Thursday, 30 June 2011

Books - Memorable Opening Sentences

This week we are discussing my favourite fiction genre – category romance novels. More specifically, the ones you pick up and never want to put down. The ones you go back to again and again when you want to have a good laugh, cry happily or general feel good. The memorable ones.

This time it's all about memorable opening sentences or first chapters. As a writer, I know how important it is to hook a reader within the first chapter, so I'm always interested in seeing how other authors do it so well.

The most memorable opening line I've ever read in a romance novel comes from Mackenzie’s Mountain. It's a romantic suspense novel by Linda Howard.
It's available in 2 anthologies, The Mackenzies (UK) and Mackenzie's Legacy (US).

Here’s the blurb:

Still paying for a crime he didn’t commit, Wolf Mackenzie has a chip on his shoulder the size of Wyoming. But Mary Elizabeth Potter doesn’t see Wolf as the dangerous man the town has branded him. Then a series of violent acts against women makes the townspeople question whether Wolf has reformed – and Mary must prove them all wrong.

And here is the opening sentence:

He needed a woman. Bad’

I read that and I was totally hooked. I wanted to know who ‘He’ was and why he needed a woman that badly. LH set my expectation with those simple words. The rest of the chapter goes ahead to introduce the reader to the hero Wolf and heroine Mary. The book did not relent but delivered on the promise made in the first few words of the first chapter. The story was packed with gripping suspense, emotional tension and dare I say hot sex up until the last page. I read it and finished it on the same night.

The book was just that fabulous. Five stars all the way.

In fact this is how Wolf declared his love for Mary on the last page when she refused to marry him because she didn’t want to marry someone who didn’t love her.

“Hellfire!” he roared and jerked her up against him. “Not love you? Damn, woman, you have been wrapping me around your little finger since the first time I set eyes on you! I’d have killed Bobby Lancaster in a heartbeat for you, so don’t you ever say I don’t love you!”

Now, how’s that for a declaration of love? It certainly got my vote. If you haven’t read this book yet, pick up a copy. You'll love it like I do.

So have you read any books where you remember the opening line or the first chapter vividly? Please share them with us.

Have a thrusty Thursday.


  1. Mine is a classic. 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.' Pride and Prejudice. Mx

  2. Morton, that's certainly a classic and a great opening line too.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Oh yes I love opening lines! I totally agree with Morton - everything about Pride and Prejudice is awe inspiring!

    I'm going to add a raunchy one to the mix! I recently discovered Emma Holly - author of very hot romantic novels.

    "Velvet Glove" has the opening line: Chains rattled on the rough stucco wall as Audrey stretched her arms.

    She had me from that moment on! First book in the genre I ever read so that opening line will stay with me forever!

  4. Amanda, that's a great opening line. It raises my curiousity and I've added Velvet Glove to my TBR list.
    Thank you. :o))

  5. Pride and Prejudice, of course!

    Then another one that got me hook, line, and sinker was the opening paragraph of Bridget Jones' Diary:

    I WILL NOT Drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week. Smoke. Waste money on: pasta-makers, ice-cream machines or other culinary devices which will never use; books by unreadableliterary authors to put impressively on shelves; exotic underwear, since pointless as have no boyfriend. Behave sluttishly around the house, but instead imagine others are watching. Spend more than earn. Allow in-tray to rage out of control. Fall for any of following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomaniacs, chauvinists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts. Get annoyed with Mum, Una Alconbury or Perpetua.

    That set the tone completely for the rest of the book. :)

  6. Oh wow, Zee. That's a cracking opening paragraph. It leaves the reader with no doubt as to what's coming. We get an insight into Brigdet Jones's mind in a paragraph.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. No opening lines readily come to mind but I do wish I could come up with a cracker of one for my novel and become the stuff legends are made of!

    Sigh! Dreams still come true so while I wait for that great opening line, I'll keep on plodding along.

  8. hmm. nice opening, definately i am learning.

  9. Great opening lines. I've come across some pretty fantastic openings...but to recall them? Kiru...I don't have computer brain, LOL! Okay, will have to go back and dig one out. Stella.

