Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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I switched reading devices, and the little Kindle only shows percentage read. So that's why the change.
At the 2% mark, I've read approximately the first chapter or section or whatever, and I think I've pinpointed the main problem, along with a lot of smaller ones.
This project would never have survived any critique group of which I was ever a member. It's that bad.
The main problem is . . . nothing happens.
As Shelly Lowenkopf wrote in "Creating a Rejection-Resistant Novel," the author has about three pages in which to engage the reader's interest. Something has to happen, something that threatens the main character or otherwise prompts them to take action.
Start with important action. Involve someone of consequence in an event of consequence or with a threat of significant impact. A major complaint among editors . . . : Nothing happens. Make sure something happens in your opening, even if it is only an artful promise that something momentous is building and will explode soon.
Piper is sitting on the couch at the Senator's house. She's surrounded by admiring men. It's supposed to be a party, but there's no party atmosphere. We don't know why she's at the Senator's house. We don't know why she's just sitting there with all these men. She's bored and not doing anything, but she's also desperate. She is aware she's beautiful, that she is able to snare any man she wants. But she wants a challenge.
What kind of challenge? A man she wants but who doesn't want her? A man she has to expend some effort to win? Then she's not really desperate, is she.
She pauses in her boredom and desperation to think about her cousin, Sybil, Lady Fairchild, who is beautiful and also desperate. If there is any conversation going on around Piper while she muses about her desperate, beloved cousin, the reader isn't made aware of it. Finally, Piper gets bored enough to leave, reminding all her suitors (the word is used far too often) that she is leaving for New York the next day. That's when we learn her mother is there, too.
Piper and her mother go to Piper's room. Still no explanation for why she is at the Senator's home. Now we get the information that Piper and her mother are sailing to New York the following evening, taking a "later tide" because it's cheaper. Piper's wardrobe is slightly out of date, which may cause problems when she tries to get into New York society. She hopes her orphaned -- but titled?? -- cousin will facilitate her entry into the world of potential husbands.
From this first little bit, the reader gets a hint that Piper is in some financial difficulty, but that rather than select a wealthy husband from all the men paying court to her, she chooses to spend time and money going to New York. Her problem, therefore, is at least partly of her own making. There are solutions to her plight available, but she's not taking them.
As a reader, we have less sympathy for someone like Piper, with her beautiful trill of a laugh and her habit of snaring men and then discarding them, than we would for a character who finds herself or himself in economic straits due to circumstances beyond their control.
That's the major structural problem. Nothing happens, and as a result I just don't care about Piper. Even at the end of the scene, where she muses about finding a man who will take care of both her and her mother, I just plain don't care. There are probably two or three or more men amongst the gathering in the Senator's parlor who could do that, but that's not enough for Piper. She's definitely not desperate enough.
The writing is adequate, but not good. Maybe a C-minus? D-plus? As mentioned above, the word "suitor" is used far too often, to the point that every time I read it, I heard bells. I don't want to hear bells! I want to hear voices and the swish of elegant gowns and the crackle of fire and the snort of horses and the rattle of carriage wheels on cobblestones. There was very little -- indeed, if any -- description in this opening. Not of the setting, not of the characters. Telling the reader it's 1854 Boston isn't enough, not by a long shot.
In fact, most of the narrative is far too much telling and almost no showing. Where there could have been dialogue, there was the author telling the reader what Piper was thinking. This improved slightly when Piper and her mother discussed the voyage to New York, but by then it was too little, too late, and not particularly well done.
As written above, this project would not have made it through a first reading at any of the critique groups I've been in over the past 40 years or so. Nothing happens, there's no description, the main character isn't likable. But readers today don't seem to care.
I still care.