December 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM #5076
Name: Jenny Perinovic
Title of Manuscript: LIKE DROPS OF MOONLIGHT – NA Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 1250
Plot Summary: When Holly Levant inherits a crumbling mansion on the shores of Moonlight Lake, she expects to spend the next year up to her elbows in dirt, paint, and sawdust. She doesn’t expect to find a dead body in her boathouse, and she most definitely doesn’t expect to end up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Together with Beau, a local ex-college football star turned baker (and semi-retired amateur ghost hunter), Holly races to clear her name, uncovers the dark history hidden behind the walls of her house, and learns that someone in Moonlight Lake wants her gone. Permanently.
First Five Pages:
Moonlight Manor was a freaking dump.
I parked my SUV and stared up at the big old house through the windshield, trying to take it all in. The badly cracked driveway—almost half a mile long—had been bad enough. But when added to the overgrown yard, the sagging double porches covered in leaves, and the windows spiderwebbed with cracks?
I groaned and let my forehead fall to the steering wheel. The horn beeped, and Taco, my happy chocolate lab pittbull mix, barked merrily.
“At least one of us is happy to be here,” I told him. He rewarded me with a sloppy kiss and a whine. He pawed at the door, his round body quivering with excitement. I could practically see the thoughts running through his head: grass, grass! Explore! WATER!
The thoughts running through my head, however, were a little less exuberant. How had Nana let it get this bad? How had my parents? The world swirled around me, the questions threatening to swallow me whole.
“Get it together, Holly,” I told myself. “One step at a time.”
And the first step was climbing out of the car.
I clipped Taco’s leash onto his collar and climbed out of the SUV. He happily clambered over the console and leapt out of the driver’s side, his thick tail wagging so quickly that it looked like a brown blur. The late fall air was crisp, complete with the smoky tang of woodsmoke from an unseen neighbor’s house. Taco dragged me across the yard, his nose to the ground, sniffing everything in his reach. I was half-tempted to let his leash go and let him explore, but until I’d had a chance to check the grounds for any hidden dangers, I wasn’t willing to risk him. Knowing my luck, there’d be a hidden cellar, complete with rotting doors, ready for him to fall through. Or a well. Or a freaking sinkhole.
The sun hung low on the horizon as Taco pulled me toward the side of the house, ready to explore the back yard. But I gently tugged his leash toward the steps. I wanted to get a good look at the inside while there was still light. I’d have plenty of time to explore the grounds over the next few weeks. Months.
My eyes burned, and I blinked away tears. A year. That’s how long I was stuck here, according to the terms of Nana’s will. She’d left Moonlight Manor to me and my twin brother, Nick. Plus enough money for whatever renovations necessary and living expenses and then some—a staggering sum that none of us had any clue existed. All under the condition that either Nick or I live here for at least a year after her death—otherwise, the house and grounds would be put up for auction, and the money donated to the town.
For as long as I could remember, my grandmother had lived in a little cottage in the town of Moonlight Lake, New York. We’d all known about the lake house, of course. Nana had talked about it constantly. She’d grown up in Moonlight Manor, just like her father had before her. She’d married my grandfather here, three months before he left for Vietnam. And after he was killed over there, on the same day my father was born, she refused to ever step foot on these grounds again. A caretaker had lived on the property up until a year ago. He’d been responsible for keeping the place from collapsing, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived.
Mom and Dad thought I was crazy. Neither of them saw any point in even trying. Nick was currently in flight school—he’d graduated from the Naval Academy a few months ago—which meant that I was the only one who could give it a shot. And even Nick had tried to talk me out of it, after we’d found out, the day after Nana’s funeral. We’d climbed into our old treehouse in our parent’s backyard and gotten stinking drunk on a stolen bottle of Dad’s expensive scotch, like it was high school.
“What are you going to do?” he’d asked me, once we both ended up sprawled on the floor in opposite directions, our heads on each other’s shoulders.
“I’m going to go,” I’d said. “It’s not like I have anything else going on.”
“I won’t be there to help you. No one will. You’ll be on your own, Holls.You don’t have to do this. You don’t have anything to prove. Just let Mom and Dad put it up for auction and move on.” He sat up and squeezed my shoulder. “You can’t throw your life away over what’s happened this summer.”
But even Nick—my twin, my brother, my best friend—had been wrong. I wasn’t throwing my life away over this. I’d had the worst summer of my life, starting with the fire that destroyed the playhouse where I worked, leaving me yet another unemployed fine arts major. If I’d stayed home to dwell on that, plus Nana’s death, plus the fact that my boyfriend—the only boyfriend I’d ever had, the boy I started dating sophomore year of high school and dated right up until the day after college graduation, the boy who’d been my first date, my first kiss, my first everything—had dumped me to become a priest, I’d have crawled under the covers and withered away into nothingness.
