In Relationship Status, Ethan and Wyatt find out that there’s a lot about life that isn’t taught in college. Ethan, in particular, faces some rude awakenings in his first taste of life as a grown-up, but I think those problems are pretty universal to all of us. Here are some of the things that make things interesting for Ethan and Wyatt in their first attempt at living together.
Roommates From Hell
The bacteria their roommates are growing in the sink have more advanced culture than the roommates.
I’d Almost Forgotten You Live Here
Even calculus can’t seem to get them conscious and home at the same time.
Ethan is learning what makes public transportation special.
Ethan now knows every place to buy beverages in a half-mile radius.
Summer in the City, No A/C
Not that it’s hot, but two hobbits came into their room to try to throw in a ring.
It’s true love if you can even think about touching each other in that kind of weather.
What springs to mind when you think of life as a poor college student?
Abby and Rufus’s relationship in LITTLE DANCER is a special sort of dom/sub dynamic that you may not have come across before, called Daddy Dom/Little Girl, or DD/lg. The dom assumes the role of a caregiver and protector, and the sub is his little. It’s a relationship that’s equal parts sweet and strict and is oh-so-sexy. Daddy is a term of respect like Master or Sir, and his sub is sweet, little and obedient—or, in some cases, not so obedient!
Sometimes there might be an age gap in the relationship, just like in any relationship between adults, but it’s usually more about age play—a little who imagines she’s little again and clings to her “daddy” for love and care.
Here are the five best things about these sorts of relationships—and there are so many good things that it’s hard to choose just five!
1. Stuffies & Toys
Do you miss your dolls and coloring books and stuffed animals? How nice would it be just to retreat from the adult world for an afternoon, draw pictures and watch cartoons! That’s exactly what littles do. Their little space is where they get to put aside their worries and stresses and act like kids again. Blanket fort optional.
Hang on. Rules are fun? I promise they are, and you’ll see why! Littles crave structure in their lives, especially around things they struggle with, like perhaps not getting enough sleep because they stay up too late, not eating regularly or not sassing their dom. The rules make a little feel loved and cared for, and a daddy like he’s needed and respected.
And when littles don’t follow the rules, that brings us to…
3. Bedroom Kinkiness
Oh, no, you’ve broken a rule! Littles who displease end up over knees. The discipline aspect of the relationship is a big, sexy part of it—so sexy that some littles might even break a rule on purpose just for attention and spankies. *evil grin*
After all the rule breaking, disciplining and kinky bedroom antics, what comes next is cuddles. Like any relationship, the after-sex cuddling is important, but even more so in a dom/sub relationship. It’s a time for bonding and reassurance, and a little is going to be extra clingy and in need of daddy’s lap after being disciplined!
Laughter and fun should be part of every relationship, and a DD/lg relationship is especially filled with giggles, teasing, tickling and playing. Sharing what you delight in with your partner is a key to happiness! Abby and Rufus’s relationship in LITTLE DANCER is filled will all these things, but especially play and giggles.
Brianna Hale couldn’t live without her notebook and an assortment of glitter pens, and when she’s not writing she can usually be found with a book, fighting video game monsters and aliens or attending the theatre. She believes that pink and empowerment aren’t mutually exclusive, and everyday adventures are possible. Brianna lives in London and you can find her online on Twitter and Instagram.
Meant to be a sneak peek into a Carina editor’s brain, and critiqued by a different editor each month, we’re going to post these first-page critiques monthly as long as authors are willing to let us use their work and people remain interested.
The idea here is to give you a quick insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because it’s only one page, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than one page!
It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically for the purpose of first-page critique on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions so no worries we’re going to pull your piece out of slush and critique it.
The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open in just a few days, on April 24, 2017, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for your chance to enter.
This month’s editor providing critique is Carina Press Assistant Editor Stephanie Doig.
The First Page
Author A described this manuscript as a romantic suspense featuring a hero and heroine who “have to work together to solve a murder involving shimmery body spray, while falling for each other.” Intriguing!
All Eden Sparks wanted was one night to be wild and forget everything. Well, maybe not everything but most of it. And maybe find a guy for one night so her friends would get off her case about needing to get some action. The Silver River Bar would help her with at least one of her missions, if not both. She frequented the dance bar, which got its name from the river flowing beside it, whenever she could. Sometimes, it was only to talk to the bartender or keep an eye on the patrons. But that night, that night was for her.
Eden wasn’t one to drink much, but being the lead CSI and DNA analyst at the Mosey County Crime Lab in Seven Springs, Alabama wasn’t the easiest job in the world. And it being her first weekend off in months called for one, two, or maybe even ten drinks. So, with two of her friends in tow, she set out for a night of fun.
