Week 8 Mini-Critique

TITLE: Kidnapped by the Italian Billionaire
AUTHOR: Jill S.
CATEGORY: Contemporary Romance

The sleek black Lamborghini slowly cruising through the exotic and tranquil Gardens of Semplici in Florence was causing quite a stir.

“I didn’t think cars were allowed in here.” Carina said in surprise to the small group of friends she was with.

“They aren’t,” replied one of them, as he removed his sunglasses to get a better look at the flashy car. “But if you can afford to drive one of those, then you can probably afford to do anything you choose.” 🙂

The car pulled up smoothly and the door gracefully swung up into the air. Nice details. In an equally fluid movement out stepped the most striking man Carina had ever laid eyes upon; the clean, sharp creases and immaculate cut of his designer suit at odds with the unkempt hair and dark stubble on his chiselled face. He looked both sophisticated and rough, a dangerous combination, thought Carina.

He was obviously looking for someone as he searched the faces of the people wandering under the magnificent, ancient, Cork Oak trees, and admiring the masses of blooming azaleas for which Semplici was famous. Watching him made Carina think of her own fruitless search. One which had brought her here to Florence, but so far had produced no answers.

As she watched, the striking man’s eyes came to rest directly upon her. In an instant Carina’s heart was brought to a crashing standstill and her breath caught in her throat, freezing her whole body in that moment as she saw something change in his face. He had clearly found what he was looking for.

A few purposeful strides brought him to where Carina was sitting.

“Come with me,” he said. The authority in his tone was clear. He was clearly You seem to like the word “clearly”. used to being obeyed without question.

Carina hesitated and turned to her friends. One of the girls smiled wickedly and handed Carina’s bag to her with a wink. After two months in Italy, Carina was becoming used to the very forward flirtatious nature of Italian men; but was she really going to go off with a complete stranger?

“Who are you?” Carina asked, standing up to face the man who was now studying her intently.

“Lorenzo Contiello,” he replied as if his name was more than sufficient explanation; then reaching out, he took her hand and began to lead her towards his car.

The urge to go with this stranger was totally compelling. He clearly thought he had found what he was looking for in her, and in a completely illogical way, Carina tried to reason that maybe he could help her find what she sought. When you feel the need to explain that the character is being illogical, it’s a warning sign that the character needs better motivation in order to be plausible. The fact that he was drop dead gorgeous and they were in one of the most romantic cities in the world had nothing to do with it of course, she thought wryly to herself, well aware of her body’s reaction to Lorenzo Contiello, and the envious stares of those around her.

At his car, he slid the door upwards and gestured for her to get in. She climbed into the car, the deep, rich smell of leather replacing the delicate fragrances of the gardens. Nice use of senses. Lorenzo eased himself in beside her and she felt, rather than heard the deep rumble of the car’s engine, giving Carina the odd sensation of being inside a lion’s belly. Nice details. How fitting, she thought, sleek, yet dangerous, a perfect match for its driver.

The journey was swift and short, Carina barely had time to think about what she was doing and where she was being taken, when Lorenzo was once again out of the car, holding the door open for her.

Wordlessly he led her into a building and straight into the lift. They soon exited and Lorenzo led her through to a large office, where he motioned for her to sit in a comfortable black leather chair. “Please wait here” he said, then with no further words, he left her, closing the door behind him.

Carina sat down in shock, marvelling that the desperation she felt to learn of her past, had caused her to blithely go with a total stranger. What if he had brought her here to assault her, or worse? Now that she no longer had the intoxicating presence of Lorenzo Contiello casting a fog over her senses, Carina started to panic. Standing up, she turned towards the door to leave.

“I found her.” Lorenzo said to his brother as he walked unannounced into his office.

Alberto sighed, his brother still had no concept of knocking on doors or asking to speak to someone. He lived his life on his terms and his terms alone.

“Are you sure it’s her?” he said, putting down the papers he had been working on to concentrate on his brother, who was pacing up and down his office restlessly.

“So long as the Private Investigator has done his job correctly, then she is Bruno Salvaggio’s daughter.”

“So what now?”

“You’re the lawyer, Alberto, you tell me!” Lorenzo said, fingers running restlessly through his tousled hair.

“Do you think she knows? Is that why she’s here?”

Lorenzo frowned as if he hadn’t considered this question as yet. “Let’s go ask her,” he said, turning to leave the office.

“Hold on, I can’t just drop everything to go driving around the city with you, Lorenzo.”

“You don’t have to, she’s in my office.”

Alberto froze, “She’s where?” he asked incredulously.

“In my office, I brought her here.” Then seeing the look of shock on his brother’s face, he went on, “We need her Alberto; I will not let this opportunity slip away,” Lorenzo replied evenly, his jaw clenching tightly as he controlled his anger. He knew he had been crazy to bring her here, but the moment he had laid eyes upon her, all rational thought had vanished in an instant.

“You kidnapped her?” his brother said incredulously, reaching for the solidity of his mahogany desk to steady himself. This time Lorenzo had gone too far.

LEIGH SAYS:

Jill, your writing style is smooth and you’ve got a great setting and an intriguing situation here – a nice mystery about why Lorenzo is looking for Carina and what Carina is searching for.

I was fascinated by the self-assured hero and how his confidence wins over Carina. But at the point where she meekly got into the car with him, my willingness to believe went south, and I never was able to get it back.

