So, I received a rather disheartening rejection today. Sigh. She wanted to see more of an emotional connection with the main character. As she only read the first three chapters, she didn't actually make it to that part. I like to write my main character as tough and fearless and let the emotional sensitivity show through later as the readers and other characters get to know her and see more deeply into her heart. Like, here's what she seems to be, and here's what she REALLY is. Or, here's the personality she shows on the outside and, if you earn her trust, you'll see more because the outside is one big hardened fake shell. But that's not working.
After consulting with my mentor, it looks like I'm going to have to rewrite the first chapter in order for my protagonist to "save the cat" earlier on. In other words, she needs to do something dangerous and heroic and emotionally heart string tugging right from the get-go in order to snag an agent's (and editor's) attention and establish that emotional connection. Because agents and editors rarely read past chapter 3.
Well, that's frustrating. I was very pleased with my first three chapters. I've received many compliments on them. They are solid, polished, and end with a lovely third chapter hook. I'm afraid of messing them up. But I don't have an agent and I'm not published. So, it looks like I'm back to the drawing board.