12.29.2006

HH Com 562

Adrienne, a seventeen-year-old Parisian aristocrat, becomes engaged to a French nobleman, Jean Chavet. Immediately after their announcement, Jean reveals he has been commissioned by Louis XIV to explore New France, but refuses to take his new fiancĂ© with him. Strong-willed and naive, Adrienne buys the identity of one of the ship’s cabin boys. She is forced to hide her true identity, fight for her life, and eventually live with the Quapaw tribe of the Sioux Indians. Adrienne must come to realize her strengths and decide if she loves Jean, or if life aboard the ship has changed her. Can she be forgiven for the devastating mistakes she makes along the way? Is killing a man in self-defense ever pardonable?
This historical fiction novel is based upon Arkansas fact/legend. A grave lies atop a mountain in Petit Jean State Park--Adrienne’s alias--with breathtaking views of the Arkansas River and the nearly extinct stomping grounds of the Quapaw Indians. (stop here) This is a story full of high seas adventure, self-discovery, love, and the triumph of a young woman.


You're going to need something much more compelling than a disguise and a dead guy to hook me on this one. One thing that would help a lot is one or two well chosen details of historical significance. I have very strong doubts about how long any woman could keep her identity hidden on a ship full of men. You don't think they had bathrooms did you? They whizzed over the side of the ship. I'm all for kick ass girls but that would be some feat.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are well known women who disguised their identity aboard ships--for years. I agree, the author should add some facts. A good fact to add would be that women used tubing to "whiz over the side" as Miss Snark says. Use that.

jb said...

The point that the story will need to address issues such as "whizzing" is a good one, but isn't that level of detail extraneous in a hook?

Bella Stander said...

Facts are fine, though I don't see the need to mention tubing in the hook. (And did she live as a man or a woman with the Indians?) However, the hook is pedestrian & lacks zing, as well as character motivation. Go back to XYZ.

Historical Fiction Fan said...

I agree with anon, above. There were women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men and went undetected until they were wounded. That part isn't such a stretch solong as the heroine is not elsewhere described as a full-figured beauty. Someone who's rather flat-chested and plain-faced could pass, but most attractive full-grown women would NOT be convincing as a teenage boy.

It'd also be wise to bear in mind that most cabin boys probably got buggered. If men at sea for long periods could be randy enough to imagine that manatees were lovely mermaids, you can bet that a sweet-faced cabin boy wouldn't go long unmolested.

Angus Weeks said...

There are rare cases of women doing this, but I'm sure none of them went into it without a plan. It's not just a matter of strapping their breasts down, but voice, language, mannerisms, etc. They had to be tougher than the toughest men. To be found out could have cost them their lives.

You need to tell us in your hook that your character knows what she's getting into. At the moment, you've told us she's a naive aristocrat, so I can understand why Miss Snark is incredulous. Does your character at least have some experience in anything to do with ships? Mention it, if so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments. I have actually had great sucess with this pitch so far, but now I see where I can make it less run of the mill and more vivid. Many of the questions are answered in the book, but obviously...if the book isn't read, then no one will know. My job as an author is to pitch, hook, and then show I've got it down. Thanks for your insight everyone! I guess it's back to the drawing board to pull out the slivers, sand, and paint the sucker in a more vivid color.
Thanks Miss Snark and dark little snarklings.

Virginia Miss said...

For me, this fell apart with the line "Adrienne must come to realize her strengths and decide if she loves Jean, or if life aboard the ship has changed her." I have several problems with this. First, "must come to realize her strengths" -- why must she? Do you mean to say that she's realized them? Perhaps you meant the "must" for "must decide" whether she still loves Jean?
And wouldn't fighting and living with the Indians have changed her more than "life aboard ship"?

Anonymous said...

Question: how can something be fact/legend?

Twill said...

The "must come to realize her strengths" and the whole "is killing in self-defense pardonable" made me laugh. In a bad way.

Are those the worst problems she faces? Must be nice.

Anonymous said...

I believe a number of women were successful sailors and remained uncaught for years. But disguised as a cabin boy...man, I would expect that job would get the girl discovered in a hurry. I've heard a few anecdotes about what role cabin boys were expected to perform.

HawkOwl said...

Yeah, the disguise thing is fine, but it would help if it sounded like the author knew anything about the French. "Adrienne" and "Jean Chavet" don't sound the least bit upperclass, and one's "fiancé" is a man. I don't know if the French allow same-sex marriage yet, but they sure didn't under Louis XIV. And, er, a French noblewoman wouldn't need to "ask herself" if three years as a cabin boy has changed her.

So it's not intrinsically a bad plot idea, but it doesn't sound like the execution will be plausible.

Anonymous said...

The names aren't made up. History is history...events are events. Research and documentation...well you know.
Obviously, I didn't portray the spunk and situation well in my blurb. Point well taken. Time to revise and focus to bring in more history in the blurb to clear away the doubts.

HawkOwl said...

The names aren't made up by you but the story is, as you said yourself, Arkansas legend. And in the original legend, Adrienne was not an aristocrat.

Anonymous said...

That depends on which version you found. After loads of research I found MANY variations on the legend. But, I see your point. Perhaps more plausible is to make her a wealthy woman. Which is a common theme throughout the legends. Thanks.