First, thanks to JmDiaz and Abby for commenting. I have two followers now. At least someone is reading what I write! And Abby -- Fox Glove sounds great. Did you design that cover by yourself?
To some extent, this horrible, degrading process is useful. I've tinkered with chapter one now, thanks to the commentary I received (see below), and it's probably better for it -- though maybe only marginally so. And getting a few rejections made me tinker some more with my query language, and it's probably better for it -- though maybe only marginally so.
At some point, of course, tinkering reaches a point of diminishing returns. I think I've reached that point. Substantively nothing in my novel is going to change until it gets in the hands of an agent or editor who cares about it.
It was nice to hear from another friend who read the ms. that she thought it was a real "page-turner." And she only had the second draft.