Query Critique 4

Our first women’s fiction query!

Comments in pink. I’m running out of font colors that aren’t too hard to read. Which makes me sad, but I’m still not going to stoop to using red.


Dear Agent,

Based on your representation of X and Y (or other personal note), I believe you will be interested in REFUGE OF DOVES (88,000 words), a work of women’s fiction set in present day and medieval France. From the query, I’m not entirely sure I know which parts are set in medieval France. Are there scenes that actually take place in the past, or just sort of flashbacks?

Fans of the romantic tension and supernatural flair of Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, the historical conspiracies of Christi Phillips’s The Rosetti Letter, and the lyrical past-meets-present storytelling of Kate Mosse (Labyrinth, Citadel) will enjoy REFUGE OF DOVES, which I was inspired to write after living in France.

REFUGE OF DOVES is the story of a woman standing at the crossroads of fact and faith, revenge and redemption, I don’t love constructions like this. I see them too much. who must uncover the truth of a thirteenth century murder to free a man haunted by ghosts from his past But this part is interesting. It is the story of love, reborn. Eh. This, again, is less exciting.

In January 1208, the assassination of a papal emissary in southwestern France changed the course of European history: it launched genocide against the Cathars, followers of a faith deemed heretical by the Christian church. This, to me, is more interesting than the last paragraph. I think assassination is a great way to start with a bang! I would start with this.

Eight hundred years after this murder, and eighteen months after her husband’s death, historian LIA CARRER I wouldn’t put this in caps. Caps are usually reserved for the manuscript’s title. flees the Pacific Northwest for a friend’s home in southwestern France, determined to rebuild her life. This sentence has a ton of great information, but is a bit on the long side. If it can be condensed, I would do that. Instead of finding solace in the quiet hills and medieval ruins of the Languedoc, she stumbles into the lives of a winemaker, a photographer, and a priest. Lia learns the truth of these men’s pasts and it sends her into an emotional tailspin: she is entangled with enemies who perished during the only religious crusade to take place on European soil. I’d like to see a stronger connection between the string of events of meeting the three guys and getting involved in this historical assassination. Also, this sentence seems like it could mean the story has paranormal elements (she is literally being haunted by ghosts from the crusade). If this is the case, make it clearer. Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia, an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith. To reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. And the woman trying to heal must risk love, and loss, again. I like the way this leaves off.

My work has appeared in the anthologies Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers, Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss, Flash of Fiction, Stories for Sendai, featured in the literary journals Cobalt, Granny Smith Magazine, River Poets Journal, and Cirque, shortlisted for the New Millennium Writings Award for Fiction, the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Award for Fiction, and awarded First Place, Romance, by Short Story Competition HQ. Here’s my two bits about including information about anthology publications and awards. I usually don’t particularly care. If it’s not a publication or award I’ve heard of, I don’t know how prestigious it is. Like you won this award, but how many other people were you up against? And it’s just sort of easy for my eyes to glaze over. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t mention it. But I like sections like this to be fairly short. And if the book doesn’t sound interesting, none of this matters to me at all. But the book does sound interesting, so that’s good. Part of that is just personal preference, though. Okay, rant over.

Per your submission guidelines, a sample chapter and synopsis are attached. My sincere thanks for your time and consideration.



Overall, I think this a pretty solid query. It did feel a little long, so I would consider condensing a few parts. But the premise really intrigued me, and the writing style seemed smooth. I like to see books about lesser-known historical events.


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