An Author’s Flawed First Attempt

I “won” a copy of this book and promised the author’s publicist an unbiased review.

The Kitchen Dance is not the kind of book I’d read ordinarily since it falls into the romance genre. It is the author’s first novel and as such includes flaws that first novels often embody, starting with the unnecessary and pointless Prologue and the information dump first chapter.

The story should have begun with the second chapter, where the main character, Joule Dalton, a widowed interior designer on her way home from a party, meets a homeless man whom she decides to rescue. All of the information in chapter one that is essential to the story could have been inserted from that point on.

I won’t comment on the story itself. You either like romance or don’t. But I must ask the author if in retrospect she feels she received the kind of assistance from her editor that her lack of experience as a novelist demanded? I’ll cite some of the problems her editor allowed her to get away with that other editors would not tolerate.

Chapter one begins with Elaine, Joule’s best friend, helping her remove her dead husband’s clothes two years after he was murdered. When I say the first chapter is an information dump, I refer to the frequent insertion of information the primary point of view character, Joule, would not be thinking or saying ‘in real life’.  Example from the first page:

“He was a man who appreciated style and it showed, not only in his fashion sense, but in his work.”

Why would Joule think this at that moment in time about her dead husband? This is the author’s voice, not Joule’s that we are hearing.

Let’s examine a different kind of problem in a paragraph I had to re-read more than once to follow:

“Elaine picked up the shoebox of mementos. ‘What do you want me to do with this?’ She waved the article in my field of vision.”

On first reading, Elaine’s question refers to the shoebox, but the subsequent sentence contradicts that supposition. Why tell us that Elaine picked up the shoebox if she’s going to ask Joule what she wants done with the article?

From the first chapter, more unnecessary information:

“’Where’s Roosevelt?’ Elaine asked gathering her purse and coat off the top of the box she’d set upon the others.”  Everything after the word ‘coat’ is unnecessary information; plus she needs to insert a comma after ‘asked.’

There’s an entirely unneeded 150-word scene with Joule watching some men remove the clothing she’s giving away; then at a party thrown by her company to woo a potential client comes this confusing section

“Elaine, accompanied by Taylor Prescott and his wife, met me halfway through the crowded room

‘Joule! I want you to meet the Prescotts,’ Elaine burst out enthusiastically. ‘Taylor, Elsie, this is our interior designer, Joule Dalton.’”

How does Joule know it’s Taylor Prescott and his wife with Elaine if she needs to be introduced to them? This problem is caused by the author telling us information instead of staying with the point of view character!

Here’s a sentence with a key word missing:

“Philip always walked a thin line between what he referred to a casual observation and I would deem sexual predation.”  The word ‘what’ needs to be inserted after the ‘and’.

The chapter ends with Joule telling us information about her relationship with Elaine’s husband who is her boss.  To what end? Why do we need to know this at this point in the story?

New writers often get confused as to whether they or their characters are telling the story. When the author speaks the information is often unnecessary or being told to us at the wrong time if necessary.

Geri Taylor’s story may appeal to romance genre readers who can overlook the flaws in her writing technique, but reviewers from any legitimate publications, agents from any established agent, and editors at any traditional publishing house will not. That is not to say that she can’t or won’t clean up these problems in subsequent works.

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