Literary Lagniappe

Bloopers, bonus features, and behind the scenes views from all your favorite romances

Opening Lines by Lily Harlem


Thanks so much for inviting me to Literary Lagniappe, it’s great to be here. A little about me, well, I’m an award-winning author of erotic romance, I live in the UK and before letting my imagination run riot I worked as a nurse in a busy London hospital.

Since leaving nursing nearly 8 years ago I have immersed myself in writing erotic romance. I’ve always loved to read raunch but these days I indulge in dreaming up stories and getting them down on paper too. My books range from sweetly sexy to down and dirty erotica. I like sports romance too and have a series at Ellora’s Cave called Hot Ice which is enormous fun as well as smokin’ hot. I also like to write a lot of British characters, since my voice is British that works well for me.

When I was asked to guest post at Literary Lagniappe it was on a day I had just started editing a new novel – Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse (now published by Mischief at Harper Collins). This book had been great fun to write and I enjoy the editing process, sifting back through the characters thoughts and emotions, their actions and of course the spicy bits. I got to thinking, as I re-read that first chapter what makes me start a story when I do. How does that idea spill onto the page?


Of course the opening line of a book is vitally important and for me it’s one of the first things that comes to my head. But there is an actual way of defining these first lines, so they told me at my creative writing lectures, here you go, a few pearls of wisdom along with examples…

Dialogue – Throwing the reader straight into a conversation between characters.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Woman “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Statement – A fact or authoritarian comment.

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Setting – Description of the environment.

Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things “May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month.”

In media res (latin for ‘in the middle of things’) – puts the reader immediately into the situation.

James Frey A Million Little Pieces “I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.” 

I got to thinking about my first lines. This is the first line of Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse. It’s not a big, wordy affair…

“He’s dead.”

A bit shocking maybe, especially for a romance! But does it make you want to read more? Who is dead? Who is speaking? How did he die? Now what will happen?

My other book out with Harper Collins is a co-author called Anything for Him written with Natalie Dae. It’s a dark, edgy story about obsessional love and seedy desires. The first line is…

I stared at the photograph he’d emailed me. He’d promised he would and, finally, it had arrived.

Again, this line makes the reader asks questions, and I’ve discovered that’s what I really enjoy, creating a world that drip feeds information rather than dumping it onto the page. Not a mystery as such, but throwing the reader into the moment and letting them discover what the characters are doing. I remember being told by a lecturer that the worst opening line – in his opinion – was…

She stretched languidly on the bed and opened her eyes.

At the time I couldn’t understand why he was so offended by it, but now I do, it’s because nothing is happening. As a reader I just see a woman waking up, a bit bored, nothing unusual, no clue as to what the day ahead holds. I’m just not grabbed, already I’m thinking of my shopping list!

Here are a few more first lines from my books…

Slap Shot (third book in the Hot Ice series but can be enjoyed as a stand alone read) this is a humorous chat up line and I admit a little cheesy, but it’s fun…

Is there an airport around here or is that my heart taking off?”


More, another co-author and an erotic short told in the second person…

Don’t just slap me once, it’s not enough. 


Dangerous to Know, a dark erotic novella that deals with whore fantasy…

Peering through binoculars, I cursed the spring growth on the trees below my apartment.


Shared – my first novel with Ellora’s Cave and a spicy ménage a trois…

I couldn’t stay in Merthyr Tydfil another hour let alone another day—not now.


The Unwholesome Adventures of Harita – part of Total-E-Bound’s Bollywood series, and a little unusual because the first line is actually the heroine’s fictional writing…

It has been an eventful weekend in my nocturnal world.

So you can see that I enjoy first lines, but also first chapters. In fact you can read several of mine at D Renee Bagby’s first chapter blog including…

Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse

Anything for Him

*GIVEAWAY* I am going to give away a epub copy of Anything for Him to one commentor. As I said this is a dark, gritty erotica set in London and explores the power of obsession, the pursuit of seedy desires and lands the heroine in more trouble than she ever bargained for. It’s co-written with Natalie Dae and you can read more about our joint works on my website. Contest ends on April 18, 2013 at 11:59PM EDT.

Recent review for Anything for Him“I read this book in one sitting, devouring this story of desire and obsession.” – USA TODAY – Kristina Wright


Anything for him3Just how far will one woman go to fulfil her fantasies?

I prefer to chase the news, not be the news. But when the delectable Liuz, with his uncannily accurate perception of my secret desires weaved his way into my life, it wasn’t long before I was in way too deep, submerged and intoxicated with a passion I was afraid was more than I could handle.

Or was it? Because although my heart was overwhelmed with feelings I had no resistance against, and while my deceitful body was consumed by a burning passion, I still had a plan. A plan I prayed would keep me afloat as I was pushed to the very edge of my limits, while the journey got tougher than even my wildest flights of fantasy could have imagined.

I claimed him and I felt that he was rightfully mine. My heart simply couldn’t beat without a permanent connection between our hearts, minds and bodies. Losing was not an option, not when my sanity depended on winning him.

Because I would, quite literally, do anything for him.

Buy links for Anything for Him

Mischief * Amazon US * Amazon UKARe

Buy Links for Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse

Mischief * 
Amazon US * 
Amazon UK * ARe

More information about HOT ICE  –  and all my other books on my website. Thanks for reading and if you have a favourite first line of a book I’d love to hear about it J


Lily Harlem links

Website  * Blog * Twitter * Facebook  * Facebook author page  * Pinterest * Goodreads 



Author: emilycale

Erotic romance writer. Runs on caffeine and wine. Don't feed after midnight.

5 thoughts on “Opening Lines by Lily Harlem

  1. First lines are so very, very important and you’ve got some great ones! Thanks so much for hanging out with us today, Lily!

  2. Thanks so much for hanging out with us today, Lily! Great post.

    Also, big congrats on how well Anything for Him is currently doing.

  3. Thank you for inviting me to Literary Lagniappe, it’s great to be here. And for the congrats about Anything for Him which is romping up the Amazon UK Free charts.

    In regard to that, Just a quick note about the giveaway, if you’re in the UK you can grab a FREE copy of Anything for Him on Amazon. The publisher, HarperCollins, has thrown it out for free for a limited time. It’s number one in the erotica charts as I write this, but be warned, it is erotica, not a romance, no hearts and flowers in this one.

    I will of course still give out a copy to a non UK reader, so good luck 🙂

    Lily x

  4. Hi Lisa and Lilly, thanks for giving me a snapshot into writing process! So fascinating. I can’t wait to read more

  5. It’s going to be end of mine day, except before ending I am reading this wonderful post to increase my experience.

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