Book Jacket

 

rank 5917
word count 15041
date submitted 16.05.2008
date updated 19.01.2013
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Historical Ficti...
classification: universal
incomplete

The Countess's Portrait

James Davis

A beautiful and resourceful Parisian showgirl is thrust into the cutthroat world of international espionage at the turn of the nineteenth century.

 

When a mysterious and alluring portrait is delivered to Parisian showgirl Pigalle, it signals the beginning of a deadly quest for the portrait’s secrets that will not only change her life, but possibly the world itself.

As the 19th Century is enters its twilight years, the empire states’ of Europe are vying for mastery. Grown rich and powerful on the technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution, agents are involved in subterfuge all over the globe as nations’ seek a strategic edge.

In Montmartre, Parisian showgirl Pigalle De Vere is delivered a portrait with links to her own past and the parents she never knew. The trouble is, it also contains the key to discovering not just a fabled treasure, but the last work of a recently murdered British military inventor. Once snippets of intrigue about the implausible weapon he was working on surface, the race is on, and Pigalle, joined by the dashing but untrustworthy adventurer Chester Albany, soon finds herself thrust into a deadly game of intrigue.

Dogging her every step is the terrifying Emma Van Stark, head of a powerful cabal intent on harnessing acquiring new technology in order to build their influence.

 
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19th century, adventure, burlesque, crime, devon, drama, fiction, heels, historical, history, humour, intriuge, lipgloss, london, love, montmarte, mur...

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53 comments

 

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Christa Wojo wrote 1432 days ago

I've had this on my shelf for a few days now, but I backed it immediately after the first chapter. A sassy Parisian showgirl detective? Who could resist! This is a refreshing idea and your writing is packed with description. I hope you get published. I would love to have this book.

Good luck!
Christa

WendyB wrote 1455 days ago

I'm not crazy bout espionage, but love historical fiction, so I found this one interesting.
Your vivid descriptions have carried us back into the life of Paris, and I was immediately charmed by the casual, warm relationship between Pigalle and Madame Bouvoir.
I'll read on, and I know I'll be disappointed that more chapters haven't been posted.

One small thing in chapter one:
A hand "flew threw the mist". This should be "through". (Maybe one day Spellcheck will be able to read our minds. What a great day that will be.)

Wendy Bertsch
(Once More...From The Beginning)

Peter Carlyle wrote 1721 days ago

Hi James,

You capture sound, sight and smells very well. This is the sort of book readers would buy on the pitch and first page alone. It promises an enticing and exciting story fraught with danger.

I'll put this on my shelf sometime next week.

Peter.

JANVIER wrote 1720 days ago

Hello James,

Awesome!You have an intuitively observed story that got me hooked right away.The descriptive element is amazing and it is easy to see a brilliant plot unfolding right at the start.he smooth flow of the story, effective use of dialogue and narrative got me hook, an effect that it is certain to have on other readers. I read three chapters today and that will do for now.

Overall, this is a well-written story with the potential to go very high.

All the best.

Janvier (Flash of the Sun)

msm0202 wrote 1721 days ago

James,
This is extraordinary writing, and you have captured the period beautifully. You develop Pigalle's character very well in these early chapters. The arrival of the package in chapter two also begins to build what I can tell is going to be a strong sense of suspense and intrigue in this book.
Shelved.
Mark

strachan gordon wrote 958 days ago

An interesting twist on the detective genre also the place in time has never been deployed before , in this fashion , at least to my knowledge . I am fascinated by all periods of history and 'of course , the Belle Epoque era is one of the most fascinating. The writing is involving , inventive and sets a good pace . I shall certainly be reading on from the first chapter . Would you have time to look at the first chapter of my novel 'A Buccaneer' which is set amongst pirates in the 17th century . watchlisted and starred. With best wishes from Strachan Gordon

Christa Wojo wrote 1432 days ago

I've had this on my shelf for a few days now, but I backed it immediately after the first chapter. A sassy Parisian showgirl detective? Who could resist! This is a refreshing idea and your writing is packed with description. I hope you get published. I would love to have this book.

