My Lady Untamed blurb: take 2

This is my second attempt at a blurb for my romance. It’s almost completely different to the first, so it may seem like I ignored all your excellent critiques – but that version was, let’s say, the flat mess of a souffle that made me rethink my ingredients. These ingredients may be no better, but it’ll narrow my options down again. So before you start getting confused by all the foody metaphors, here’s attempt number 2:

The brilliant, troubled Duke of Darlington plays games with London’s rich and famous to distract himself from his desperate loneliness. He is the King of Manipulation and entirely unmatched – until the day he meets Katherine Sutherland, the Queen of Brutal Honesty.

Katherine has kept her family out of the workhouse for years, but she doesn’t realise until the duke invades her life just how narrow she has made herself in the process. He’s unlike any other man on earth – in fact, Katherine suspects he might just be the most complicated bloody man in the universe. He thinks nothing of dressing as a woman so that he can share her bed, or making himself frighteningly vulnerable to gain her trust. Then there’s the fact that the only thing he appears to love more than himself is his pet pig.

But the duke’s games have dangerous, political consequences, and when his title is threatened Katherine is faced with a choice: live a quiet, safe life – or go to battle for the man she loves.

If you have time/inclination to comment, please do! For example. If you read this on the back of a book would it make you: a) want to read the book; b) throw it back on the shelf with no regard for alphabetisation; c) feel confused; etc.

I stopped being able to see this story with any objectivity about 2 years ago, so I really appreciate any input people are happy to give!

(Also, THANK YOU to Catherine for being my willing guinea pig/beta reader, and for dubbing my characters the King of Manipulation and the Queen of Brutal honesty.)

Comments 31 Responses

  1. Case

    I guess having read the book ( yessss!) might not be helpful but to me this blurb seems spot on. Intriguing, gives more important detail and really captures what the story is about. Nice one!

    1. anna cowan Post author

      oooh, great response! Just what a write wants to hear… I’m sending the book off on submission in a month or two – hopefully someone will want to pick it up and publish it!

      Just to clarify: Do you mean you want to hear more about the cross-dressing in the blurb, or that you look forward to reading more about it in the book?

  2. bleuet

    Wow. Talk about different!
    I think it’s better than the last blurb; it seems “wie aus einem Guss” ~ seamless (flawless is a bit much to apply to anything in existance, so forgive me) in structure and highlights the content nicely. It has lots of intriguing details that make me curious. You also managed a balance between humourousness and seriousness (just for the record the blurb made me laugh out loud three times), there also is the promise of action and danger (yay!).
    If it had been more humorous it would have been too much for my taste, ’cause I lean toward heavy reading. For me you could lay on even more drama.
    Though overall, I think I am part of a minority with this opinion and you don’t want to scare away potential readers 😉
    As for what this would make me do~ a). A bit of deliberation here: You know I am not a Romance reader (I get more and more interested in the Genre thanks to you, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to buy a novel that could be categorized ‘Romance’) and that I end up in the section reserved for the Genre does not happen often. Also, I am partial to you because I find what you write about writing intelligent and want to know how it’s implemented in your book(s).
    So, with the premise that I didn’t know you are the author and I had read this in a bookstore, this is what would have happened: I would have read the blurb and put it back on the shelve, then either decided to buy one of the Fantasy novels I had looked at earlier or damned my ‘home’ Genre for the upteenth time for being unimaginative… and walked out the store.
    Then, over the period of several days, I would proceede to creep around the book and evenually end up buying it.
    Why? Because the premises make it stand out among all the blurbs I have read recently and it is clear that the author has made an effort to create an appealingly complicated situation that is unique but still within the bounds of possibility. I like books like this.

    1. bleuet

      Ah, totally forgot to mention that while I find this blurb better you are also losing some of the snappyness of the first one due to its lenght.
      Just so you know… Which I guess you did anyway…

      1. anna cowan Post author

        thanks bleuet! I appreciate the honesty of seamless v flawless 🙂 (now I’m just trying desperately to think whether there’s anything I would actually call flawless!). Your reactions to it are all good things – so yay! And you’re right about the length…Something to look at one more time – whether there are any parts I can slim down without losing any of the impact. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Catherine

    Glad to be of use! I really like the blurb, but I have a feeling the middle paragraph is a little too long – most blurbs are a bit shorter than this, I think.

