Leigh Wilde - Hatbox and Doppler Press Premium

“Women buy romance novels, and they can smell and reject a male author a mile away.”

Leigh Wilde by Angela Rasch

“This is the best writing you’ve done,” Tom said, finishing his daily two ounces of eighteen-year old Chivas Regal with a satisfactory smack of his lips.

I blushed, but continued chopping vegetables for the salad. I’d rubbed the veal with olive oil and black pepper and covered it with a delicious herbed mustard sauce while it grilled.

Tom taught the post-graduate writing course I had taken at the university when I first got to New York. When he wasn’t teaching, he worked as a literary agent for six select authors. Under his wing, each of them had cracked the “Times” bestsellers’ list during the past five years. One of his authors had spoken too freely and told me that Tom’s income as a literary agent put him in the top one percent of those in that field. He wasn’t taking on any new clients.

“It’s only a chapter and a short synopsis,” I pleaded, although the last thing I wanted him to do was change his review.

He grabbed a large piece of red pepper and gleefully chomped it down, before I could scold him. “Jeremy, I’ve sold six-figure deals to major houses on much, much less.”

My checking account didn’t run to six-figures, including the cents.

“When I sell my first book,” I said, “you’ll get half.” Several months ago, Tom and I had gone out with a group after class to celebrate his thirty-third birthday. It turned out I was the only one who wasn’t working a day job to support his writing. Tom admired my determination and made me an offer.

He needed a housekeeper/cook and had a spare bedroom in his spacious and lavish apartment. He believed in my writing potential. If I would take on those chores and agree to pay him half of the income from my first novel, he would cover all rent and food expense, plus pay me fifty dollars a week so I could buy incidentals. I didn't really hesitate; the choice seemed clear-cut.

Tom was noted for two things around campus: his generosity and his insatiable appetite for beautiful coeds. It crossed the back of my mind that I might be able to find love amongst his leavings. Women found him irresistible both for his boyish charm and sophisticated good looks. I found him to be a great teacher and good company.

But, foremost in my decision to accept his offer was my plan to convince him to represent my first novel.

He’d made a good bargain. I had worked my way through college in a four-star Minneapolis restaurant and had learned enough so that even his educated palate was pleased more often than not. For some reason, Tom expected my cooking -- and writing -- to be good.

“If you soften your voice,” he said, “and complete a manuscript by January, your novel will be the biggest summer romance a year from next June.” Eighteen months before publishing, at best. It was hard for me to get my head around how long it took for the book business to do anything.

By “voice” I knew he meant the narrative “voice” in my writing. “What exactly do you mean by soften?” In my disappointment my question came out as almost a whine. To pass the time when I wasn’t cooking, cleaning, or staring at my computer screen trying to force words out of my head, I had read every romance novel in his personal collection. He owned over fifty of them. I’d thought my writing style was representative of the genre.

“Women buy romance novels,” Tom replied, “and they can smell and reject a male author a mile away.”


Leigh Wilde by Angela Rasch
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Also available from Doppler Press for $2.50.

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This story is 693 words long.