I would never have written this book if it hadn’t been for a kind editor and Harlequin’s Manuscript Matchmaker contest.
One of the things that tempted me to enter the contest was that the initial requirements were so simple. They asked for a paragraph describing the story and for the first page. With a few minor changes, the page that I wrote was what ended up in the finished story:
“Who am I?”
Liza Fitzpatrick dropped the cleaning rag onto the counter of the dry goods store and spun around. A man stood in the doorway, his rough, working-class clothes soaked to the skin. He stared at her as if she were the first woman he’d ever seen.
Ten steps to the back room, half a minute to grab Pa’s rifle. She might be able to make it. Sober, the long-legged man could easily outpace her. But not the way he was swaying from side to side. It was getting dark outside, and she found it difficult to guess his age in the light from the single lantern, but beneath the beard and the bedraggled brown hair that fell to his shoulders, he looked under thirty.
“Well?” Impatience edged his tone like a well-honed knife.
She cleared her throat. “Um… good evening. Mr. Vandehey, three doors down, serves liquor —“
“That’s the last thing I need.” He sagged against the doorframe, his head drooping.
She took a couple of cautious steps closer, to get a better look at the man. Red streaks trailed down his forehead. “You’re hurt!”
His head came up. “Obviously.” Those thick eyebrows could have been designed to scowl at her. His dark eyes woke the memory of a pain that she had thought buried safely away. Recognition twisted inside her like a knife plunged straight into her heart. He repeated, “But who am I?”
“You don’t know?” She stared at him. This encounter was starting to take on the unreal qualities of a nightmare. That was ironic, considering she had been dreaming of this moment for months. She had imagined all the different ways the scene would play out — or she thought she had.
“I am trying to be patient, madam.” The man spoke with a cultured accent at odds with his wild, mountain man appearance. “I would appreciate the courtesy of an answer to my one — simple — question. Do you know who I am?”
“Yes,” she said. “You are the man I am going to marry.”
He swayed further, and his eyes closed. Then he leaned against the doorframe, sliding slowly down to the ground in a faint.
Every book on writing says that you need to grab the reader from the start with an eye-catching opening. Does this work? Do you feel grabbed? Is your curiosity tickled, your attention caught, your interest piqued?
Giveaway: Only two more days left to win a copy of His Forgotten Fiancée at Christian Shelf Esteem!