    Still love the book!


    PS – your link to my site is broken – it thinks it is an offspring page to this one, I suspect

  4. valerieparv

    *Waves to Anna* Sounds like the duke has come a long way. Love the blurb. If you want to shorten that para, you could put a full stop after “on earth” and jump straight to “He thinks nothing of…” which keeps the meaty bits intact. Like the idea of his title being threatened, too. You *have* been busy. XXXXXXXXXXX

    1. anna cowan Post author

      *waves back* my Darlington really starts to bloom at about the two thirds mark…you ain’t seen nothin yet! LOL. And thanks for the line suggestion – I’d forgotten how great it is to have your brain helping me out :-).

  5. lizmc2

    I really like the voice of this blurb; it made me think “I’d read a novel that sounds like this.” There are intriguing details and a well-defined conflict, too. It strikes me that the middle paragraph is almost all about the hero. That isn’t surprising given the apparent nature of your plot–he comes along and shakes her up, he’s more exciting in a blurb. I think if I were an agent or editor, though, I might wonder if she got short shrift in the manuscript. Can you give me a sense of what kind of narrow life she’s leading?

    1. anna cowan Post author

      That’s an excellent point about my heroine. He’s more exciting on paper, but it does kinda become her book towards the end when she is made of awesome (she does, of course, pick option B). So I could certainly make her situation more obvious.

      And I’m so glad the voice is coming across! It always amazes me when agents pass on a MS based on the “weak writing” in a blurb – and I think, “How could you tell just from that!” So the fact that some flavour of my writing is coming across is excellent. Thank you!

  6. whiteasravens

    More or less random passer by, I only found your blog last week, so take the following with a grain of salt, as I might be missing out on the vibe you’re going for with the blurb –

    Of your three graphs, I’d say your first is your weakest, and it has a flaw where you’ve taken care to give the other two their virtue – it tells too much, shows too little. ‘Brilliant,’ ‘King of Manipulation,’ ‘Queen of Brutal Honesty’: these are already attributes that you are more or less forcing on your reader, versus letting them make their own minds. It’s important to render your hero and heroine in summary, since they’re the main selling points of the book (and if they aren’t, if you believe your political plot will play a heavier role than will your romantic one, I would consider emphasizing the former in the summary); but the one misfortune of summaries is that they can come off a little dry, and with a blurb, you’re foremost aiming at grabbing attention. I would suggest perhaps starting with something like naming some of Darlington’s rogueish misdeeds among the elite (lied, cheated, stolen, etc?) and then what Katherine’s reaction would be to them, or what *she* does for her living – establish the contrast between them through example.

    Lastly – could you perhaps expand a bit on what you mean by “go to battle for the man she loves”? What kind of battle? It’s very likely not physical, face-to-face-and-an-ax-too combat, but I think it might help the reader gain an idea of where the plot is headed.

    Other than that, I think your blurb’s got a nice air to it: it’s a little serious, a little informative, a little playful, and I find that to be a good mix. Paragraph two would definitely get me to open the book. Hope this helps / hasn’t put you down in any way, and thank you so much for all your amazing blog posts!

    1. anna cowan Post author

      This is great feedback – thank you for posting it! That first para’s so tricky, because I’m trying to get an immediate sense of who my hero/heroine are in as few words as possible, as well as some sense of their conflict. But I think you’re spot-on about giving an actual example of Darlington’s misdeeds. It made me smile to read “what do you mean ‘go to battle for the man she loves’?” This is exactly what my writing teacher would have said to me 🙂 I do love a grand, rhetorical statement that tells you nothing at all when you parse it down.

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the blog!

      1. whiteasravens

        Ahhhhh – the journalistic trap of assuming your reader shares your wavelength, because you’ve laboured over a story for so very long that even its finest details seem as if they are, or should be common knowledge. It’s difficult to extricate yourself from a mind frame wherein you know everything that’s going on and approach your own work from the outsider’s point of view. And then somehow give it all a perfect commercial wrapping, too. Writing blurbs is… nothing short of painstaking, I think.

