Saturday, June 7, 2008


Dear Query Shark:

I hope this query will interest you in my 75,000 word manuscript, Favorable Impressions, is a romance in the tradition of Jane Austen filled with mystery and suspense akin to Hound of the Baskervilles.

Victoria Aston is an unconventional Regency lady who would rather help manage her family estate in Hampshire than navigate the ballrooms of London. But when her family discovers her sister is the victim of spousal abuse, Victoria’s parents insist she must marry before her sister’s vicious husband can lay claim to their lands. Despite her protests, Victoria’s parents throw her into the whirl of the social season where she soon catches the eye of Simon Carmichael. Carmichael is one of the richest men in London and seems to be the perfect match for her—that is until Vicky comes face to face with Tom Sherborne, the man she has loved since childhood.

However, even after a ten-year estrangement, Tom refuses to forgive her for a misunderstanding that gravely wounded his pride and wants nothing to do with her.

I'm really in favor of simple sentences when you're explaining plot. Such as:

Tom wants nothing to do with her. He refuses to forgive her for a ten year old misunderstanding that gravely wounded his pride.

So when he warns Vicky that Carmichael’s intentions might not be completely honorable, she isn’t sure if he’s telling the truth or just spouting vitriol to hurt her. But once strange accidents begin to happen to Vicky and her family, both Carmichael and Tom start implicating blame each other for them. To triumph over those who seek to destroy her, Vicky must use all her wits to discover the truth and find the courage to trust someone other than herself.

So, did you buy a vat of so, but and however on ebay? This kind of throat clearing makes me wonder how much copy editing your ms will need. Given a choice between several equal mss, I'm going to prefer the one that needs less work before I can start it down the road to the auction block. The other things to watch for are would, had, and that.

My partial manuscript has recently been requested by Editor X at Avon and Editor Y at Kensington.

I always want to know how they got the ms. Was it at a conference? Did you submit over the transom and they responded?

I have a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California. In addition, I have worked as an assistant to a literary agent, as an editor for the Southern California Review, and as an editorial intern for Prima Games, a division of Random House. I am also a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Lehcarjt said...

I rather thought this query did a decent job of getting me the info I need. I've got a tab on the characters and the plot. The only thing that bugged me was the opening comparison to Jane Austen and Hound of Baskerville.

I don't read regency romances, so I could be wrong, but I would place this firmly in that genre. Regency romances are NOT the same as Jane Austen. I think you hurt yourself by making the comparison.

talpianna said...

It seems that practically EVERY Regency heroine these days is unconventional--if she's not managing an estate, she's writing novels, breeding racehorses, or running a private inquiry agency.

And I don't understand (a) why the family is more interested in preserving their estates than in rescuing their daughter from a brute; or (b) why the husband can lay claim to the lands. With two daughters involved, there can't be an entail involved; so all they have to do is change their wills--unless he has them by the financial short and curlies somehow. said...

Victoria Aston is an unconventional Regency lady who would rather help manage her family estate in Hampshire than navigate the ballrooms of London.

*Yawn* I get tired of plucky heroines. They're so overdone. Otherwise, I think you did a very good job on the hook.

lynneconnolly said...

Also, if her sister is married to a man who expects to inherit the property, he'll be disappointed.
If the property is entailed (ie part of an estate attached to a title), it's primogeniture, ie it can only be passed down to a legitimate son (daughter's husbands don't count). There are a few estates where daughters can inherit, but in a novel it's hardly worth the bother of explaining that. And the querent doesn't say it's special circs, so it's probably not.
If it isn't entailed, the heroine's parents can will it to whoever they please, so they can just cut the bad boy out of their will.
So the premise the novel is based on is nonsense and everything else falls apart.

JS said...

There were a lot of heiresses in early 19th-century England, actually (since nobody here has a title, it's unlikely the "family estate" is entailed) but this whole query makes no sense.

If this is one of those "Eccentric uncle Charles leaves the estate to whichever of his nieces is married by age 25" thingies, that's kind of old meme, too. And if it is that, then it has to be spelled out more clearly.

I don't think plucky heroines are a bore, because really you don't want to read about a stereotypical "well-behaved" Regency beauty for more than ten seconds. But Victoria is no Grand Sophy, that's for sure!

JS said...

Also "spousal abuse" is anachronistic here.

I'd counsel the query author to rewrite the thing so it makes sense and then see.

If it's "Eccentric Uncle Charlie has left the family estate to his nieces--already a scandal in Regency England. But the terms of his will are even odder; the estate goes to whichever of his nieces are married by {whatever deadline}. Although Victoria would rather ride to hounds than dance a quadrille, her mother begs her to make a match, just to keep the family from being at the mercy of her sister's drunken brute of a husband" and so forth, then hit us with it, complicated as it may seem.

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Hey, I've read this book! Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer. Good book, if a tad improbable at times. And there was no entailing or anything in Regency Buck - the heiress was just straight out an heiress, no messy entails or anything to get into.

Umm said...

Hmm, this seems familiar. It relates far too much to a mini-story in "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. Y'know. Vicky falls in love with a boy from back home called Tom, learns about farming to win his heart, they get married despite obstacles (they fight because of something she says that is "unforgivable") /a love interest, Tom drowns. The End.

Kate said...

I love Jane Austen, just like so many other readers! I'd love to see more Austen-esque stories on the shelves (basically, I wish she'd written more books). However, the plot here sounds a LOT like Austen's *Persuasion*.

I agree with Lehcarjt. Austen is in a category all by herself. Comparisons discouraged.