The Henley Bodice Prize for First Lines in Romance

In honor of this year’s Bulwer Lytton prize winners for 2008, it’s time, I think, for the worst first line in a romance novel competition. I know there is a “romance” category in the real Bulwer-Lytton, but given the depths (hur) of your creativity, there needed to be more.

You know the drill: give us your original works of horrid first line art, that you yourself wrote, as awful and excellent as possible please! Comments are open for 24 hours, so leave your first line of awesomeness there. I’ll be doing something different this time around, though: in the comments, we’ll take nominations for the finals. So if you see a first line there you like, nominate it for the finals, and I’ll post the final slate of top-nominated first lines for final voting.

First prize: $25 gift certificate for the bookstore of your choice (Powell’s or Amazon), plus Romance Novel Poetry Kit for your eternal amusement while you stand at the fridge wondering if you’re hungry or just wanted to feel a cool breeze.

Second prize: Something Awesome. I’m not at the Prize Suitcase right now but there’s awesome in there, I promise.

Third Prize: see above!

Why The Henley Bodice Prize? Because Virginia Henley wrote some marvelously bizarre and downright screeching first scenes for her novels, with some great first lines, particularly my favorite, Dream Lover:

As the perfectly formed, timeless shape of the rounded head emerged, still glistening with wetness, Emerald couldn’t take her eyes from it.

Bring it on!

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    eaeaea says:

    I love the link –  nearly choked on my hot chocolate:

    Her name was Mauve, like the color of paint, which was apt: not only was she “pretty as a painting,” she was also “smart as paint,” and certainly as thin (assuming sufficient solvents had been added); she was, however, Arnold discovered when she stepped from the shower, a lot more fun to watch dry.

    I need more time to think of purple awesomeness worthy enough…

  2. 2
    Joanna says:

    i love that!
    hehe, paint

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    This one just cracks me up for some reason:

    <

    >

    Off to think up my own now!

  4. 4
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oops, it didn’t copy for some reson, but it was the one about the sunrise in a French village and the dead hamster.

  5. 5
    Marna says:

    There was nothing quite like hearing protestations of love and devotion from a man on a second date while also hearing him thinking “How much more of this crap do I have to spout before she goes down on me?” to drive home to a girl just how much it really, truly sucked to be a telepath, completely unable to indulge in the pleasant fantasy that somewhere out there a man really was interested in intelligence, wit, charm; indeed anything more than big boobs, flat abs and an ass tight enough that he’d be able to bounce quarters off of it in some sort of obscure drinking game dreamed up in a college frat house ten years earlier.

    Long time reader, first time poster. :)

  6. 6
    Alex says:

    From the depraved depths of bad Harry Potter fanficery, I give you the opening line of ‘My Immortal’.

    Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!).

    To continue the eye burning, it continues thus:

    I’m not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he’s a major fucking hottie. I’m a vampire but my teeth are straight and white. I have pale white skin. I’m also a witch, and I go to a magic school called Hogwarts in England where I’m in the seventh year (I’m seventeen). I’m a goth (in case you couldn’t tell) and I wear mostly black. I love Hot Topic and I buy all my clothes from there. For example today I was wearing a black corset with matching lace around it and a black leather miniskirt, pink fishnets and black combat boots. I was wearing black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner and red eye shadow. I was walking outside Hogwarts. It was snowing and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A lot of preps stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.

  7. 7
    Lori says:

    Oh delight.

    This is one I wrote ages ago and it still delights me.

    His penis slapped his thigh like a mackerel slapping the open waters of the sea.

  8. 8
    Ellie says:

    Are we allowed to enter more than one?

  9. 9
    SB Sarah says:

    Absolutely. The more the horrible-r.

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Okay, here goes:

    CONTEMPORARY:
    “Damn you, Brad Parker, damn you to hell!” gritted Verity Toussaint, her pearly teeth clenched, full, moist pink lips compressed in an unfeminine snarl of frustrated rage, dark eyes flashing sparks like a malfunctioning electrical outlet as she struggled to contain the snarling beast held captive between her quivering, glistening thighs; then, with a wild mocking laugh in which triumph and revenge commingled, she gunned the vintage Harley forward and ground to a powder Brad’s cherished, fragile collection of Weird Tales pulp magazines.”

    PARANORMAL:
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any single Vampire Lord newly arrived from Transylvania with a wad of cash and several wooden boxes of dubious function, must be in want not only of prime London real estate but several nubile females upon whom to slake his insatiable bloodlust.”

    HISTORICAL:
    “Light from innumerable flickering torches cast eldritch shadows on the rough-hewn granite walls of the Great Hall as Morag, the new Lady McAllister, watched her bridegroom, Dougal, egged on by a score of drunken cronies, down his seventeenth usquebaugh and topple slowly backwards from his carved oaken chair in a clatter of plate armour; pouting yet resigned, she tossed a well-gnawed ferret bone to the eager wolfhound and gloomily contemplated the prospect of a wedding night spent alone with naught but a plate of sugared almonds and Chretien de Troyes’ latest bestseller for company.”

    mind64—together, our minds can come up with at least 64 of these.

  11. 11
    Lizzy says:

    Whoa. I just read the book summary of Dream Lover on Romantic Times Book Review; the hero falls for the heroine when he sees her riding a dolphin.

    I live in South Florida, where we have many dolphins. Riding them is generally regarded as a bad idea; also, a felony.

  12. 12
    Ri L. says:

    Thanks ever so, Bitches, for introducing me via that link to the phrase “post-Hegelian neo-hipster angst monkey,” which I shall now endeavor to work into conversation at every possible opportunity.