* * *
Ashton Cruz was new in town and decided to have a few drinks. He put away most of his things from the move and wanted to have the night for whatever. He walked into the Silver River and found a table in the corner a few feet from the counter. His mind was full, and he wanted to chase it all away. He started a new job that Monday, a transfer from another state to this new place. And he wasn’t too thrilled.
Ashton glanced over all the faces in the bar, searching for a familiar one. They were all unknown. He felt like a kid on the first day at a new school, but he didn’t care. His eyes scanned the entire room, just looking, until they landed on her.
* * *
I like that this starts in a bar—a bar is a great setting, full of potential tension and chemistry. Beginning in a social setting like this indicates that your hero and heroine are probably going to meet in chapter one or two, which I like.
Right away, two things jumped out at me here: first, the point-of-view switch on the first page. This feels early and a bit jarring; I’m just starting to get to know Eden when we move away from her and meet someone new. I’d recommend sticking with Eden a little bit longer before you introduce Ashton. She seems interesting and I want to see more of her!
There’s a lot of advice out there saying that authors need to make things happen quickly—I even noted that I appreciate a h/h meeting in the first couple of chapters above—but be careful not to rush your pacing too much. Let your readers dig into your world a little bit before shifting gears. It might be helpful to think of the opening scene of a movie: how long does the camera stay on one character/scenario before switching to a new location/a new person? Long enough for viewers to get a sense of what’s happening, and to learn a little about the characters, before moving on to a new scene.
Second, there’s a lot of backstory on this first page, for both Eden and Ashton. Backstory is an integral part of characterization, and it’s important that we know your characters’ backgrounds as the novel progresses—it will lend weight to every interaction, and to the way their relationship develops. However, I’d caution against putting too much expository backstory (sometimes called infodumping) on the first page, or in the first chapter, and instead work on sprinkling bits of detail throughout the first quarter or so of the book. I’d suggest incorporating more of the present into this opening to balance the backstory. Is there a particular interaction that would show us key characteristics rather than telling? For example, maybe Eden approaches the bar and asks for her usual, bantering with the bartender, as a way of illustrating that she’s a regular there. Adding in some dialogue will help build the scene, so that when Eden meets Ashton, we’ll have gotten to know her and like her, making it easy to feel invested in the h/h meeting.
On a more positive note, I’m intrigued by the potential murder-mystery plotline, and Eden’s career is very interesting. I’d love to know more about her job—maybe there’s a specific case that has her eager to get some stress relief?—and how Ashton relates to it. I suspect you have an interesting suspense storyline building here, and some edits to your opening, slowing things down and adding more show vs tell, would really help it stand out as a submission and keep editors (and readers!) interested.
Would I keep reading? I’d definitely keep reading through chapter one to see how the one-night-stand scene plays out, but at this point I’m probably skimming, and would likely move to the synopsis to get more detail on the suspense elements.
Do you have questions about my feedback or the First-Page Critique program? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section! Or email email@example.com.
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These books have got game! Whether they’re set on a field, a court or an ice rink, these stories feature sexy athletes who are not only scoring goals, but also falling in love.
The best thing about diving into contemporary-romance sports novels is the wide variety of jersey-clad heroes to choose from. From an ex-marine MMA fighter to a professional-rugby-player BFF, there’s a sporty guy here that’s perfect for you.
We’re sharing some of our sexiest sports romances for you to add to your TBR list this spring.
Jen Doyle – Calling It
Baseball player Nathan Hawkins needs to get away from Chicago. After a near career-ending car accident and with paparazzi surrounding his penthouse, Nate can only think of one place to go: home. But when he finds his old apartment occupied by a half-naked woman wielding a baseball bat, he’s not sure what to think…except that maybe his luck has finally changed for the better.
Librarian Dorie Donelli never thought she’d get to meet her fantasy man in person—much less in her bathrobe. To her surprise, her nearly naked run-in with Nate leads to more unclothed encounters. But Dorie is sure their fling is only temporary. As long as she remembers he’ll be gone once his life gets back on track, she won’t get hurt. In the meantime, she throws herself into enjoying their three weeks together before he has to report for spring training and go back to his old life.
For Nate, being with Dorie is the only time in months that he finds himself smiling. Laughing. And he has no intention of letting that go. He might even be falling in love…if only Dorie will let him say the words. What they have isn’t just a dream, but the start of a dream come true.
Kate Willoughby – Across the Line
Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he’s determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother’s shadow.
For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of her choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.
Becca and Calder can’t keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can’t last. They live on opposite coasts, and they’re both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love…
Lynda Aicher – Game Play
Meet the men of the Minnesota Glaciers! In this scorching-hot spin-off of Lynda Aicher’s bestselling Wicked Play series, a one-night stand turns into weeks of erotic experimentation…and eventually so much more.