        One of my favourite all-time writers has a nifty trick in her rather long sleeves – she begins the blurb with a quotation, or with a fragment of a quotation from her writing that somehow captures the atmosphere of the entire book (notably, she tends to keep that quotation and the title in a similar vein). Her second graph can be (and usually is) drier, but by then you already have a sense of whether you’re buying into what she’s selling or not.

        1. anna cowan Post author

          I like that idea of the quote! My teacher last year said that the title of a book is most likely lurking in its text somewhere… As I’m not particularly attached to my title I’ve been thinking about this. So now I’m going to keep an eye out for a good catchy snippet for my blurb, too! Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. bleuet

      Quote: “Of your three graphs, I’d say your first is your weakest, and it has a flaw where you’ve taken care to give the other two their virtue – it tells too much, shows too little. ‘Brilliant,’ ‘King of Manipulation,’ ‘Queen of Brutal Honesty’: these are already attributes that you are more or less forcing on your reader, versus letting them make their own minds.”
      *scratches head* Well, you know, I disagree. The paragraph might be just as good when ‘brilliant’ and ‘troubled’ are left out, because these really are attributes.
      However the titles ‘King of Manipulation’ and ‘Queen of Brutal Honesty’ make me curious more than anything. As a reader, I want to find out what there is to these names – can the characters live up to them? Also, why not use a cliche to sell? It is more concise than making the reader piece together the protagonists form the start. Adds don’t promote products with a motorcycle riding, tatooed woman who is wearing lether clothes, but with a Rocker’s Girl.
      Furthermore, if there is more ‘show’ than ‘tell’ in the blurb, there is even less of ‘what and how’ for the reader to find out. Knowing the genearal direction or the grand theme of a story is enough for me. When I decide to read a book, it is because of the THEME, not becuase of the plot – the plot and everything relating to it (backstory, etc) is what I want to find out.

      The idea of a quote as the starting paragraph of the blurb, that possibly explains the title… Do you really want to give away *why* you chose the title? I want to find out THAT for myself as well!
      On the other hand a quote in the ‘same vain’ – that sounds like a good idea.
      Anna, if you go for the quote, which I think is not a bad idea, you might want to consider using a (not very important) bit of banter between Katherine and ¿the-character-formerly-known-as-Roscoe? – What *is* his name now?! I mean something like a question-answer or accusation-apologia type of thing, something relating to their reputation. It might help “establish the contrast between them through example” and help establish the tone of voice of the book/their (initial) relationship.

      1. anna cowan Post author

        That first paragraph is like a pitch line from an ad – so I agree that the “archetype” characterisation works there, and hopefully the rest of the blurb sells my ability to “show not tell”. Though I do like the idea of putting in some specific detail of Darlington’s game-playing. (BTW- his working name is Jude, but as I’ve not entirely settled on it, I almost don’t know how to refer to him! My crit partner and I keep getting into these awkward conversations where we both want to call him Roscoe, and can’t, LOL)

        And I didn’t mean that I’d have the title in the snippet – I agree that wouldn’t work! I like the idea of some dialogue that shows their conflict. There’s certainly a lot of that!

      2. bleuet

        I feel for you! An essentially namelss character is sometimes difficult to picture wholly – though maybe not when you have worked with him for such a long time?
        Jude has the has the same softness as Roscoe, but I miss that longer name’s ‘melodiousness’ (is this even a word?) a bit. I guess you can’t have everything and isn’t it amazing how much even I, someone who doesn’t know the character at all, has latched onto his (previous) name?
        I am sure you will get to like his new name 🙂

        1. anna cowan Post author

          It is odd having a character I know so well suddenly called something else – but it’s also really liberating! Now he’s just the character, somehow separate to me. I have a kind of regretful nostalgia about ‘Roscoe’, but I like the sense of the character moving beyond me and becoming his own thing. I considered ‘Matthew’ as well, because it’s still a soft name, but it’s such a NAMEY name that it brings a real sense of personhood with it. Jude is more about enhancing the romanticism of my guy 🙂

  7. Michael

    Must his loneliness be desperate? Does it need an adjective?
    Can he be ‘unlike other men’? Must he be ‘on earth’?
    Must she ‘go into…’; could she simply,’battle for…’?

