A tall, bearded man with dark hair that curled at his collar moved from the shadowed front door. His large, white-haired dog scampered beside him in the fresh snow, barking with excitement, its breath casting little puffs in the cold night air.
“You’re late, Lucas.” The hotelier’s voice rolled with the hint of an accent.
“I was gettin’ worried.”
"The trouble’s all yours now, Declan,” the driver said. “Help me with these, will you?”
The stage rocked a bit and Amalie’s heavy cases and trunks thumped against the roof. Lucas handed them down one at a time. She drummed her fingers on the leather seat, anxious to have long weeks of travel behind her. Fatigue gripped her to the point of exhaustion.
The man referred to as Declan peered into the coach and gave her a quick nod. “What’d you do with the other passengers?”
“There’s just the one.”
“Only one passenger?” Declan swept a hand toward the baggage and grinned. “Who’ve you got in there, a princess?”
Amalie bristled at the way they discussed her as if she wasn’t there. Did they not understand the countless hours she’d spent on the stiff-backed seat? She wanted to take her boots off and slip between soft, warm blankets.
“Yup. Princess High and Mighty. I had to stop at nearly every bend in the road so she could stretch her royal legs.”
The man had a lot of nerve to insult her after he’d jostled her across miles of dirt roads. She rubbed her hands together to get sensation back into her numb fingertips. Why hadn’t she thought to grab a warmer a pair of gloves from her trunk before they’d left Sacramento?
She repositioned her skirts, and hugging a thread bare pillow against her chest, she waited. If there’d been a handle on the inside of the passenger door, she’d let her own self out.
The driver finally climbed off the coach and opened the door. Snowflakes covered his dark brown hat and settled across the shoulders of his leather coat. Realizing the uncouth man meant for her to alight without the courtesy of his assistance, she leveled her gaze on the hotelier.
He smiled and tilted his head. “Ma’am, my name’s Declan Grainger. Welcome to my home.” He offered her his hand.
Her eyes fell to his full, firm lips. His slight accent sent a delightful shiver through her. English? Irish? No, the silky vowels rolled over her like expensive Scotch whisky. Annoyed by her body’s heated reaction when she had no interest in being attracted to any man, she grabbed his outstretched hand and proceeded carefully onto the small coach step and then the boardwalk. “Amalie Renard.”
She straightened her hat. His eyes sparkled and danced with amusement. Since there was nothing funny about her travel-battered body or hungry stomach, she assumed he was like most men who didn’t take her seriously. With practiced indifference, she held up her chin and swept past him into the dimly-lit hotel interior.
CATHERINE: We get a nice view of who Amalie is in this scene, without really understanding all there is to know of her. An air of mystery still hangs in the balance, which I think is very good. I had a little difficulty in determining who was saying what at the beginning, but that could be a problem from simply being dropped in the middle of a passage. Nice work!
GAIL: Nice excerpt. I am very fond of historicals set in the U.S., so this one immediately got my attention. My only suggestion is to add a bit more historical detail at the beginning of the scene. For the first 5 paragraphs, I had no idea I was reading a historical. Of course, this is only an excerpt and you've probably described the setting in detail in the preceding scene. Thanks for sharing this with us.
AMY: Very interesting and my mind is guessing at what is going to happen or what caused her to be not so pleasant to the two men. I would have liked to know immediately they were in the historical west because it automatically sets the scene in my mind. Of course, I am not sure where this appears in the novel so by the time we got here, we would probably already know.
SAMANTHA: I was a little confused at the start that the tall, bearded man was the hotelier. Maybe if he moved from the shadowed front door of the hotel, those two sections would clue the reader in immediately that he is the one talking. I'm really curious to know what trouble your heroine has been. I like that you compared his voice to a Scottish whiskey, but now I'm also wondering how she knows about whiskey. Your heroine is intriguing! :)
LYDIA: I really enjoyed this submission. Amalie is easy to relate to, but then I'm kind of a princess in my travel requirements. ;) I think my main suggestion would be to get deeper into Amalie's POV. Just as an example - and feel free to ignore me. ...Since there was nothing funny about her travel-battered body or hungry stomach, she assumed he was like most men who didn’t take her seriously. You could get right into Amalie's thoughts in real time and help the reader relate to her even more. There was nothing funny about her travel-battered body or hungry stomach. He was like every other man who didn't take her seriously. Basically saying the same thing - but as the thoughts are occurring to her. Does that make sense?
JULIE: I really liked this submission. I felt an immediate connection with Amelia's annoyance. The only thing that caught my eye was a technical issue. You say, "her eyes fell to his lips." Impossible. Her gaze fell to his lips, not her eyes. Do you see what I mean? Other than that minor issue, I really enjoyed reading this. Your descriptions in the first paragraph were just lovely.
JERRICA: I'm so intrigued by this entry! I really want to know what's going on! It's well written and Amalie seems so mysterious. Great job on her characterization! I wish I had more to say, but I really enjoyed it and hope to see it in print some day so I can find out what's going on!! :)