Week 1 Finalist

TITLE:  The First Rule of Show Biz
AUTHOR:  Taryn Taylor
CATEGORY:  Contemporary Single Title/Romantic Comedy

Jake McGrath walked through the door and into Hell.

On second thought, even Hell probably had better carpeting than the Whispering Pines Retirement Community. He looked up from the garish sea of teal and frowned.

“It’s like Martha Stewart threw up in here,” he muttered. The whole place was infested with knick-knacks, from porcelain kid figurines to carved wooden ducks to needle-point flowers. Shuddering, Jake reached out and dinged the bell on the counter five times in quick succession, desperate to get this show on the road. “Hello? Anybody home?”

The woman who finally staggered toward the counter was surprisingly young—pretty, if you liked’em wholesome—with hazel eyes and brown hair escaping a twist held in place with…pens? Her tan skirt-suit was substantially too big for her and she was only wearing one shoe. Oh, and had he mentioned that she was totally hammered?

Her big Disney eyes widened comically. “I know you.”

Jake had seen the star-struck look often enough to believe her. Recognizing being recognized was a handy survival skill he’d developed as the lead singer of Dead Man’s Hand.

“Would you also happen to know…” he glanced at the crumpled paper he’d pulled from the pocket of his Diesels, “Madeline Edwards?”

“That’s me.”

He raised a dubious brow.


“I was just expecting someone…”

“More fun?” she challenged. “Less career-focused?”

“I was going to say sober, actually.”

“I am not drunk!” She stumbled on the ugly carpeting and narrowly avoided knocking the phone off the wall. “I am not that drunk,” she amended, before ducking down behind the counter. When she reappeared, she was shorter and steadier. She set a brown, pointy-toed stiletto between them. “And why are you even here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be out signing women’s bras or something?”

“I most definitely should. Unfortunately, the judge thought I’d learn more from community service, so…”

“You’re…oh!” She straightened her blazer and ran her hands over her hair. “Mr. McGrath, I ‘poli—I apologize. I’ve been expecting you. Well, not you obviously, but…okay, you need to sign stuff. Come with me.”

Jake saluted, rounded the counter, and followed her past reception and into the tidiest office he’d ever seen. He stopped beside the desk.

“Cherry brandy from a shot glass, huh? That’s very high-school-house-party of you.”

“Esther won it at bingo and she said a glass or two would make me feel better. I still felt bad though, so I had more.”

Jake eyed the empty bottle and grinned.

Her expression went gooey and she leaned closer, smelling of booze and fabric softener. “Wow. You smile really good, you know that?”

“Lots of practice,” he offered.

“So whatd’ja do?”

“Stood in front of the mirror.”

“Huh? No, I mean to get community service.”

“I punched a video camera.”

“I almost punched someone today,” she confided.

“Yeah?” He watched her root through the papers on her desk with a methodical precision that had him doubting her brawling prowess.

“I found her stupid sexy underwear in our bed six months and eight days ago, and I walked out, but today he brought her here to meet his grandpa and I saw her. And she’s got huge breasts, and she’s more fun than me, and he’s marrying her! But I’m still alone, and I live in a retirement home, and here.” She shoved something at his chest. “Sign this,” she ordered, flopping into her chair with a sigh. “What would you do?”

“What would I do what?” he asked, perusing the court-mandated rules for the next two-hundred hours of his life.

“What would you do if you planned to spend your whole life with him and he was having bucking-bronco sex with some blonde who wears tiny underwear? What if he cheated on you?” She pulled one of the pens out of her hair and handed it to him.

“Pronouns aside?” Jake set the papers on the desk and signed with a practiced flourish. “I’d have bucking-bronco revenge sex with someone much, much hotter.”

Her eyes lit with excitement and she straightened in her chair. “Yes! That’s good! Let’s do that.” She fumbled in her haste to undo the buttons on her blouse.

Jake chuckled at her brandy-inspired eagerness. “Whoa. Slow down there, princess. You’re very tempting, but I have to pass.”

She looked up from her task, lower lip trembling.

Jake’s eyes grew wide with horror.

“Oh, God. Are you crying?”

“It’s because I’m not sexy enough, isn’t it?”

“No. Uh-uh. You’re sexy, okay? Just don’t…oh, jeez!” Jake grabbed a nearby box of Kleenex and shoved some at her.

“Because Colin was wrong. I can be sexy. I have nice underwear.”

Jake’s gaze dipped to the deep vee of her undone blouse. He looked up from her ratty supermarket bra and their eyes met, hers frustrated, his skeptical.

“This isn’t it,” she insisted. Her dainty tears morphed into heaving sobs.

Jake eyed the door. “Look, Madeline—”

“J-just Maddy,” she blubbered.

“It’s nothing personal, okay? Twenty-second rule of show biz: don’t sleep with drunk women.”

Maddy sniffed. “But if I wasn’t drunk, you’d sleep with me?”

“What? I mean, yes.”

“Really?” Her expression cleared, then turned adoring. “You would do that for me?”

“Absolutely,” he lied. “I’d be all over you.”

“That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

“Uh-huh. So no need to cry, right? We’re good?”

Maddy wiped her nose with the wad of Kleenex he’d shoved at her. “We’re good.”

“Great. Then I guess I’ll catch you tomorrow. What time do you want to do this thing?”

Thing? What would we…unless…oooh! You mean…” Her cheeks flushed and she dropped her gaze. “Uh…well, whenever.”

“Noon okay?”

She nodded.

“I’ll see you then.” A bit early for his liking, but Jake figured the sooner he started his hours, the sooner he’d be done.

* * *

Maddy woke at her desk the next morning to a cherry-brandy headache and a jarring realization: Jake McGrath will be here at noon to have bucking-bronco revenge sex with me.


I loved the originality of this scene!  A drunk heroine and a rock star, thrown together because he has to do community service work. Very clever and fun and intriguing! 

There were a few minor things that I questioned, i.e., that a rock star would say “teal,” why he thinks he’s in hell when the environment doesn’t seem that bad, and would he really think in terms of a Martha Stewart line.  But, I was able to overlook these items because the author had captured my attention  and I was curious as to why he was there.

And, I did wonder if a drunk heroine on the job was, well, heroine-like. Especially if she’s in charge of the resident’s well-being. But, Maddy does have a reason to be drunk and, because Jake’s a musician, it’s believable that he wouldn’t be shocked by her drinking on the job, and she does live in the nursing home – so, perhaps there’s a valid reason why her inebriation wouldn’t pose a risk to the resident’s safety. Because everything works in what I’ve read so far, I’m giving the author the benefit of the doubt that the heroine’s behaivor has not put anyone’s safety at risk (and that I’ll get confirmation later).

So, as I said, I think the premise is a unique way for the hero/heroine to meet, and the dialogue between them is natural and funny. And, I loved both characters! I’m anxious to turn the page and read on.  I get the feeling the Maddy’s going to embarrass and/or make a fool out of herself again with her seduction plan – and I’d turn the page to find out if I was right.

This was a well-written, original, and fun read! Great job, Taryn! 🙂


26 responses

14 01 2009
Week 1 Finalist & Mini-Critique Winner Selected « Chase the Dream Writers Contest

[…] Week 1 Finalist Week 1 Mini-Critique Winner […]

14 01 2009
Belle Scarlett

Fun dialogue! Made me laugh. ;-D
Congrats, Taryn!

14 01 2009

I thought it was terrific Taryn! A wonderful piece of work that catches your interest right away. Congrats!

14 01 2009

Really enjoyed this, though I had some of the questions regarding the Martha Stewart line and the drinking on the job. But, I really loved the characters and the banter between them was fantastic. Would definitely read on.

14 01 2009

Taryn, I really liked your opening scene and both characters, and I laughed all the way through the dialogue (especially the moment when Jake says “Pronouns aside?”) I’d definitely read on to see how these two go forward!

14 01 2009
Michelle Beattie

Taryn, this is fabulous! You know how to write dialogue like nobody I know! You are a great writer and I can’t wait to turn the page and read the rest either!

15 01 2009
Taryn Taylor

This is far and away the reigning highlight of my 2009 thus far (totally eclipsing the previous highlight: finding $20 in the pocket of a coat I hadn’t worn in a while).
A big thanks to everyone who took the time to post – as all aspiring authors know, positive feedback means a lot and negative feedback helps you grow.
And a very special thanks to Rachelle and Leigh, not only for their kind comments, but for providing writers with such a wonderful opportunity. Your time and effort is much appreciated, ladies!
I am honoured to be the first finalist and I wish everyone the best of luck in the weeks to come.

**Author’s Note**
No seniors were harmed during Maddy’s foray into the dark world of cherry brandy.

16 01 2009

I loved the dialogue and the scene was very funny and intriguing–made me want to read more. Good job!

16 01 2009
Nancy Naigle

Fun! Definitely my kind of read. Keep me posted on your journey to publication Taryn.
Nancy Naigle (nlnaigle@aol.com)

16 01 2009
Rachelle Chase

I see we had stiff competition for that 2009 honor, Taryn. 😀 You’re very welcome – and thanks for the kind words about the contest.

Congratulations on being our first Finalist — and continued success to you with your writing!

18 01 2009


I loved your entry! I thought it was funny, original, and appealing. Jake’s definitely a standout. Congratulations–


18 01 2009

I was jealous, and then I was laughing out loud! Well done and congratulations on being the first finalist!

19 01 2009
Michele Viveiros

Taryn, what an excellent piece. You’re dialogue makes me laugh out loud. I love Maddy and Jake already and I can’t wait to follow their journey! Congrats!

19 01 2009
barb huddleston

Good job, Taryn! Loved the humor. The pace sped right along and I was instantly caught up in the story. I want to read more of Jake and Maddy, and I imagine anyone who reads this opening will, too. Good Luck.

19 01 2009

Wow Taryn, when I read it I was thinking, Damn she’s good. I loved Maddy (Been there…) and I think every woman of dating age has met someone like Jake.
I wanted to read more and that’s the best sign of good writing. Good luck!

23 01 2009
Greta F. Gardner

I like your work Taryn. This story kept my interest, I am curious to find out what happened the next day.
Great work.

Greta F Gardner

24 01 2009
Karen Duvall

This was so fun, Taryn! Reminded me so much of a Jennifer Crusie story, and she’s my absolute favorite author. So good for you! My only question is how will I know when the book’s published? I must read it! Now! 8^)

29 01 2009
Darlene Torday

This was a fun read. I’d like to find out what happens next.

1 03 2009
Lori Parris

More Jake and Maddy please! Ms. Taylor, you have a fresh and wonderful new voice. I hope to see this book published soon! Best of luck in the contest!

4 03 2009
Theresa Stevens

This is very good. Fresh and lively, and it sets up a very interesting premise right away. I assume this is erotic romance because of that premise and because of the rock star hero.

It’s written well, but I have two suggestions for improvement. First, in the opening paragraphs (everything before the dialogue line, “I know you.”), you might want to rethink the descriptions and make sure you’re staying tightly in the male point of view. The Martha Stewart line reads female to me, and it’s a cliche, too. Ditto for the “had he mentioned” line. These lines fit the overall tone of the piece, but I think the end result is that they weaken the piece. Slightly weaken, I should say, because this is a very strong excerpt overall.

Second, “methodical precision” pulled me right out of the scene. If she’s as drunk as the rest of the scene indicates, then she probably can’t really be methodical and precise. Maybe that’s her usual character — why not try something like, “she disrupted the precise organization of the pile of papers on her desk” or something like that. That way, you indicate both the normal state for this character *and* how far out of the normal she is.

I like this a lot. Good luck in the contest!

6 03 2009
Laura Bradford

I thought this sample was very cute, Taryn! It was definitely something that made me want to continue reading. Your heroine’s drunkenness came across as being rather adorable, I thought. Misunderstandings in romances can read as being somewhat contrived sometimes, but I thought the characters seemed fun and I really didn’t really mind that she thinks he is planning to come on over for sex the next day. That misunderstanding will resolve itself soon enough. The characters seem enough like opposites that the story promises some good conflict, which is what we are all really looking for. On the nitpick front, while I did not mind that your male character referenced Martha Stewart, to me, the furnishings you described seemed tacky. Tacky works for the setting perfectly and I could totally picture it, but I kind of kept thinking about Martha Stewart and how she would NOT have decorated anything like that.

8 03 2009
Raelene Gorlinsky

This was a fresh and funny story start! I did feel a bit as though the author needed to present a more “male” response from the hero at the beginning – the comments on the decor really seem to be a female perspective.

The situation was entertaining, but I was rather annoyed with the heroine, and really did not warm up to her. Although I have a feeling I’d like her a lot better as the story goes on. The hero had a clever and wry voice, very appealing, I liked him a lot. And the cute setup at the end of this section for the misunderstanding to come would keep me reading.

10 03 2009
Faith Black

This is a great spunky piece with great energy. The dialogue is snappy and kept me reading at a fast pace. I agree with some earlier commenters that the male perspective could be beefed up at times and that the on-the-job drinking is a bit of a problem, but it makes for a hilarious scenario and sets the scene for a hoot of a misunderstanding, so I think it works. It’s so very not Avalon (us and our stringent guidelines and all) but it’s so much fun I wish it was.

16 03 2009
Elaine English

I thought this was a very charming and fun opening to what looks like it will be a very sexy and fresh contemporary romance. I loved the heroine and I think you’ve done a great job of making her come to life. Hopefully the next section will do as well with the hero. I agree with other commentators that this opening is a bit “hero-lite,” however, I was so charmed with the scene that I didn’t mind. The Martha Stewart threw up image didn’t do much for me, but otherwise I loved your descriptions and how you quickly established a sense of place. Great beginning.

17 03 2009
Katie Gilligan

This was a very quick-paced and witty opening to what I hope will be a funny romantic comedy. I think you hit the nail on the head with these two engaging characters–and who doesn’t want to see the rock star fall for the normal girl? I’d maybe look over Jake’s internal dialogue a bit–keep him rough and gritty I think, and less about the observation of the home. It might be fun to show Maddy with another employee consoling her–if only to show that the residents weren’t left in the sole hands of a drunk gal! Smooth writing and seems very fun–it’s a great start that definitely made me want to read more.

20 03 2009
Megan McKeever

What a great opening scene! The dialogue is strong and keeps the pacing going nicely. I think this is really cute and looks to be the start of a strong romantic comedy. However, I, too, woudld take out the Martha Stewart reference. It doesn’t really go and felt a little cliched. You set up the story nicely and definitely mae me want to keep reading!

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