Friday, April 6, 2018

First Chapter Pointers - Part 3: Summer of Deception First Chapter

by Elva Cobb Martin

As promised, here is the first chapter of Summer of Deception,
my contemporary romantic suspense novel. Can you see the pointers illustrated for first chapters we've already shared in Parts 1 and 2? Click here for Part 2

Here are the pointers we covered in Parts 1-2:
1) Introduce the Protagonist
2) Ground the reader in a setting
3) Introduce main plot
4) Introduce conflict and/or problem
5) End chapter with a bang that will force reader to turn the page.

Amazon link to Summer:

Here's the pitch to introduce the story:
Summer of Deception is the story of a young woman who determines to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at an historic Charleston tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.

Chapter One
Charleston, South Carolina

Rachel York gasped when the taxi headlights
pierced the stormy night and illuminated Barrett Hall in all its southern grandeur. Her travel fatigue faded, and she leaned forward, energized, as the cab crunched its way up the tree-lined shell drive to the entrance. At the gate, she exited the auto with her umbrella extended, and the taxi driver placed 
her large bag and tote at her side. Rachel thanked him, 
paid him, and hurried up the front walk, pulling her valise
behind her. The vehicle disappeared down the drive,
and darkness closed in as she made her way up the
front steps.

On the wide porch, she propped her umbrella
beside her suitcase, took a deep breath, and tried to
ignore a shiver of disquiet that traveled up her spine.
She would discover the truth about Ron. This summer job 
in Charleston was her first step.

The rain pounding against the slate roof stopped
as quickly as it began. The moon angled out from
behind a cloud, and Rachel glanced around the
plantation’s wide portico with its six imposing
columns and rocking chairs bathed in shadows. The
brass horse-head knocker adorning the entrance added
to its aura.

She held her wristwatch to the moonlight and 
grimaced. Ten o’clock. She’d arrived five hours late
and with her cell phone dead. How early did the
elderly Mr. Barrett retire? Did he think she would
change her mind about his job offer? No way. It was an
answer to prayer.

Rachel breathed in the moist air. The sweet smell
of gardenias delighted her. Swinging her thick hair
behind her shoulders, she lifted the knocker and let it
go. The sound broke the quietness like a pistol shot.
A sharp bark from behind startled Rachel’s
already antsy nerves. She whirled around. A gray
German shepherd the size of a calf stood on the steps.
She grabbed her umbrella and pointed it at the beast as
if it were a sword.

"Gabriel, what are you growling about?" A tall
man stepped into view from a path beside the house,
shaking rain from his cowboy hat. The moonlight
revealed his strong build and rich tan. He wore an eye
patch and an olive green T-shirt etched with the word

When he caught sight of Rachel, he commanded
the dog in a strong low voice, "Come, Gabriel." The
animal obeyed, and he snapped a leash on its collar.
"Sorry if this big mutt frightened you. He’s not
ferocious, but we don’t broadcast it. And the umbrella
wouldn’t suffice for your defense if he wanted to
attack—which he doesn’t." The man chuckled, a
pleasant sound in the shadows.

Was he a farmhand or some kind of security
patrolling the grounds? Rachel breathed easier and
lowered her umbrella. She opened her lips to speak,
but the porch flooded with light and the door opened.
Rachel turned.

A gray-haired woman in a wilted apron stood in 
the partial opening. She glared at Rachel with
narrowed blue eyes that rounded as she spied the

"I’m Rachel York. Mr. Barrett’s expecting me.
Sorry I’m so late."

"Mr. Barrett, eh? He didn't tell me he was
’specting nobody, ’specially for overnight." She
frowned and pursed her lips. "And I'm the
housekeeper. What did you say your name was?"

“Rachel York." Not expecting me? And not just for
overnight—but the whole summer.

The woman opened the door wider, and her eyes
fell on the man in the shadows. "Oh, there you are."

Rachel glanced back at the man and dog.
He spoke to the housekeeper. "Mrs. Busby, show
our guest to the game room in about two minutes."

"Yes, sir."

Obviously not a farm employee. Or a guard.

Rachel pulled her luggage into an elegant entrance hall
lit by a grand chandelier. A delightful fragrance wafted
up from roses on a side table. She propped her suitcase
upright and dropped her carry-on beside it. Glancing
around, she tilted her chin and smiled. What a place to
have a job for three months. Even a nanny job. Just who 
was the striking man?

The housekeeper disappeared down the hall, and
Rachel tried to still a flutter in her stomach. How could
her arrival be a surprise to the help? 

The woman soon returned and gestured for Rachel to 
follow. They turned past a curving staircase and down 
two steps into an enclosed patio dotted with plants and 
white wicker furniture. Rachel’s metal-capped heels clicked
across polished brick. The house appeared to be exactly the kind of historic residence she expected a southern plantation
owner like elderly Charles Barrett to own. That day in
the college office, Dean Woods described it perfectly as
a Gone with the Wind setting. Her future employer
laughed and nodded at them both.

The woman gave a brief knock at a door and
opened it. She motioned for Rachel to enter and came
in beside her.

Rachel inhaled the delightful woodsy scent of
cedar chips and turned at the sound of the masculine
voice she recognized from the porch.

"Hello, again." The man and the dog stood in front
of an unlit fireplace at the far side of the room. He
wore a towel around his neck and Levis tucked into
army boots. The German shepherd wagged its tail and
started to move forward. But its master spoke a
command. "Sit, Gabriel."

The dog obeyed.

