So, I'm looking at an old manuscript that I might edit and submit. It's historical romance, Regency, a bit more traditional in style and setting than Sergeant's Lady or my work-in-progress.
I've entered it in two writing contests--the Golden Heart (which provides only numerical scores, no feedback), where it got mediocre scores, and an RWA chapter's contest where one judge thought it was perfect as-is, another thought it was flawed but had potential, and a third found it boring. Judges #2 and #3 agreed on one thing, that I'd made a mistake by opening the novel in my villain's point of view.
The villain of the piece, you see, is a sort of false hero. The heroine begins the novel thinking that she's in love with him, and that a more ideal man could not exist. Over the course of the book she has to learn that she's wrong and come to appreciate the hero instead. So I deliberately made the villain a sort of parody of a certain type of romance hero, the coldly misogynistic type that I never actually write because I can't suspend my own disbelief that the love of a good woman is enough to fix that.
Anyway, apparently my villain is just enough like a hero that opening in his POV leads the reader to think that he is, but is also sufficiently easy to hate that no one WANTS him to be. So at least for those two contest judges, I'd be better off opening in the heroine's POV, both for clarity and to draw readers in by introducing them to a character whose mind isn't such an offputting place to visit.
I kinda suspect they're right...but I love that opening scene! There's a certain clarity in writing a character so straightforward in his selfishness and contempt for all those he deems to be lesser beings, and I get to foreshadow all kinds of important plot points that neither the heroine nor the hero have any inkling of until well past the halfway point of the manuscript. Also, unlike in a contest, if the book sells most readers will know he isn't the hero, because they'll have read the back cover copy.
So. What do you think of opening a romance with a villain POV? No go, or could it work?