Great Opening Lines!

What makes a great opening line to a book? 

I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately as I work on my newest manuscript.  I figure the best way to answer this question is to go to my keeper shelf, draw out a few books at random and read the opening lines.  Here are a few of the ones I grabbed.

It wasn’t every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world.   –Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Daisy Devreaux had forgotten her bridegroom’s name.      –Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Elizabeth Fitch’s short-lived teenage rebellion began with L’Oreal Pure Black, a pair of scissors and a fake ID.       –The Witness by Nora Roberts

As Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, stared at the young woman who had just barged her way into his London residence, it occurred to him that he might have tried to abduct the wrong heiress last week at Stony Cross Park.           –The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The body in the road was the absolute cap to the day.   –Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Saying that she went to the annual Firefighter’s Charity Breakfast for pancakes was like saying she watched baseball for the game—when everyone knew that you watched baseball for the guys in tight uniform pants.            –Always on My Mind by Jill Shalvis

So, really?  Are you surprised the above books are on my keeper shelf?  Of course, as any dedicated writer would do after reviewing how some of her favorite authors started some of her favorite books, I decided to grab a few of my own books (again at random) to see if I’m starting my own stories with great first lines.  I’ll let you decided if I got it right or not.

 

Spetember 2011 release                 The_Marshal_Takes_a_Bride_Cover_art                    The Outlaw's Redemption cover art

From Courting the Enemy, September 2011 release: The betrayal came at too high a cost.

From The Marshal Takes a Bride, February 2009 release: Cornered and nearly out of ideas, U.S. marshal Trey Scott refused to consider retreat.

From The Outlaw’s Redemption, July 2013 release:  Hunter Mitchell was a free man.

 

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From Dangerous Allies, September 2010 release:  They came to watch her die.

 

 

 

 

Now it’s your turn.  Do you have any favorite opening lines?  Leave a comment and I’ll enter your name in the drawing for a copy of a book from my backlist (your choice).

 

 

 

Renee Ryan
Award-winning, multi-published author Renee Ryan sold her first book by winning the 2001 inaugural Dorchester/Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. She sold her second book to Harlequin Love Inspired Historical and has since sold nine more manuscripts to Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical.
Updated: April 22, 2014 — 4:32 pm

16 Comments

  1. Very interesting Ranee. i like the first sentence in Jennifer Beckstrand’s Huckleberry Hill. It was: Anna Helmuth eased herself into the wooden rocker where she once cuddled each of her thirteen babies and took up her needles.

    Can’t imagine having thirteen babies. Oh my! But it must have been a real good rocker. It is a good book. Thanks for a chance to win another of your books. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. Maxie, what a great opening line. I already know so much about the character from that one sentence. Now that’s what I’m talking about!!!

  3. Oh I love good first lines! They’re so crucial. They set the tone for the whole book. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Kaki Warner from Pieces of Sky: “I’m a dead man.”

    Pamela Morsi from Here Comes the Bride: “There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must get herself a man or give up on the idea entirely,”

    Linda Lael Miller from A Wanted Man: “Rowdy Rhodes leaned back in the whorehouse bathtub, a cheroot jutting from between his teeth, and sighed as he waited for the chill of a high-country winter to seep out of his bones.”

    Some of the best though were by Kathleen Woodiwiss but they’re kinda long so I didn’t put them here. I compliment you on the ones from your books. They’re all outstanding!

  4. Hmm…I don’t really recall first lines. Although, Harry Potter does come to mind…

    Mr. and Mrs. Dursely, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

  5. I love the opening line from The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher- “As far as Bethany Shrock was concerned, this summer was hotter than a firecracker lit on both ends.”

    I have a feeling this summer is going to be that hot! Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. I love They came to watch her die. Linda Howard’s “He needed a woman bad.” is one I heard at an RWA luncheon and never forgot LOL. Best wishes with the new manuscript and continued success.

  7. Oh boy… nothing is coming to me at the moment… but I do love when the first lines draw you in! Really grab your attention!

  8. I’ve read a lot of books with greta opening lines. The one that was short and sweet and said so much was in SO DAMM LUCKY-Deborah Coonts it said
    Some things in life are best savored alone-sex is not one of them.

    But the best LAST line in a book was in HIGH FIVE -Janet Evanovich when as she opened the door and a guy was standing there …
    “Nice dress, he said. Take it off.” and of course, we did not know who the guy was-her current boyfriend or her other interest.

  9. There’s an epilogue first but then the first line of Alex Kava’s A Necessary Evil is, “There’s just no good way to pick up a human head.”

    Another favorite also with an epilogue first, Julie Garwood Slow Burn: Katie McKenna’s Wonderbra saved her life.

    A favorite from my own work Calico Canyon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse came into the school room, late as usual.

    Another from The Husband Tree: Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony’s handsome, worthless face. (she’s burying her third worthless husband under the Husband Tree)

    From Swept Away: The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Luke Stone’s head around.

    I love great first lines! I need to work harder on mine!

  10. One of my most beloved old books, No Greater Love by Katherine Kingsley: Georgia clutched her reticule in her lap, watching in a daze as the scenery passed by. She felt as if she’d just been traded at Tattersall[‘s like so much horseflesh, without so much as a by-your-leave.

  11. I don’t recall the first lines of any recent reads, but the ones mentioned here, are great! I find, though, if that line doesn’t grab me–I am not too excited about going on. I would love to have my name in the pot for your book.
    Mary J.

  12. WOW, I’m loving all the first lines you ladies are posting. Looks like I better up my game. I’m INSPIRED!!!

  13. My favorite of yours above is the last one – “They came to watch her die.”

    Short and succinct is my preference. Julie Garwood has some that catch the attention like yours above from Dangerous Allies.

    “They meant to kill him.” Honor’s Splendour.
    “It was time to seek the vision.” The Lion’s Lady
    “The deathwatch was over.” The Bride
    “He never knew what hit him.” The Prize

    Mary Connealy listed some good ones. The one from The Husband Tree is what convinced me I needed to read the book.

  14. “Monsieur Etienne Gabeau wasn’t his real name.” love this in the beginning of Gatehaven by Molly Bull.
    “Flames roared into the sky.” Great intro to Talon by Ronie Kendig.
    Love those you wrote above!! They have spurred me on to looking them up. LOL

  15. I’m one of those who like the really old lines. Dickens’ “It was the best of times and the worst of times” gets me every time.

  16. I’m going to a writer’s retreat this weekend and we’re going to have a discussion about opening lines so this post is perfectly timed. BTW, I think Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a master at great opening lines.
    Thanks for the post which I’ve pulled lines from to take with me.

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