  13. 13
    lysrian says:

    He reflected on the thickness of his member and wondered if I would hold up to the moist fragrant heat of her tawny cavern, but then he had to ponder why he always called it a member… why not call it frank?

    I love Bulwer Lytton, thanks for running this contest!

  14. 14
    lysrian says:

    ok, so there was a typo in that line…. the question is do I correct it or pretend it was part of my evil plan.

    Correct it.

    He reflected on the thickness of his member and wondered if it would hold up to the moist fragrant heat of her tawny cavern, but then he had to ponder why he always called it a member… why not call it frank?

  15. 15
    Ellie says:

    Victoriana was blonde, leggy, and had curves in all the right places, except the top of her head, which, Buck noticed, was actually quite pointy, not to mention, as he now couldn’t stop noticing it, very distracting.

    —-

    Rutger had been watching her sleep for hours, curled up in a shaft of morning sun; now, she stirred, purred “Hi, honey,” and stretched, like a cat, opening her eyes and gazing at him with an expression much like his own cats’ at home, a look of disdainful impatience for him to get up and fix the morning meal.

    —-

    Count Orvalie de Gruuyer was an exceedingly sinful man; enviously slothful, greedily gluttonous, pridefully wrathful, and, with a ten-inch member and an eleven-million-franc fortune, the object of lust for every woman in the district.

  16. 16
    Jessa Slade says:

    sunrise in a French village and the dead hamster

    Ah, the adjectival potential…

    Will the nomination comments close in 24 hours as well? Or will we get to see all the awfulness before we decide?

  17. 17
    SB Sarah says:

    Nomination in the comments will close in 24 hours, yes. So post your faves and nominate all day and all night, baby, yeah. You can nominate more than once. I’m not limiting the slate of finals. Voting will occur as soon as I can assemble the entry with magic voting powers.

  18. 18
    Midnight Voyager says:

    Dear GOD, I initially glanced over the entry, catching only the Dream Lover quote, and I thought it was about childbirth. *clenches thighs!*

  19. 19
    StephB says:

    I nominate Elizabeth Wadsworth’s paranormal entry, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any single Vampire Lord newly arrived from Transylvania with a wad of cash and several wooden boxes of dubious function, must be in want not only of prime London real estate but several nubile females upon whom to slake his insatiable bloodlust.” Love it! (And embarrassingly, I might actually read at least the first couple of pages of a novel that began that way…)

  20. 20
    E.D'Trix says:

    She was a dark and stormy sprite, her glistening, naked form rising from the tangled sheets like a slippery, seaweed-draped dolphin leaping from foam-kissed waves.

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Dear GOD, I initially glanced over the entry, catching only the Dream Lover quote, and I thought it was about childbirth. *clenches thighs!*

    I think that quote actually IS about childbirth; however, the odd wording suggests incipient conception as well.

  22. 22
    Julie Leto says:

    Lizzy, DREAM LOVER is a historical.  But my favorite opening line to a Henley novel is, “What a beautiful cock!”

    And yes, it’s a chicken.

    Hilarious.

    I love Virginia’s books.  They’re filled with history and good, old-fashioned lusty sex and romance and never take themselves too seriously.  Fun, fun, fun!

  23. 23
    Esri Rose says:

    I nominate Elizabeth Wadsworth’s contemporary entry. OMG, so good.

  24. 24
    Esri Rose says:

    As recently orphaned Amy Tangerine stood barefoot and destitute outside the smoking ruins of her Manhattan apartment building, not only was her fiance’ of seven years hitting on the female cop assigned to the arson case, but her boss was striding down the pavement toward her, pink slip in hand.

  25. 25
    Esri Rose says:

    I’d take out the passive voice, but these are supposed to be bad, right? Just looking at it makes my fingers itch.

  26. 26
    Esri Rose says:

    I can’t stand it.

    Version 2:

    As recently orphaned Amy Tangerine stood barefoot and destitute outside the smoking ruins of her Manhattan apartment building, she watched her fiance’ of seven years hit on the female cop assigned to the arson case, while behind him, her boss strode down the pavement toward her, pink slip in hand.

  27. 27
    AnimeJune says:

    Historical:

    Lady Eleanor Wadsworth-Pennington had always thought she’d understood her mother when she said, “Beware the rakes, they cause only pain and misery!” until she finally stepped on one and the stout wooden handle swooped up and smacked her on the face, breaking her nose and causing her to curse the lazy but irrepressible gardener Louis in a most unladylike manner.

  28. 28
    Karen says:

    James Wright didn’t just think he was God’s gift to women, he was reminded of it every time a pretty little skirt decided to join him back at his place for a ride on his pony, if you know what I mean.

  29. 29
    Carrie Lofty says:

    Thrusting and thrusting again into the gasping blonde groupie sprawled across a hot pink Naugahyde loveseat, Leo “Nasty” Houston’s member was like a hard-working mole digging its winter shelter: its snout slick and hairless, blind to all but its instinctual purpose, and intensely fond of warm, dark, welcoming warrens.

  30. 30
    Lyvvie says:

    Sophie was very nervous about having her “woman’s” examination in this new city with a new doctor. Yet when she saw Dr. Holding’s lush as an Irish field green eyes her knees fell open before he even had to ask her. When he ran the speculum under warm water before turning to her, she knew he was The One.

    ——

    Brandy let out a long sigh when she realized she was caught with no chance of escape from Captain Armatey, the filthy pirate, which was a big mistake as no sooner was the rib-expanding breath out of her then a faint ripping sound was heard traveling from her heart to her navel and suddenly her ample pink globes burst forth for all the see, heaving again and refusing to be restrained behind her dainty hands.

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