Sunday, 22 January 2017

Powderflash aka Gold's Bride

 Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist.

Powderflash / Gold's Bride Post 22

Powderflash (1999) was one of my first ebooks, published as a --wait for it -- small-format floppy disk. After it went out of print, it was published as a paperback and more modern ebook in 2005 as Gold's Bride . This edition is still in print as far as I know. Certainly, it still shows up on all sorts of websites. I find this odd for all sorts of reasons, none of which I'll go into here.

This is the story of Garnet Perry, a girl whose stepmother and stepsister don't especially want her around.  A marriage is arranged with a distant relative of her stepmother, and she sets of to the colonies. Upon arrival she's dismayed to find her husband-to-be is older, drunker, and more unpleasant than any young woman should have to put up with, and is in possession of a spectacularly horrid old mother who is determined for her son to have an heir. Neither Garnet or her husband finds that idea enticing, so enter a man servant whom Garnet doesn't like either. Old Mother comes to a bad end, and her son, who never wanted a wife in the first place, sets up an auction with Garnet as the merchandise. She's purchased by Jeremiah Gold, who is half Jew and half convict and thus doesn't particularly fit into society. He has a land grant, and wants a wife, so he pays his money and takes his chance. Garnet, whose bad temper won her the nickname "Powderflash" in childhood is not pleased. Neither is she pleased to find she's supposed to work. She escapes. Bushrangers, a fire, attempted murder, and a spell in a house of ill fame (complete with a hot teapot) ensue.

Powderflash aka Gold's Bride is as ripe a melodrama as I ever wrote, as you may have guessed from the description of some of the action. I was thus delighted (if bemused) when a reader in the US reviewed it as being "somewhat more realistic than most romances" (or something similar). It was a good favourable review but I did wonder what impression my lovely reader had of we downunderites! Other readers also enjoyed it, though they didn't mention the realism angle.

On the other hand, the book also had the most scathing review of any I have ever had, or possibly ever seen. To add to my dismay it was reviewed not once but twice (once under each incarnation) by the same reviewer. Evidently, she disliked it so heartily she went to the trouble of seeking it out again and printing the review again to make sure I got the point. All I can say is - OUCH.

One more thing makes Powderflash / Gold's Bride unusual among my novels. As you may see from the covers of the two editions, the two publishers had very different notions of how my 19th Century heroine would look. I am fond of the first cover. It depicts a scene from the story, and Garnet is dressed in costume and hair style of the right period. The second cover is also attractive, but to my mind Garnet looks like a modern woman. As for the thing in the background; I am told that's a prairie schooner, which, as far as I know, is something that never existed in Australia.  This aside, I'm interested to see how different the two impressions are. Which, oh reader, do you like best?

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