Good luck!
Christa

WendyB wrote 1455 days ago

I'm not crazy bout espionage, but love historical fiction, so I found this one interesting.
Your vivid descriptions have carried us back into the life of Paris, and I was immediately charmed by the casual, warm relationship between Pigalle and Madame Bouvoir.
I'll read on, and I know I'll be disappointed that more chapters haven't been posted.

One small thing in chapter one:
A hand "flew threw the mist". This should be "through". (Maybe one day Spellcheck will be able to read our minds. What a great day that will be.)

Wendy Bertsch
(Once More...From The Beginning)

Burgio wrote 1461 days ago

This is a good story. On top of having a good character in Pigalle, it's like a wonderful trip through Paris. Chester makes a good contrast to Pigalle; they're a fun couple to follow as they unravel this mystery. Makes a good read. I'm adding this to my shelf. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

soutexmex wrote 1500 days ago

Honore de Balzac this is not but the milieu is the same. I am sucker for historical fiction and this is on the scale of The Alienist. Interesting characters that you sold us with your pitches. SHELVED!

I can use your comments on my book when you get a chance. Cheers!

JC
The Obergemau Key
Authonomy's #1 rated commentator

lynn clayton wrote 1503 days ago

A great sense of the time. Beautiful prose. A high class thriller. Backed. Lynn

Nick Poole2 wrote 1525 days ago

ARISE, AUTHONOMY GHOST!

Ease those weary, withered limbs from your coffin. Push away the stone from the mouth of the tomb.

You have one last task to perform. One last, sacred shelf to confer.

Whether you were plugger, spammer, gusher or troll, whether you flirted or fought in the forum or beavered away in the shadows, now is the time for your resurrection.

One last time. Marshall your strength, muster the last vestiges of your power and carry out your final Authonomy act:

Back my book, MIRROR IN THE SKY.

Then, only then, you may rest easy in your Authonomy grave.

Nick Poole2 (formerly known as NickP)

B.Lloyd wrote 1536 days ago

read and backed this the first time it was up, before messageboards were brought in ; I remember the opening descriptions of the city at dawn, which struck me as very Puccinian and evocative.Original detective duo in period setting, good luck with it.

BrianneMichelle wrote 1675 days ago

Hi James,
I really enjoyed your first chapter and am looking forward to reading more. Out of curiosity, are you in the process of publishing your book? What are your plans for The Countess' Portrait? Have you found a literary agent yet?\
Brianne

Sandie Newman wrote 1691 days ago

This was a joy to read, the pitch attracted me and the opening is rull of very rich descriptions which flow along so nicely, the opening is full of atmosphere and tense action. Shelved immediately.

Sandie
The Crown of Crysaldor

Agamemnon wrote 1694 days ago

I enjoy a well crafted "historical" (it's my gendre too), and your hook drew me right away into the noisy bustling seamy life in the 19th century world. Read Ch 1-3. It's an easy read, but the pace crackles with evocative description and I really warmed to Pigalle.THere is little to nitpick with this, but ?trim a few adverbs here and there- but not too much, as IMHO, this type of gendre needs a little more richness in the prose than the very lean type of writing that is usual in a modern setting, which will lift this from very good to excellent. Your opening paras would entice me to buy this.Shelved with pleasure, Grant

Betty K wrote 1694 days ago

This is an extremely interesting premise. I like how you start with an air of mystery and danger. A good gripping couple of chapters. With your wonderful word pictures you give us an excellent view of Paris in the early waking hours of the dawn. The writing is tight and Pigalle, a well-drawn character. Even on paper, she is so very French. I loved the sentence beginning "I like a challenge but..." She shrugged... I could see that so very French gesture.

By the end of chapter 2, I am left with so many question that I would really want to buy this book. I'm definitely shelving it for the day.