When brutal on-ice workouts lead to kinky locker-room sessions and “one night” falls by the wayside, Samantha insists on keeping things casual, despite Dylan’s quiet hope for more. But when Dylan goes down—hard—and his career is in jeopardy, Samantha is the first one by his side. What will it take to keep her there after he’s healed?
Book one of Power Play
Kat Latham – Tempting the Player
Libby Hart and Matt Ogden are perfect for each other—as friends. They’ve known each other for ages. They act as each other’s plus-ones. They even share custody of a dog. And if there’s always been a little spark between them, so what? It’s never been worth jeopardizing their friendship.
Professional rugby player Matt is fighting for a starter position with the London Legends—and that’s not the only thing he’s fighting. A crippling fear of flying means he’s struggling to get his career off the ground. He has no time for a relationship, even if Libby does make him ache. As an airline pilot, Libby’s looking for a stay-at-home husband so she can have a family without sacrificing her high-flying career. Matt’s certainly not that man.
But just because they don’t have a future together doesn’t mean they can’t have a right now. When Matt asks Libby for help overcoming his fear, they agree to take a vacation from their platonic relationship—whenever they fly together, they can have sex. It’s the perfect way to resolve all that built-up tension. As long as they can avoid getting a little too comfortable…
Michele Mannon – Knock Out
Logan Rettino never imagined she’d fall so far. Dropped by her ex on national TV, she’s gone from prima ballerina to ring card girl, reduced to revving up the crowds before MMA bouts. However distasteful she finds her new job, it pays well…and she needs the money if she’s ever going to rebuild her life. Promised a huge bonus if she can convince a brooding, gifted welterweight to keep fighting, she’ll do whatever it takes to earn his trust.
Keane O’Shea is unbeatable in the octagon. A former marine, he fights with a ruthlessness no gym jockey can match. He knows his brutal strength is too much for the delicate ex-ballerina, regardless of how fascinating he finds Logan’s tight dancer’s body. But one private performance and he’s drawn to her in a way he can’t—or won’t—resist.
As Logan discovers the heartbreaking truth that lies beneath this handsome warrior’s rage, she’ll need to forfeit everything she thought mattered for the one thing that matters the most: saving Keane from himself.
Allison Parr – Rush Me
When post-grad Rachael Hamilton accidentally gate-crashes a pro-athlete party, she ends up face-to-face with Ryan Carter, the NFL’s most beloved quarterback.
While most girls would be thrilled to meet the attractive young millionaire, Rachael would rather spend time with books than at sporting events, and she has more important things to worry about than romance. Like her parents pressuring her to leave her unpaid publishing internship for law school.
But when Ryan’s rookie teammate attaches himself to Rachael, she ends up cohosting Friday-night dinners for half a dozen football players.
Over pancake brunches, charity galas and Alexander the Great, Rachael realizes all the judgments she’d made about Ryan are wrong. But how can a Midwestern Irish-Catholic jock with commitment problems and an artsy, gun-shy Jewish New Englander ever forge a partnership? Rachael must let down her barriers if she wants real love—even if that opens her up to pain that could send her back into her emotional shell forever.
Elizabeth Harmon – Pairing Off
American figure skater Carrie Parker’s Winter Games dreams were dashed when her philandering partner caused one of the greatest scandals in skating history. Blacklisted from competing in the United States, her career is over…until she receives a mysterious invitation and is paired with the most infuriating, talented—and handsome—skater she’s ever met.
Russian champion Anton Belikov knows sacrifice. He gave up a normal life and any hope of a meaningful relationship to pursue his dream. And he’s come close—with a silver medal already under his belt, the next stop is the gold. All he needs is a partner. While he’s never forgotten the young American skater he seduced one long-ago night in Amsterdam, he never expected to be confronted with their past…never mind share the ice with her.
When what starts as a publicity stunt grows into something real, Carrie and Anton’s partnership will test their loyalties to family, country and each other. With only a few months to train for the competition of a lifetime, can they master technique and their emotions, or will they lose their footing and fall victim to the heartaches of their pasts?
Want even more sports romance? Click here!
In my latest Carina Press release, AT ATTENTION, I’ve returned to the world of Out of Uniform, my series about navy SEALs and the men who love them. AT ATTENTION features a widowed dad and his best friend’s little brother, and Dylan gets ample opportunity to ogle Apollo in his uniform over the course of the book. While writing this series, I’ve come to wonder what it is that readers and writers love about SEALs and other Special Forces heroes. Here’s my list of things that I love, both as a reader and writer, about these special individuals.
How about you? What do you love about Special Forces heroes (and heroines depending on the book!)? Do you have a favorite book featuring a military hero or heroine? Share! And if you’re looking for more military heroes to fall in love with, I hope you’ll give the Out of Uniform series a try!
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bedcovers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.