Monday, August 04, 2008

Face-Lift 551

Guess the Plot

His Wife, the Enemy

1. Gina knew she shouldn't be sleeping with her boss, especially when he's married and Lupe, his wife, is a wonderful person. But Lupe isn't Spanish. She isn't even human. And werewolves, like their mundane cousins, mate for life. Now Gina has to find an all-night gun store that sells silver bullets before she's found by . . . his wife, the enemy.

2. He's a spy for Great Britain, and an earl. She's a spy for the enemy, and a countess. After a night of passion, Robert proposes to Sophie. It's the honorable thing to do, and he's thrilled when she accepts. But can their marriage survive Sophie's next mission against the British Crown?

3. Was she the enemy? The Antichrist, maybe? Paul Pott had to wonder. She had drained his Boxter's brake fluid when he ordered her to wash his car. Her meals tasted of almond lately. Now, she's picked up his pistol and knife while cleaning his study, and asked, “Where should I put these, honey?” He spends significant time framing his response, and decides it's time to shop for a new wife. Will he live long enough to trade up?

4. Barry's life is spiraling down the drain pipe, what with the IRS audit, the charges of tax evasion and a pending divorce. Worse, his soon-to-be-ex wife is the cause of all his woes . . . and she's suing for everything, even the dog. So Barry doesn't just get mad, he goes to war against . . . his wife, the enemy.

5. Jillian is the perfect wife--or so Rob thinks until he finds the secret room with the radio and the copy of Mein Kampf. Now the mild-mannered accountant must turn sleuth in order to discover if his own wife is a secret Nazi or if his family is being set up.

6. Rat poison next to the sugar. Wood stripper next to the wine. Bits of glass on the plates. Frank is beginning to suspect that Sheila doesn't approve of his new job as porno cameraman.

Original Verson

I am querying my 100,000 word historical romance, His Wife, the Enemy, where a runway spy's pretense as widow to the man she betrayed is uncovered when her "husband" returns from the dead. [Let me save everyone else the trouble of Googling "runway spy." It's a secret agent whose assignment is to hide at an airport and report on suspicious activity. Like airplanes taking off and landing. Every country's got 'em.]

Colonel Robert Tollemache is attacked by Boer guerrillas on his way to deliver sensitive documents to his camp. [Believe it or not, your chances of selling this are much better if you change that to "bored gorillas."] He is rescued by a young widow who nurses him back to health. As a spy he hasn't the luxury of trust, but the intimacy of their arrangement in her small homestead influences him to lower his guard. This leads to a night of passion and Robert does the honorable thing by offering marriage. His elation over her acceptance is tempered however, when he returns to camp to discover his folly has resulted in a catastrophic and fatal battle. [Assuming he was in need of being nursed back to health, what was his folly? I assume the guerillas got his sensitive documents. Would he have gotten back to camp any sooner if he had skipped the night of passion?]

Countess Sophie von Wettin never intended her deceitful liaison with the British scout to lead to an offer of marriage. With neither name nor home to call her own save that provided by her manipulative foster father, [Her dead husband didn't leave her his name or home?] the promise of one is an overwhelming proposition. Though deeply remorseful about sending the earl to his death, [Who is the earl?] she grasps the chance to escape her sordid life by traveling to England as his bereaved widow. [Lemme get this straight. There's a countess living on a small homestead in the Transvaal, and she nurses a wounded colonel/scout/spy/earl? to health and then sends him to his death?]

Revenge sustained Robert during his slow and painful recuperation from near-fatal wounds and exposure, [Are we talking about his recuperation with Sophie, or his recuperation after she sends him to his death? If the former, who does he want revenge on?] and he [is] incensed to return home to discover Sophie playing the role of his wife. She hoped this to be her last deception, but her escape his [is] foiled by an obsessive Robert, who decides to play along in order to uncover whatever new plot he thinks she's hatched. [Hmm, there's a woman living in my house claiming to be my widow. And it's the same woman who recently sent me to my death. I think I'll play along with the gag and see what happens next.] Any hope of proving innocence or obtaining forgiveness from Robert is lost when her foster brother and fellow spy infiltrates British society, [Is there anyone in this book who isn't a spy?] coercing her into another mission with the threat of exposure--or elimination.

Sophie is caught between the life she desires and the life she has been bred for, but to have Robert, she must trust him--and he must also trust her. [She sent him to his death and moved into his earldom as if she owned the place. And she's an enemy spy. And she's hoping to gain his trust?] When Sophie's mission appears the [to] threaten the British Crown, this must take precedence over their estrangement. Robert doesn't want to trust her, but his conflicted heart is tested when the dangerous machinations and deadly vengeance of her profession lead them both into a place where their union, and their very lives, are threatened.


Too many minor errors.

Did the Boers bring Robert to Sophie and assign her the task of nursing him to health, or was it just a coincidence that she had a homestead right near where he was wounded?

I don't usually associate a woman with the title of countess with living on a small homestead or having a sordid life.

In the book, perhaps everything seems reasonable. I've pointed out a few things in the query that seem incredible. They need to be cleared up or left out, as they could bother whoever reads this. Stick with the main plot: Sophie thinks Robert's dead, and runs away to England to live as his widow. But Robert turns up alive. His thirst for revenge gives way to the hunger in his loins. But can true love win out when Sophie is coerced into spying on England? That needs embellishment, but not with stuff no one would buy.