I'm wondering, if you are on-line much, if you would be interested in my "The Huguenot's Destiny" -- set in France at the end of the 17th century. At least the beginning is.

Betty K

Margaret Anthony wrote 1713 days ago

What a brilliant start you have made with this story. I can 'feel' the place and the events from your descriptive writing and as a lover of Paris, it is even more meaningful. Historical fiction is my favourite genre and you do it great justiuce. Loved what I read and look forward to reading more. Happy to have this on my shelf. Margaret.

Alecia Stone wrote 1717 days ago

Hi James,

Beautiful imagery. Your vivid descriptions give a good picture of the setting. Your prose is splendid. This is very polished and easy to read. Nice sentence structure and good pacing. I really enjoyed reading the first few chapters.

“I don’t(.)” She smiled.

“Really, you’re too kind, Edmund(,)” she said

Just one or two punctuation errors.

This is very well written and a compelling read.

Will shelf when I clear a space first thing tomorrow.

Shinzy :)

JANVIER wrote 1720 days ago

Hello James,

Awesome!You have an intuitively observed story that got me hooked right away.The descriptive element is amazing and it is easy to see a brilliant plot unfolding right at the start.he smooth flow of the story, effective use of dialogue and narrative got me hook, an effect that it is certain to have on other readers. I read three chapters today and that will do for now.

Overall, this is a well-written story with the potential to go very high.

All the best.

Janvier (Flash of the Sun)

Peter Carlyle wrote 1720 days ago

Commented earlier. This is now on my shelf.

Peter.

Peter Carlyle wrote 1721 days ago

Hi James,

You capture sound, sight and smells very well. This is the sort of book readers would buy on the pitch and first page alone. It promises an enticing and exciting story fraught with danger.

I'll put this on my shelf sometime next week.

Peter.

Urania wrote 1721 days ago

Lovely atmosphere, imagery beautiful and writing evocative and flowing. Perhaps a little too descriptive at times and unnecessary use of adverbs. However, this has a great pace to it and fits the genre perfectly. No problem putting it on my shelf.

msm0202 wrote 1721 days ago

James,
This is extraordinary writing, and you have captured the period beautifully. You develop Pigalle's character very well in these early chapters. The arrival of the package in chapter two also begins to build what I can tell is going to be a strong sense of suspense and intrigue in this book.
Shelved.
Mark

Tammy Snyder wrote 1721 days ago

I love how this begins!! Everything about it is captivating!! It's fun too!
Shelved
Tammy
The Chimney Still Stands

LittleDevil wrote 1721 days ago

You have created a page turner here, something quite different. I only have one suggestion, I might be inclined to use LIGHT TAP on the door rather than SOFT KNOCK
Happy to give this a spin on the rotating shelf
Best wishes
Sue

JamesD wrote 1722 days ago

Check out the new cover!

Paolito wrote 1727 days ago

The Countess's Portrait...

Intriguing pitch, and your opening chapters (your partial) demonstrate that you can create an extremely vivid scene.

Do eliminate your adverbs (agents and editors don't like them), but once you do that, I think you've got a winner.

Shelved enthusiastically.

Cheers,
Sheryl
IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

aquapictures wrote 1729 days ago

Dear James, classic skilled set up! Strong characters. I hope you will execute everything in the summary. Monmartre, running away and a woman with a mysterious past, what is not to like. I wonder what the great Europian powers are after.

Keiko
(A Thousand Words) I hope you will visit, it is also set in the 19 th century

Cellardoor wrote 1729 days ago

Beautiful imagery, palpable tension and an excellently drawn protagonist. I will read on :)
You have my backing!
Melanie.

Agamemnon wrote 1730 days ago

Waiting to go on my W/L, will comment when I have read the first few chapters - and yes, get an attractive cover!. Good luck!

JamesD wrote 1730 days ago

New chapter uploaded...

Sheila Belshaw wrote 1732 days ago

James,

I was drawn to your pitch and premise and from these you have the foundations for an appealing novel. I was a bit confused in the first couple of pages about whose point of view you were writing the story, but perhaps you are using the omniscient p.o.v.