Rachel found it difficult to breathe as the man
glanced from her hair to the stilettos peeking beneath
her jeans. She resisted the urge to smooth her curls or
straighten the blazer.

He cast aside the towel and strode toward Rachel
and the housekeeper. His boots clunked on the
hardwood floor.

Mrs. Busby spoke with a stiff voice. "Mr. Barrett,
shall I place her luggage in your room, sir? Or a guest

Blood rushed to Rachel’s face. In his room? "No—
this is not the person I’m here to see."
  The housekeeper turned to her. "You said Mr.
Barrett expected you, Miss York."

"I would like to speak with Mr. Charles Barrett, if
you please. He should be expecting me."

The housekeeper’s mouth fell open, but the man
waved her out the door. She left without a word.

He turned to Rachel, a corner of his mouth
quirked up. "You mean my uncle invited you here to
spend the night? That’d be a first."

Speechless, Rachel stared at him, her cheeks hot
enough to fry an egg. Raindrops glistened on his short
black hair, and brown stubble darkened his chiseled
face. The hint of a mustache floated above thin lips
now stretched into a grin. Surely she was the victim of
a joke—and by a most handsome man, even with the
patch across his left eye.

He propped on the edge of the desk, folded his
powerful arms, and met her burning glance. "Sorry,
let’s start over. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an
honest-to-goodness flush like the one lighting your

Some apology.

"I’m Luke Barrett." A smile showed even white
teeth, and he leaned forward and extended his hand.
The low, rich timbre of his voice vibrated through
Rachel, and the scent of spicy aftershave tickled her
nose. She took a needed breath and shook hands.
Luke's calloused palm swallowed hers, and their gazes
met. A tiny shock coursed through her.

"Rachel York,‛ she said, surprised at the tightness
in her throat. She tried not to stare at the patch and 
disengaged from his handshake.

He reached up and adjusted the black oval.
"Won’t you sit down and tell me why you’re here?"

She moved to a chair and perched on its edge.
Luke sat behind the desk. A small, half-finished
woodcarving lay in front of him. He swept the 
shavings into a trash basket and dropped the wooden
piece and pocketknife into a drawer. Leaning back in
his chair, he cracked his knuckles twice and gazed at

Rachel started to speak, but a grandfather clock
nearby struck the hour, making speech impossible.

Luke cocked his head until the chimes stopped.

"I’m sorry I’m late," Rachel said when silence
again reigned, "but my plane was delayed by the
storm, and I couldn’t get a phone connection. Has your
uncle retired already?"

Something like shutters closed over Luke’s face.
And he sat up straight, alert, similar to a tiger ready to
pounce. "You might say so. You claim he was
expecting you?"

Rachel’s empty stomach knotted. What was going
on? First, the housekeeper, now this nephew. Not the
welcome she hoped for. She shook off her uneasiness—
everything could be cleared up in two seconds. "Mr.
Barrett offered me a summer position caring for a
child. Would you like to see the note?"

Luke’s brow rose, and he reached a wide palm
across the desktop. "Definitely."

Rachel opened her handbag. As she searched for
the paper, his rapt attention reminded her of her
stepfather Lester’s interrogations. A lipstick plopped
out onto the floor, and she bent to retrieve it. Finally,
she found the missive and passed it to Luke.

He unfolded it and read it.

Relax. Never again would she fear Lester Black
and his stifling control. When he discovered she’d left
for a summer job states away, he might become
furious, but he could do nothing about it. She was in
the midst of a new beginning, like her brother Ron 
surely enjoyed in his earlier move to Charleston. A
pain crossed her heart. But she couldn’t think about
Ron. Not yet.

She studied the man before her. Thank God there
was nothing else about him remindful of her
stepfather. A calm strength emanated from Luke
Barrett evocative of Ron and his Drug Enforcement
Administration associates, who kept in top physical

Luke glanced up at her.

She squirmed and blinked. He’d caught her
staring at him.

An uneasy silence settled in the air as he
reexamined the note. A frown creased his brow.
Rachel’s travel weariness returned, and a dull pain
began to throb behind her eye. She inspected the room
to avoid gazing at him. A padlocked gun case on the
left displayed an assortment of rifles, pistols, and
revolvers. She scanned titles in the bookcase behind
Luke. Her jumbled mind made out "Marines" etched
on a manual. A Bible sat in a corner with some framed
pictures. Two of them featured a dark-headed little
girl. Her charge, perhaps? Some of Rachel’s tension

She stole a glance again at Luke still bent over the
letter. A muscle worked in his jaw. Obviously, he did
not know about his uncle’s job offer to her. Mr.
Barrett’s gentle face the day she talked with him in
Dean Wood’s office floated across her mind, and her
confidence recharged.

Luke dropped the letter on the desk and sat
forward. "Where did you get this, Miss York?" His
challenging demeanor startled her.

She stood and swallowed. "From your uncle, of course. 
He can explain everything.

"Uncle Charles died two weeks ago."


 Here is a picture I used for inspiration for my hero as I wrote Summer of Deception. 

         Luke Barrett, before he lost an eye in the war.

By the way, my second novel, In a Pirate's Debt, is actually a prequel to Summer. I went back to Luke's ancestor, the first owner of Barrett Hall, a former pirate, who took the kings' pardon.

Thanks for stopping by. How did you like this first chapter? Did I miss any of the listed pointers that should be in a first chapter? If this series on first chapters has helped you, please share on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.


Elva Cobb Martin is vice-president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels published with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site,on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest
        Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: