by Camryn Rhys
Alexandra popped a steaming potsticker into her mouth and bit down. The crisp bottom skin gave way and thick, salty pork stuffing spilled (“thick, salty pork stuffing spilled” is a whole lotta modifiers and alliteration) salty pork spilled onto her tongue. She waited for the spicy heat of the sriracha to start burning up the back of her throat, but it didn’t come. Chewing, chewing, chewing, and no heat. Without a thought, she plucked the skillet from the heat and dumped the rest of the plump, white puffs into the trash. with a sliding sizzle (More alliteration brought to you by the letter S, which is too much for the same paragraph)
She snapped (snapped is bitchy) turned around, coming face to face with the new prep cook, Marcus, who waited on her response. His brown eyes round (I believe most eyes are round instead of square ), he stared back in unblinking silence. Lexi (Hold up: is this a new character, or the same one? Let’s pick a first name for the heroine and stick with it) slammed the skillet onto a cold burner and sucked in what she hoped was a menacing breath.
“How much hot sauce did you use? Precisely.”
Marcus stammered,. He picked up the wrinkled, hand-scribbled (Do people scribble with toes or put notecards in their laser printer?) notecard, and skimmed it. (Three commas in that little sentence is maybe three commas too many. Two short sentence with no commas is better.) “I followed the recipe.”
“You eyeballed it.” She drew closer to him, suddenly aware of how much she towered over his willowy frame. (Wait, is this a little kid, a student? I did not sign up to read LOLITA meets HELL’S KITCHEN) A quick twinge (Of what, chest pain?) almost made her back off, but Fiona’s words rang in her ears: hHow can you teach these kids if you don’t come down on them? How like Fiona (Who is Fiona?) to encourage beating someone into submission. Channel your inner Domme, honey. Easier said than done.
Notes from the Red Pen of Doom
There’s a deep connection between food and sensuality, so even a giant Swede like me can understand where Camryn is going with the whole foodie-romance thing. While Camryn the Rhys is a great writer and a good friend, I will resist the urge to go easy on her. She’s the female version of Batman — she can take it.
It’s well done. Nice mix of action, description and dialogue. Emotions also come through clearly. Camryn can clearly write.
I like the idea of food and romance. Great. And the setup of this heroine — Alexandra or Lexi, whichever name you want to go with — is fine for a romance.
Little things threw me off, especially the kid thing. Do I want to picture a towering teacher being all mean to a scared little student? No. Lexi comes off as a bitch, to be honest. Not sympathetic.
We need to see her save the cat, as Blake Snyder says, before we see her be this snappy and unpleasant.
But forget the little things. Let’s think about the big things for a bit.
Page one is the beginning. How is this character going to change on the page that says THE END?
My wild guess is that she’ll still be tough, if not dominant. That she won’t change that core part of her personality.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she flips, and becomes submissive in the kitchen and elsewhere after realizing that she put thousands of high school students and ex-lovers in therapy. Maybe she becomes a nun in Tibet after reading a biography of Mother Theresa.
I do know this: whatever genre the story may be, the best stories make characters take long, interesting journeys. Not as tourists snapping photos. As people.
For any romance, the ending is up, right? The man and woman wind up together.
So for a big journey, the hero or heroine should be alone and unloved on page 1.
And if we’re doing a foodie-romance, the end has the hero or heroine eating delicious food with a yummy love affair cooking on the front burner. Let’s think of the biggest possible journey: if the end is her being in control, in love and in touch with all her senses, then Page 1 should start with her being submissive to a fault, out of control and out of touch with her senses.
So: I’d like to see this Lexi change and learn and grow. Is this a flat character that goes on a series of romps, or is there a real journey? Page one is where that journey starts.
What if the person on Page 1 lost their sense of smell and taste in an accident, and had to rediscover cooking and kissing and all of that? Hmm. That would be a big journey, wouldn’t it?
The Verdict: Good writer, good writing. I worry about the head fake toward LOLITA meets HELL’S KITCHEN, and I want to see Alexandra/Lexi/Fiona or whoever actually change and grow from Page 1 to THE END.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.