At times the prose is a bit flowery and descriptive. Sometimes just a word or two can give the desired flavour. Also many of the adverbs can be deleted without detracting at all from the writing. I'd love to see this with an eye-catching portrait cover.

Apart from these very minor nit picks, I really like these opening chapters and have pleasure in putting this on my shelf.

Sheila (Pinpoint)

Dania wrote 1736 days ago

One more thing: I suggest you get a custom cover for your book. It will give it well deserved visibility amongst the thousands of books on the site :)

Dania wrote 1736 days ago

Here for our swap and enjoyed the read :) Good plot and you kick the tension in from the first sentence.

I also like the place and time and the way in which you've integrated Parisian icons and descriptions, for example the slopes of Montmartre.

Shelved and good luck.

In terms of nitpicks, I felt that you can reduce the use of adverbs, for example: "to nervously check.." "he cast his eyes frantically" "slept peacefully on, blissfully unaware" "the man stated simply". We're told these are no nos for agents and publishers and often you'll find that removing them won't hurt your narrative.

Hope you find these comments helpful and wish you the best of luck on the site and beyond.

Dania (the It! Refugee)

Hilary Waters wrote 1740 days ago

Dear james, I enjoyed this read very much. I will come back for more at a later date, but for now backed.
Hilary Waters (The Piazza)

J M Dalhousie wrote 1742 days ago

An engaging, atmospheric read. Shelved, with pleasure!
JMD
The Alchemist's Heir

LawsonBlacklock wrote 1744 days ago

Hi James, this one has been on my watchlist for awhile... and its a very good start. You have an evocative turn of phrase and a good sense of both the time and place of which you write.

But I have a few criticisms which I hope you will take constructively. First and foremost, is your heroine's name, 'Pigalle'. I read a good deal of historical fiction and as a woman, let me tell you this: It is very difficult to warm to a character whose names begins with 'pig'. I had issues with the name from your synopsis... but even on reading the extract, I couldn't see past the name to really immerse myself in the story. Now, this may sound like superficial advice, but character names are an important part of the storytelling process. Would Gone With the Wind have sold so much if the character had been called 'Pansy' O'Hara?

My second criticism is your use of French words to tell the reader where they are. This is something that irritates me greatly... how in some books people who speak otherwise fluent English drop in occasional foreign words so that the author can remind us of their ethnicity. You've told me your book is set in Paris... why do the characters have to say 'bonjour' and not hello? Use one language or the other. You have masterfully brought me to France with your descriptive words, evoking the sounds and smells of old Paris beautifully. But I was brought back to my home in England with a thud at the clunking use of French. Give your gift a chance to shine!

I think you need to read this work out loud and do a brutal edit. I think it will help your grammar and punctuation. You have some lovely words in this, and a beautiful turn of phrase... a little polishing in this instance will go a long way.

This is a great start and could go much further. Well done to you and best of luck.L.x

Kendall Craig wrote 1744 days ago

I often look out for historical fiction and think that this is a real joy. All the while I was reading I felt that all of my senses were being awoken and stimulated, especially the sights and smells of bakeries and coffee. The sounds of silk clothing and dainty footsteps on the streets only added to this and Pigalle was drawn as both humorous, slightly innocent but with a healthy wisdom and ability to look after herself and somewhat mysterious. The hook at the end of the chapter was superb. i enjoyed every word I read! Shelved for sure.
Kendall Craig The Halo of Delight)

PATRICK BARRETT wrote 1745 days ago

An evocative read and fascinating enough to read this sample at one sitting. On my shelf. Patrick Barrett (Shakespeares Cuthbert)

JamesD wrote 1750 days ago

Hi all, thanks for your feedback, in response I've made some changes, hopefully cut some of those pesky adjectives and generally tightened it up a bit. Hope you like it.

Thanks for your support.

