HH Com 213 (209)

How might a "Freedom Fries" American cope in Paris during this thorny, Iraq War era?
By falling in love with a Frenchman, of course.

Daisy Lockhart free-falls off the razor's edge she's been negotiating as a perfectionist grad student, and makes a soft landing in the gilded arms of Paris. There, in October of 2004, she finds her freedom, and love.

Mathieu is a Sartre-worshipping writer who has a chip on his shoulder roughly the size and shape of America. Over an intoxicating day, he and Daisy clash over art, religion, George W. Bush, food, the metaphysical possibilities of a good shoe, and the murky memories tunneling up from their pasts. They make love under Matisse's PLUM BLOSSOMS, in Mathieu's father's apartment, which is stuffed with paintings from his Vichy past. Like Paris itself then, the relationship is a heady mix of the sublime and secret.

Over the next two weeks, Daisy takes a leap of faith and throws herself at Mathieu's mercies. She comes to understand--with the help of a modern French "salon," an Al Gore look-alike, and a very real Osama bin Laden--the bittersweet lament of generations of Americans living in Paris: she, too, will never be quite Parisian.

You've made Osama bin Laden a character in a romance novel?
Good luck with that choice.
(that would make it an auto-reject for me. I'm not quite ready to see that)

There's nothing compelling here; no real problem or conflict. So what if she's never going to be Parisian? We'll always have Fargo.


Virginia Miss said...

I love novels set in Paris. On of my faves is LEFT BANK by Kate Muir. I highly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about the genre, but I'm wondering... by the time this hits the shelves, will readers still be interested in George W and in feuding with the French over Iraq? Since I write fantasy, this isn't an issue for me, but it was the first thing that popped into my head when I read this.

Anonymous said...

Ah, if your target market isn't the American public, you might be alright. I could be wrong, but I don't think there is a huge population of Americans thinking, "Damn this bittersweet lament, I'll never be Parisian!" Who gives a frogs fat ass? If that's the primary theme of the book, I wish you luck in your endeavor. If it's NOT the main element in the story, throw out a bone with some meat on it. I personally thought the writing was pretty strong. Maybe just a tad overdone, but not enough to be distracting.

Dave said...

I'm not sure why you started with the first two sentences invoking Freedom Fries and Iraq. This is a love story and those are not elements that invoke a romantic feeling.

Also, for no reason other than it takes away form the romance, remove GW Bush's name (just say politics). He's not romantic regardless of being President. And you can remove Gore and Osama for the same reasons. (BTW, we'd all like to remove Gore)

Play up the romance and let the political details be spice in the book. And then make her almost leave him or lose him - but get him back in the end.

Anonymous said...

"We'll always have Fargo"--that just made my evening.

wavybrains said...

Near past is a hard sell. You might do better to try for current with a backdrop of the current situation. I'm better Americans still aren't really popular in Europe. Give Mathieu another two years to grow his chip.

Once you get Daisy together with Mathieu, the tension drops off--a romance is all about the will-they won't-they pull. If they click right away, have sex, and she falls in love with him, there's no tension. If you've got tension in the story--i.e. he doesn't like her, he pushes her away, there's a reason the relationship must be secret beyond the fact that she's an American, you need to sell that better. Romance is all about the conflict and the tension. It sounds like you have interesting characters--now communicate their tension and conflict.

Anonymous said...

Daisy "free-falls off the razor's edge she's been negotiating"? Ouch! Sounds painful. I'd avoid language that makes it sound like your protagonist has been walking on razor blades, especially if this is supposed to be a charming romance.

I'm not sure America is ready for Osama to show up in a light-hearted romance either.

aries said...

My biggest problem with the hook is that it sounds very cliched and hackneyed. The American hating French man and the freedom loving American fall for each other and zzzzzzzz. The only thing that's worse than Al Gore's and Osama's cameo appearances is that the main characters make love under Matisse's PLUM BLOSSOMS(!) after knowing each other for a day. Ew, ew, ew. I like romance novels on occasion but this is drags up every stereotype that gives the genre a bad name.

HawkOwl said...

At first I thought the American was male. That would have intrigued me.

As it is, I think a grad student and an artiste discussing art, religion and George W. Bush is gonna be serious boring. And if by Vichy you mean what Vichy is most likely to mean, then I doubt the guy would have any souvenirs from it. And when you don't own any rose goggles, Paris is mostly a stinky mix of the dog shit and the exhaust gasses.

tomdg said...