  10. TheWordSmythe, I'd love to write cracking opening lines and stories that don't relent till the end. One day perhaps. In the meantime, I'll keep reading how others do it and practising.

    Chika, we're all learning.

    Stella, I know. There are so many great ones. Come back and share when you find one.

    Thanks for stopping by, all.

  11. Not really romance, but sort of is :). "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York." - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

  12. Ivor, that is definitely not romance, lol. I can't remember any particular first line now, but the P&P and Bridget Jones reminders got me.

  13. Sounds like a great read. Usually I'm not as fussed by a first line as by a first paragraph...


  14. Ivor, I agree with Myne. That one is definitely not a romance. To qualify as a romance, it has to have a happy ending as a minimum. LOL. But it is an intriguing opening line albeit depressing too.

    Myne, thanks. Those two are good, aren't they?

    Misha, I agree too about not being fussed about the first line but this one stood out for me and you can see why. :o))

    Thanks for stopping by, all.

  15. I just downloaded Judy Croome's Dancing in the Shadows of Love eBook from Amazon and the first line is

    'I stopped believing in promises when I was young.'

    Now that's an intriguing start.

  16. Myne and Kiru, :) When does real romance not ever end in tears or death? Methinks I should make a foray into romance and break some apparent traditions, heh heh.

  17. Gasp! Horror!
    Ivor, who needs the realism of life in romantic fiction when we can delve into the allure of fantasy? We all die eventually but I'd rather not read that in my romance novels, unless the hero is killing off the bad guys. LOL

  18. I should also add 'or heroine killing off the bad guys.' We are in the 21 century after all. hahaha

  19. The only opening line that immediately springs to mind is not from a romance, but it's one of my favourites. Also a classic: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Such a powerful line. Oddly enough I can't stand Dickens (yawn)

    Judy, South Africa

  20. Hi Judy, that's another classic. Yes, I don't think I can sit through a Dickens novel now. I read most of them well enough back in school. LOL

  21. Kiru, I must do a search to find my favorite opening line;-) BRB.

  22. Adwoa, come back and share when you find it. :o))

  23. I brought a book because its (sort of) opening line is:

    'Before the Nigerian crime-cartels took over'

    African Cookboy, by David Dinwoodie Irving

    I am increasingly interested in how negative stereotypes about African nationalities are depicted (perhaps reinforced) in 'new' (African) fiction. There are other examples of this - fortunately they are not all opening lines!

  24. Okay, sorry to do this (@Judy and @Kiru) but just one more post about Dickens and "Tale of Two Cities".

    It IS a fantastic opening and a great book and there is a section in it that is the most amazing depiction of suspense I have ever comes across in a book (not that I have read that many books but...) - I'm not talking about the slow type of suspense that has several pages to build up, but the type you 'feel' when watching a movie, except in a movie you have other stimuli like the scene becomes dark (in terms of lighting), the heart racing music starts to play etc.

    In the section I'm talking about (which features Madame Defarge and Miss Pross) Dickens achieves the same 'feeling' with words and grammatical notations ...cleverly placed commas and full-stops that make your eyes literally jump to the next sentence to find out what happens!

    ... Tale of Two Cities is a must read!

  25. i really love this conversation.

    'NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but
    Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root
    out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning
    animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to
    them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children,
    and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to
    Facts, sir!'

    this is from Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

  26. I love books, but with so many to read in such a little time, a strong opening line for the reading audience is very important. Unfortunately, no opening line is coming to me now, so I will have to do my research on that too.

  27. Hi Abi, I've just read the synopsis on African Cookboy and that's one heck of a stereotype. Maybe you can share a review with us when you're done reading the book.

    I agree, A Tale of Two Cities is a must read. Thanks for stopping by.

  28. Hi Chika, I haven't read Hard Times. Maybe you can share a review with us sometime. Thanks for coming back. :o))

  29. Hi LD, you got that right. So little time and so much to read, so every word counts. :o))

  30. Hi Kiru,

    Judy Croome's Dancing in the Shadows of Love's opening line is certainly memorable...

    "I stopped believing in promises when I was young"


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