    I would want to read it…

    1. anna cowan Post author

      You’re very good at this getting rid of extraneous words business! Anyone would think you were a teacher… 😉 Let’s see…I think his loneliness has to be desperate, because he’s not just sitting at home being lonely, he’s experiencing full-blown panic attacks. “Must he be ‘on earth’?” – This made me laugh a lot. Ah, I am a fan of the melodramatic hyperbole! I think if I cut the second half of that sentence as Valerie suggested, it would be cleaner to get rid of ‘on earth’. But if I keep the second part of the sentence in, ‘on earth’ is needed for the pay-off of Katherine’s exasperated ‘on the face of the planet’. “Battle for the man she loves” is stronger, having the important verb do all the action, but I can’t help but feel that “go to battle” suggests things that “battle” doesn’t. It includes things like strategising and arming yourself. Is this just in my head? If it doesn’t have that added flavour, then “battle” is certainly stronger. (To give a context – a lot of it IS the preplanning, and the climactic scene is really the actual battling.)

      1. bleuet

        I feel like I am butting into your conversation all the time…
        But this simply too interesting to only watch! ;P I enjoy seeing how you go about things (even though this whole ‘blurb’ buisness starts scaring me to death).

        Anyway, I think the added flavour of ‘go to battle’ is not just in your head. For me, the connotation that is awakened most strongly is that of having made a decision and looking into the future fully aware of what that decision implies.

  8. Cheryl Nekvapil

    Still think she doesn’t need to ‘explete’ — it breaks the exquisite tension you creat. But that might just be a generational thing??

  9. Kat

    Ooh, it’s interesting to see how much the blurb has changed! I think it’s a better blurb than the first. Here’s my feedback, for what it’s worth…

    to distract himself from his desperate loneliness

    I feel this is something that should come out of the story rather than the blurb.

    just how narrow she has made herself in the process

    Again, I feel this should come out of the story rather the blurb. The wording is also very writerly, if that makes sense. ‘Narrow’ here is almost meaningless–it implies something, but without context the reader has no idea what it is. It’s also inaccurate because I think what you mean is that her perspective has narrowed. The phrase sounds odd to me.

    He’s unlike any other man on earth – in fact, Katherine suspects he might just be the most complicated bloody man in the universe.

    This sentence seems a little out of place. It doesn’t really follow on from the previous sentence, and it doesn’t set up the next sentence either. I get the impression that you want to show that he’s not a one-dimensional hero, but I think you’ve already done this in other parts of the blurb. If you’re trying to show that he gets under her skin, then I think it would be stronger if you tie it to whatever constraints you mention in the first sentence (Katherine keeping her parents from the workhouse or her limited world view). In other words, why does he complicate her world? I think that would be more interesting that just saying he’s unlike any other man.

    He thinks nothing of dressing as a woman so that he can share her bed, or making himself frighteningly vulnerable to gain her trust.

    I think this would be stronger if you had two contrasting situations rather two complementary situations. If dressing as a woman goes against some other strong aspect of his personality, it would be more interesting to put them side by side to emphasise that she’s somehow special. (Of course, I don’t know the character so maybe it’s not unusual, in which case ignore this comment!) I also think that readers probably won’t care about the hero’s vulnerability until they’re reading the story–there’s nothing else in the blurb that says why this should be important.

    safe life – or go

    This may be trivial, but I’d remove the dash.

    Overall, paragraph 1 is okay. Paragraph 2 seems too long and could be pared down. I do like the bit about the pet pig. I love paragraph 3 and I think if you can find a way to tie in ‘quiet, safe life’ and ‘go to battle’ with paragraph 2, it will make the blurb stronger.

    One other thing I notice is that the first blurb was focused more on the duke’s POV, whereas this one seems to be more from Katherine’s perspective. I’m assuming this is deliberate, but I thought I’d mention it in case it doesn’t match the way you’ve approached the actual story.

    Also, there doesn’t seem to be a cross-reference to the title. If it’s somehow important that the heroine is ‘untamed’, it might be worth mentioning in the blurb.

    Hope this helps! Feel free to use or ignore as you see fit. 🙂

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