I thought this was pretty good until you mentioned Osama Bin Laden. That touch makes it potentially brilliant.

I can totally see this story. On the one hand, they click, they fall in love. On the other hand, they come from different worlds, particularly politically. That in itself could make a meaningful relationship impossible. The only way they are going to end up with anything other than heartache is if they can somehow reconcile their different political ideals, which probably means both of them (or at least her) broadening their viewpoints a lot.

Maybe (probably) I'm way off on this one, but for me, this doesn't sound like a romance with political backdrop. It sounds like a novel about politics, about alienation, about broadening our view of the world, through the milieu of romance. That's far better than just another bucket of soppiness.

But you probably aren't giving this book its best shot by pitching it at an agent who lives in New York.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this. I got the sense that it wasn't a romance novel; the transformation of the heroine seemed more the point. The only thing that clunked for me was "gilded arms". Hard to have a soft landing in what I then pictured as arms made of gold ;-)

clarice snarkling said...

I could see this working as a literary novel. It'd be a tough sell as chick lit or romance, since the heart of those genres is escapism from things like current wars and politics. Either play up the politics or play up the romance -- right now you've got a muddy combination of the two that would likely be lethal in the marketplace. I'm definitely intrigued by your premise, though, and you're a daring writer to tackle recent history in a novel like this.

Anonymous said...

tomdg, maybe I should have you write my hook for me.
Thanks to you, and others, for your kind words and interpretations of my troubled hook here.
I did include in my original hook that this is literary fiction, which I know Miss Snark sniffs at. It is not purely "light-hearted," but much more interested in, as you said, personal transformation and opening one's eyes to the world around her. I set it pre-election 2004 to really make Daisy question her own sense of being an American. The "Osama" bit references the intrusion of the outside world into their pretty little bubble in the form of his video four days before the election.

That said, I know that some of you will think it's a bunch of pretentious bullshit. C'est la vie.

And Dave, Al Gore is a true hero. Go rent An Inconvenient Truth to find out why.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how hot the guy is, if his politics tick me off that much then he's strictly a weekend's worth of joy, but not a lifetime's worth of bore.

--been there, did that.

thraesja said...

Mathieu's father has an apartment stuffed with paintings from his Vichy past? And Mathieu brings an American girl he just met to see them? If he is that stupid, surely one of his other girlfriends would have ratted him out and his paintings would be rightfully adorning the walls of a Jewish museum somewhere? If you mean the father just lived in Vichy France and has the paintings legitimately, you need to rephrase.

Having the last line be about her pining to be Parisienne seriously takes away from her love of the US, especially of right-winged US politics. It wipes what I thought you were establishing as her character away. I understand that she might want to become Parisian, but as the last line of your hook, it makes it her most important desire, which I don't think is what you're after.

I'm not sure how readible this story would be, but perhaps a reworked hook would do it justice. Good luck.

Fuchsia Groan said...

It sounds kind of like the movie Before Sunrise with the genders reversed and a political angle added (the relationship develops in a single day). If that's the tone, I'd read it.

In the last paragraph, my imagination ran away with me and I suddenly thought the salon was part of some sinister plot involving Gore, Bin Laden, or both. Glad to hear that's off base, though a sinister salon might be fun.

The sentence with "razor's edge" and "gilded arms" has about five figurative expressions. It's like a mega-mixed metaphor, so I'd pare it down, even though the images work separately.

tomdg said...

Anonymous author - thank you :) but you flatter me - wait for #359 and you'll see what I mean :( Ah well. Send me an e-mail or something?

Before Sunrise. Mmmmm... I adored that film.

And I had to laugh at this: "when you don't own any rose goggles, Paris is mostly a stinky mix of the dog shit and the exhaust gasses." Nice description - but when I went there, it was quite simply the most romantic place in the entire world. Funny how two people can see the same place so differently ...

Anonymous said...

If your protagonist is a right-winger, who's going to like her enough to stick with her till the transformation? I wouldn't be able to stomach even a few pages of a grad student who'd learned so little that she used the term "freedom fries" without irony and disgust.

I'd think I'm your audience (you see Gore as a hero, so I'm inferring here) as long as it's not a romance. But how do you get liberal readers not to gag on a right-wing student protag? Unless it's parody, I'm out immediately.