First, why doesn’t he ask any questions? Even if Lorenzo has a good description, wouldn’t he check that he had the right woman? If he’d simply asked her name, or walked up to her to and said, “Are you Carina Smith?”, it would have been much more plausible to me than simply selecting her out of a crowd. (I do hope he has the right woman; if she’s not Bruno’s daughter, then the fact that he accidentally picked up a second woman about whom a mystery lurks is just a bit too convenient to be believed.)

Second, why doesn’t she ask any questions? A man walks up to her and says “Come with me” and she doesn’t even ask why, or where they’re going, or when her friends should look for her to return? (Far too many heroines go wandering off with the hero in circumstances where a normal woman would scream and run, or at least resist before getting in a stranger’s car. This often happens because the author knows this man is the hero – so the heroine trusts him too, even though she has no reason to do so at that moment.)

If Lorenzo had used her name, or given her a hint of what this was about or a clue that fit into her mystery, or if his name means something specific to Carina, then I’d better understand why she would go with him. Show me what she’s thinking and why she trusts him – or why she feels she has no choice but to trust him – and I’ll be on board.

Third, once they’re in the car, in the elevator, and in the office, why don’t they talk? They’ve been silent a long time, and this is a missed opportunity to develop the characters and pull us into the mystery.

I assume that Lorenzo is the hero, because he’s first on the scene and has the great looks and the fantastic car, but at the end of the section your point of view slips back and forth between the two men, and Alberto actually gets more POV time than Lorenzo does.

Your hero (assuming it’s Lorenzo) is compelling; I like the contrast between the elegant clothes, the car, the mussy hair and the stubble. And the touch of mystery is intriguing. Once you unleash the characters and let them start interacting and talking to each other, this story should come to life with a bang.

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6 responses

3 03 2010
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3 03 2010
Rachelle Chase

Jill, you’ve placed your story in my favorite country and given me a hero with looks (not to mention a car) that I can drool over! Gotta love a guy with tousled hair, a 5:00 shadow, and a great-fitting suit. I think I’m in love. 😀

But, I fell out of love and was shocked when Carina got in the car with him, when all he did was order her to come. I definitely needed more dialogue from him in order to convince me (and Carina) that she should go with him. Why was the urge to go away with him so compelling? You state that it was, but I don’t see it. It has to be something more than him being a hunky guy for me to believe it.

Also, you have the perfect opportunity for a bit of conflict here. Every word that comes out of Lorenzo’s mouth is spoken with authority. Wouldn’t that rub Carina the wrong way, i.e., how dare this strange guy order me around!? If so, this could increase her resistence to going away with him, despite how persuasive he might be, and give more fodder for an internal struggle.

Additionally, I need more here: You tell me that Carina is “…marvelling that the desperation she felt to learn of her past, had caused her to blithely go with a total stranger.” But, once again, I don’t see it. I need to know – to see – what’s so compelling about her past that would make her do this. In the next few sentences, you show her suddenly panicking. After fearlessly going away with Lorenzo, what makes her panic now? I need to see this.

All this is to say, if you allow me to understand and see why your characters are behaving the way they are, plus show a little resistance in Carina to Lorenzo’s demands, I’ll be much more likely to fall back in love with your characters and your story. You’re off to a good start. With a few tweaks, it has the potential to be a page-turner.

3 03 2010
Jill

Thank you so much Leigh and Rachelle for picking me for this week’s mini-critique! I’ve read all your comments with interest, and am going to sit right down today to try and have another crack at it.

Thanks for running this great contest, and giving us all so much help with our writing!

4 03 2010
HK

Hi Jill, I like your writing and am curious to see where you are going with it. But for me, it starts with “I found her.”

Starting there, I wonder who he found and am shocked he has her in the office (because the brother is shocked) and the mystery starts.

The beginning, as Rachelle and Leigh said, I didn’t find believable. She just got in the car with him?? I can’t relate and probably wouldn’t read on.

Good luck!

4 03 2010
Jill

Thanks HK,

I totally agree about it not being believable her getting in the car with him.
Leigh hit the nail on the head there with her comment:

(Far too many heroines go wandering off with the hero in circumstances where a normal woman would scream and run, or at least resist before getting in a stranger’s car. This often happens because the author knows this man is the hero – so the heroine trusts him too, even though she has no reason to do so at that moment.)

I’ve done exactly this here, with running ahead with the story in my mind and not focussing on the actual moment and what the characters know about each other at that point in time. I’ve already re-written this part and will try to watch out for this mistake in my future writing!

6 03 2010
Grace

If SHE was looking for someone herself at the gardens and had some reason to believe Lorenzo was the one–THEN I would be okay with her getting in the car. Otherwise, it does scream TSTL, too stupid to live, perhaps literally in a case like this. Natalee Hollaway got in a car with a virtual stranger in a foreign country.

Very very nice sensual details, esp the one about the smell of the leather replacing the scent of the flowers!

Too many semicolons for me, BTW. Pet peeve, no biggie.

Leigh’s comment about the author knowing this is the hero–OMgosh, this is worth me participating in this contest alone! Thank you! I haven’t been guilty of the heroine’s trust being misplaced because of it, but I do forget to SHOW his heroism, SHOW why the heroine would be attracted, like him, etc. It can’t just be part of the romance convention, or it lacks power.




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