James

Conn wrote 1762 days ago

I agree with Aislingb. I like the story and want to ready more but you need to cut out some of the descriptive terms in your paragraphs so that the story moves along faster. Leave something for the reader's imagination.

aislingb wrote 1764 days ago

Hi, I think this story has great potential. I love how it starts and you have a wonderful way of describing a scene. You also can make the dialogue sound 'French' without using cliches which is very hard to do.
I only have two minor points. The first is that it would be a lot easier to read if you split up some of the longer paragraphs. I also think, as wonderful as your descriptive prose is that it does slow down the story, especially in chapter two. Having said that I'm really looking forward to reading the next chapter.

rjladypunk wrote 1904 days ago

Me likey! I LOVE your idea, nice and juicy. xxx

IDRoberts wrote 2022 days ago

Hi James – have managed to find time to read some of your book and I have a few comments for you – please take them as you will – sneer, ignore, laugh at – but they are meant to be constructive criticism.

I think it may be a good idea for you to read your manuscript aloud to yourself – this is a great way of spotting typos, grammar problems, missed words, muddled sentences and word repeats, which there are quite a few. Take a good look at the first paragraph of chapter 2 as an example. Get someone to read through it for you – a boffin friend is best – I had mine proofread. It’s worth it as you tell a great story and these problems distract.

But you have a good skeleton here; you just need to work on the meat. It’s a great world that you’ve created and really captivating – I can see Pigalle and the dog and the early morning streets as clearly as if I was staring at a Brassai photograph.

Good luck, Ian.

IDRoberts wrote 2027 days ago

James - nuts premise! Can't wait to getting round to reading. You're on my watchlist for now though, and will get back to you soon. All the best, Ian.

Gigi wrote 2044 days ago

Very evocative description...I look forward to reading the rest of this. It's going on my bookshelf tout de suite!

JaneW1 wrote 2051 days ago

I'm hooked! When's the next chapter?

Clare wrote 2051 days ago

This is quite entertaining, and the narrative flows along quite fluidly. I like the way each chapter (I've read three) ends on a dramatic note.

I've been told my paragraphs are too long and wonder if that needs looking at in your case e.g. Chapter 2, long para. beginning "Design of M...." Also, spelling of embarrassment, but presumably an agent would overlook that.

I'll put you on my groaning watchlist, and return.

Clare - A Walk in the Paradise Gardens.

JamesD wrote 2051 days ago

Hi, new chapter uploaded, thanks for all the feedback so far.

Sylvia wrote 2051 days ago

James, your story gets all the senses stirring, and the plot is very original. The mixture of historical fiction and thriller is an unusual combination, and that would explain the lavish description and leisurely beginning before the hint of something dangerous to tantalise us at the end of chapter 1.

A few favourite moments: 'pushing through the grey air towards the light'. 'Dogs, like men, had to be kept in their place'. 'I like a challenge but...'. 'quite the lonely vampire'. 'a crooked skyline of gabled windows'. 'He most unnerved me'. 'Furtive conversations of which she was the subject.'

Suggestions/typos: 'the noise was turned off' ('turned off' is reminiscent of electricity - maybe just have stopped). 'who stood their (there)'. 'now nodding polite hellos' (omit 'now' as you have one in the phrase before). (flew threw (through) the mist'. 'a further tow (two) rooms'.

jessbigogno wrote 2052 days ago

You evoke the imagery superbly and I have warmed to the character immediately. The storyline is really gripping and building nicely. Can't wait for the next chapter,

Rolland wrote 2052 days ago

Lovely concept. You must finish this. And--could I get a copy of that titillating portrait, please? Good luck.
cheers

Gervois wrote 2053 days ago

James, you've got me. On my bookshelf! Just finished the second chapter - intriguing and well written.

JaneW1 wrote 2054 days ago

You give a real sense of the main character from the off and conjur a vivid description of 19th Centry Paris, there are some nice touches, like the interplay with the dog and the set up is intruiging. The pace seems to be lifting already, and the story has pulled me in. I can't wait to read more.

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