Nana may have been gone, but she’d given me exactly what I needed. She’d given me a chance to start over.
A chance to figure out who I was. Without the playhouse. Without Colin. Without school. Thanks to Nana, I had a chance to find out who this grown-up Holly Levant was. What she wanted.
But as I stared up at the dilapidated old colonial-style mansion in front of me, complete with wide columns covered in peeling white paint and a leaning chimney, and probably infested with bats and mice and who knew what else, I wondered, for a fleeting second, if maybe my parents and Nick had been right.
Maybe this was too much for me to take on by myself.
But then Taco pulled me up the stairs and onto the porch, and I knew it was too late for doubts.
I was Holly freaking Levant. I didn’t back down from a challenge.
Even if I’d never faced a challenge quite so massive before.
I had expected the stairs to groan under our weight, but the luckily, the porch and stairs were made of poured concrete, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about them collapsing beneath us as I dug in my pocket for the key. Taco jumped up and pushed against the door, apparently unsatisfied with my pace. The door creaked open under his paws, right as my fingers closed around the key.
I added fix latch to the mental list of things that needed imminent attention. I’d have to find some way to secure it tonight—just in case. Though, judging by the amount of dust in the air, I didn’t have to worry about being disturbed. It didn’t look like anyone had stepped foot in here for years.
A grand foyer stretched before me, complete with marble floors, glass-paned French doors on either side of me, and a crystal chandelier overhead and a grand, curving staircase leading to the second floor. I decided to leave upstairs explorations for later, and pushed open the set of doors to my left.
December 2, 2014 at 5:41 PM #5081
I’m very intrigued. The continuity with there being a caretaker up until a year ago and the level of disrepair seems a little off. Maybe push the caretaker’s time off a little further back.
I like the build up of turmoil, you sort of know what you’re getting into early in the novel, but there is a lot left to explore.
One thing that stood out to me was the use of the word “freaking” many times in a small space. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but it stood out to me.
Overall, I read a very nice hook.
December 3, 2014 at 1:44 AM #5097
I loved the plot summary. Totally had me hooked. I liked all of the sensory details describing the creepiness of the setting, especially the “smoky tang of the woodsmoke” – it really painted a picture. Taco was adorable and the way she cared for him gave us some insight into her character – I could also see that Taco might lead her into trouble in the future.
The story slowed for me just when I’m ready to start exploring the scary house with all of the backstory. This may be best saved for a later time.
December 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM #5106
I agree with the other comments. The summary sounds like an amazing mystery that I would love to read. However, the opening few pages reads like women’s fiction or romance. I didn’t get any sense of the mystery yet. I understand that you want to set the story up, but perhaps that could get sprinkled in a little later in the story.
I also saw duplicated words. The third sentence in says “badly cracked” and “bad enough.”
Just stuff to watch.
December 5, 2014 at 10:23 PM #5110
Well, I’m hooked! Holly is someone I can get on board with for sure. I’m also glad to see Taco present so early on. I recall us tweeting about him a little, so naturally I’m happy with that. I also enjoy the pacing thus far. Holly’s progression out of the car and into the house with the inclusion of history along the way works well here.
One thing I’m curious about the caretaker as well as the overall state of the house. Someone else commented about this and I agree. I suspect he serves a purpose. If that’s a case, timing might not be something you can play with here. Either way, I do wonder about the house appearing so dingy after only a year. Depending on the rationale, it might be worth exploring more.
The other thing I wonder about is some of the description in regard to this being first person POV. Example: “The late fall air was crisp, complete with the smoky tang of woodsmoke from an unseen neighbor’s house.” This is a spot-on description overall, but I wonder if someone would actually explain something like this in first person POV. I primarily write in third person and might be out of depth with this, but for some reason my brain decided to focus on that sentence.
I think this is definitely a great start. I’d also love to read more as it’s ready if you’re up for that. Well done, lady!
December 8, 2014 at 8:42 PM #5114
First of all, I think your writing style is lovely. I do agree with a previous poster that “freaking” may have been overused a tad, but the voice in this is great and the words flow beautifully. I always love getting a sense of setting at the start of the book, and you’ve given us lots of sensory details.
I also think it’d be great to add a hint – or a teaser – of the mystery that’s to come. Your summary sounds fantastic, and I’d love to see some of those elements hinted at in the first five pages. Nana’s backstory could be held for later in the book, so that Holly can move towards the inciting incident, which I’m guessing is finding the body in the boathouse.
I enjoyed reading this, and best of luck!
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.