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Title: JUST A YORKSHIRE LASS (circa 70,000 words).

Date: AUGUST 28TH 2007

From time to time, Hallmark Press use freelance critique writers to provide us with independent reports on our manuscripts. Their impartial views provide us with a balanced opinion of the work and, if appropriate detail recommendations for improvement. Michelle Emerson of Eloquence Word Processing and Critique Services, based in County Durham, is one of our freelance Critique suppliers and below is one of her most recent critiques. I would like to thank both Michelle and Harvey, for giving their kind permission to reproduce the un-edited and complete text below.
Michelle can be contacted at:

Just a Yorkshire Lass is a partly completed novel based around the lives of two families. Firstly we meet Tom, sitting at his dying father's bedside in Harrogate Cottage Hospital. However, unlike most people in this position, Tom is actually relieved to get some closure on what was a violent relationship with this man. Tom despised his father, not only for the malevolence he displayed towards him but also the violence and bullying he forced upon his mother. After one particularly brutal episode Tom was convinced his mum had been murdered by this brute and he spent many years believing he would never see her again. Ironically, the day of his father's death is also the day his daughter is born.

The second chapter introduces the character of Ross Bentley. After serving in the REME, he returned home to Birmingham and began working as an engineer for the notoriously miserly company, Pollit and Grosse who produce components for the motor industry. However, when Pollit and Grosse decided to close the company, Ross seizes the opportunity to buy it and turn it around. Not only does this turn of events launch Ross into a completely new chapter of his life but he and Jenny, the young office secretary, finally admit their feelings to each other and begin a romantic relationship. Even more fortunate is the fact that Jenny's father is a successful barrister who helps Ross with all the legal aspects of the takeover and Bentley Engineering begins operating.

Having set the scene for both central protagonists, the plot moves at a good pace, incorporating the relevant twists and turns necessary to retain the reader's interest. If the reader thinks that Tom's life is going to get easier as a result of his father's death then they are mistaken. Despite the overwhelming feelings of love and affection he has for his daughter, Victoria, the reader learns of the destructive relationship between him and his wife, Rosemary, who takes over the role of bully in Tom's life. Her dislike of her baby daughter and the jealousy she shows towards her is further fuelled by her drinking. We see her venomous character become more and more poisonous towards her husband and daughter and the inevitable downward spiral her alcoholism is creating. In contrast, Ross' life becomes more positive and upbeat. Despite some minor hiccups early on, his business begins to grow and so, too, does his relationship with Jenny. Between them, they also manage to break the ice surrounding the cold, school mistress character of Miss Ducker, a long-term employee of Pollit and Grosse whose negative attitude towards other people left a great deal to be desired.

The author has successfully created some strong, believable characters here whose emotions, setbacks and actions display all the nuances and foibles of the human psyche. True to life, just when we think everything will work out fine for someone, they are hit by another challenge which they must overcome before continuing on their fated path. The setting of the engineering industry connects the characters, whose paths have yet to cross and I assume that Victoria becomes the 'Yorkshire Lass' who will unite the lives of the two protagonists together once the book is completed. The setting is realistic and handled competently and the author seems to have drawn on his professional knowledge in this field to produce a convincing environment for the characters. The author has also done well to fashion a believable plot from what is, fundamentally, a straightforward idea and the style of writing is natural and readable.

The characterisation is approached extremely well in this book and the strengths and weaknesses of each character are clearly defined, with the many facets of their different personalities contributing to their believability.
Dialogue is sometimes the downfall of authors when writing fiction but, in this case, the direct speech is used, in the main, to good effect. The dialogue is strong, appropriate for its purpose and brings the characters to life. It also helps to move the pace of the book quickly and appropriately. It is a difficult skill but well handled here and gives the book an added dimension.

The plot appears to be structurally sound and the well-constructed chapters flow comfortably, alternating between the characters of Tom and Ross. The chapters end on a note which warrants the reader to continue and are of sufficient length to hold attention. Another important factor is the use of the omniscient second person narrative which, in some cases, omits any in-depth discovery of important characters. However, in this case it has been well handled. The author has managed to develop one of the strongest aspects of the book and that is the concept of human relationships.

Displaying an acute appreciation of human characteristics and interactions the author is also able to convey them in a very realistic and at times evocative way. There is a whole range of emotions - anguish, pain, recrimination, guilt, frustration and reconciliation. In fact, most of the feelings one has to deal with in life or at least in the sort of situations introduced in the novel. I was impressed with this aspect; the author shows a good understanding of human nature and this adds positively to the story.
Overall, I would be keen to see the remainder of this work and would like to see the author continue in order to resolve the many unanswered questions regarding the destiny of these characters.

Despite its promise, however, there are some major weaknesses in the presentation of the work, such as the significant amount of spelling mistakes, bad punctuation, poor grammar and sometimes badly structured sentences. This does make the text difficult to read and understand. There are also times where the wrong name has been used, such as Ross instead of Tom on page 112. However, these problems can be rectified by a competent copy-editor and proofreader and do not pose too much of a threat to your work being taken seriously. I would urge you, however, to resolve these points prior to submitting your manuscript to publishing houses. If your work smacks of professionalism you will have a better opportunity of being read.

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