]

  • Clisby February 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I can never decide between:

    “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. ”


    “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

    • Jackie Barbosa March 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Posting here in the event any of you posters have subscribed to the comment thread:

      The winner of Erica Ridley’s Too Wicked to Kiss, selected at random, is Jane, the thread’s first poster. Jane, please email your address to me at jackie at jackiebarbosa.com and I’ll get the book into the mail to you ASAP. Congratulations :).

      And thanks to everyone who entered and commented, especially those who had great first lines to quote :).


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