Does Sophie need to be a spy from the beginning? Couldn't she just be coerced into spying on Robert by her foster brother/spy, after she's in England?


writtenwyrdd said...

Of all the GTP's the real one sounds the worst. That isn't a good thing.

To be honest, I doubt I'd pick up a book with this plot because it sounds too implausible. But that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense the way you wrote it, and I'm speaking about the emotions. If this not dead hero falls for the woman impersonating his widow, I need to be hooked with an emotional reason why. So don't tell this stuff like a laundry list. Find the emotional pivot and hook us with that.

pacatrue said...

I agree it sounds like the plot of The Mummy or something similar, meaning it's outlandish, and for that to work, your query needs to have a sort of free-for-all fun tone as well.

Anonymous said...

That might be the most confusing query letter ever to appear on EE. I have no idea if we were talking about twenty characters or three characters. I'm not sure, but I think we may have been going from past to present to future or, whatever.

Got to simplify this.

Anonymous said...

Too cute and coy. It's a good story. Why obfuscate it by referring to the same people with different names, in different contexts and times? A straightline rundown of the plot would be more effective.

Anonymous said...

Why is he incensed that she's playing the role of his wife? didn't he just have a night of passion with her followed by a proposal of marriage? I think I'm not understanding who is who. Did the countess drive the exciting spy to death or did she drive some boring earl to death? Or are the exciting spy and the earl the same guy?

WouldBe said...

I kept looking backwards to see if I'd missed something and forwards to see if my question would be answered.

The bit about him playing along with her ruse as widow is hard to accept. As EE mentioned, there may be tensions in the story that make this plot point easier to accept. If so, consider weasel-wording or de-emphasizing this part of the story and let the editor discover it if he/she asks for the ms.

It may be a minor point, but I wasn't sure whether your setting was the first or second Boer War. (EE assumed the first.) This might not matter in the query unless you're trying to hit a certain period for a romance publisher.

--Bill H.

Dave F. said...

"The Return of Martin Guerre" and it's modern remake, "Sommersby" had a plot like this. The husband comes home and he's an impostor.

150 said...

I said all I was going to say about this on the Crapometer thread:

fairyhedgehog said...

Author, you could do a lot worse than use 150's version, which was very clear.

Whirlochre said...

You lost me after para 2, I'm afraid.

Your plot may be involved but the query must be clear, which this isn't.

And was there a 5th para that you cut? There doesn't seem to be any sort of biog/summary.

Unify your terms of reference for characters and chop down to 3 paragraphs.

Wes said...


ChrisEldin said...

Hmm, there's a woman living in my house claiming to be my widow. And it's the same woman who recently sent me to my death. I think I'll play along with the gag and see what happens next.] Cracked me up!

Sorry author, but I'm too confused to comment. My comments tend to be meaningless anyway. But if you had it on the crapometer, did you incorporate those suggestions? Maybe you should redo this one entirely and send it in as a new query. EE will come up with new jokes, and we'll be able to understand your book.

ChrisEldin said...

And there's a llama here who should be doing PhD stuff....
hmmm.... Now, I don't know if EE's ever been used as an excuse for not doing homework, but I guess there's a first.

Jeb said...

THanks, 150, for mentioning the crapometer. It's been ages since I remembered to check over there.

Poor author - had a better query over there before this one reached the page, and have no option but to take the beating over things you already fixed. I hope you learned enough about your writing tics (we all have 'em) that your rewrite goes well.

Phoenix said...

Author: 150's version on the crapometer is good with one caveat. Add in something about Sophie and how she feels about Robert.

In all your versions, you're focusing heavily on the plot. You need a good plot, of course, but character trumps plot in romance for your query and synopsis. Like Writtenwyrdd, I don't get much feel for Sophie in any version regarding how she feels about Robert. There's mention of "reconciliation" and "to have Robert," but there's no set up for her wanting him. Or of how she feels when he returns. Is she pissed he's back? Torn about it? Where's the emotion?

You can post another version here, and don't forget to put up your beginning, too!

talpianna said...

E. Phillips Oppenheim did it better in THE GREAT IMPERSONATION.

And a runway spy is someone who sneaks into fashion shows to rip of the new designs to be copied by mass-market retailers.

EE wrote:I don't usually associate a woman with the title of countess with living on a small homestead or having a sordid life.

Well, Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (better known as Isak Dinesen) lived on a coffee farm in Kenya; she had a long-term affair with a white hunter, and her husband gave her syphilis.

Beth said...

It started out confusing and became downright bewildering. Try again?

Beth said...

After checking out 150's rewrite on the Crapometer, I'd say it's a vast improvement. However, in that version (well, in all the versions, come to think) Sophie sounds like a thoroughly selfish, scheming, heartless, unlikable character.

Which is going to make this a hard sell in the romance market.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I thought a runway spy was an undercover fashionista.

Anonymous said...

Confusing, but could make for a great comedy!

Clearly the writer has an affinity for suspense, twists and turns, but: must. simplify. today.