Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Here Be Steps

Here be  Steps:  Here Be Post 2

When is a step not a step? When the wedding doesn't happen. I rounded up twenty-six of my books that have actual, potential or avoided step-relationships in them. Some are in the same series as others, so they deal with the same step-situation(s).
What I found puzzling, having never thought of it before, is whether the mother of your half-brother is a stepmother if she never actually married your father. All the definitions I can find say spouse unequivocally. It also seems step parents who have not formally adopted the child in question have few legal rights or responsibilities regarding that child. Maybe someone ought to have told Snow White that. But never fear, my steps aren't in the apple-poisoning league. Among the worst would be Martha who sent her stepdaughter Garnet across the world because she was inconvenient. Phoebe didn't send her stepdaughter Ness anywhere, but she was pleased enough be be rid of her. Then there was Mr Biggins who didn't send his stepdaughter Anna anywhere but whose behaviour prompted Anna's mother to dispose of her daughter into service rather than kicking Mr Biggins where it hurt. Among the best would be Claire, Flick and Ajay, who love Smiley and George every bit as much as any parent could.


Anna’s Own (1995) When Bridget Kelly marries Sam Shepherd, she acquires Agnes Shepherd as a stepdaughter. The fallout from that could be tricky, since Agnes used to torment the slightly older Bridget at school. Anna's mother Lily had also provided Anna with a stepfather; Mr Biggins, when she was fourteen. He displayed a more than fatherly interest in Anna, so Lily sent her into service.
Step-rating - 5/10 for Bridget and Agnes. It would be worse if they had to live together. 0/10 for Mr Biggins. As for Lily... but she was a mother with no step about it. 

Another Good Friend and All the Sea Between. Dominic Grant’s mother Leeanne married Graham Cooper, a widower with a daughter. They later had another daughter. That meant Dominic had one full sister; Holly, one half-sister; Sasha and one stepsister; Peri. It worked pretty well except that the Coopers and Holly were all loud and expressive while Dominic was more like his quiet father Patrick Grant. When Patrick reconnected with his children when Dominic was sixteen it caused a dilemma.
Step-rating - 7/10. Everyone means well.

The Case of the Disappearing Dog Jilly, Kath and Will acquire a stepfather when the author next door, Mr Chang, marries their mother Ruth. This is a happy situation for all of them, and not only because Jilly now knows just how she can be related to Jonathan Chang, her friend who hasn’t been born yet.
Step-rating - 9/10. Mr Chang is made for that family. 

In Floribunda and the Best Men, Flori Alexandris has a stepfather named John Flood. After her mother's death, John remarried and Flori, although not especially close to him, wished him well.
Step-rating - 7/10. There's no love, but plenty of good will.

Gold’s Bride begins with Garnet Perry sailing to NSW on a bride ship, dispatched by her stepmother, Martha, to marry Martha’s cousin Edward Landis. Garnet is a striking young woman with red hair and an unfreckled complexion, and Martha’s motive is mostly to get her out of the way so her own daughter, Prudence, Garnet’s stepsister, can shine.
Step-rating - 3/10. Expedience rather than malice is the key but Martha, you could and should have done better. I mean, how well did you know Ned Landis? Did you understand he was more interested in his man, Harbord, than in any woman?

Heather and Heath. Ness's stepmother Phoebe is marrying again and has no wish to keep a grown stepdaughter in the place so she is pleased when Ness sails off to NSW. Mind you, she doesn't treat her own son Donal any better.  The step-siblings Ness and Donal get on pretty well, and in later years Ness pays Donal and his wife an extended visit. Widowed Isobel eventually marries James Galbraith, but by then her son Robert is grown up so his stepfather barely affects his life. Isobel herself had a stepmother named Margaret who treated her well enough.
Step-rating - 3/10 for Phoebe, 7/10 for Margaret but 8/10 for James who tries his best, and for Donal and Ness, friends in adversity. 

Honey and the Harvest Hob. Honeycomb Bakewell intended to marry Jake Green. This would have made her a step-stepmother to his stepchildren, but since they were well into their teens she didn’t expect that to be a problem.
Step-rating - 7/10 for intention, but it never happened. Also 7/10 for Jake, who treated Molly's children with civility.

In Mara’s Case (1989). Sam Garland, Mara’s cousin, became a stepfather to Elissa when he married his girlfriend Michelle.
Step-rating - 9/10. Sam's a nice man.

In Search of a Husband (aka Golden Lode), Rue Trevallyn was set to become a kind of step-stepmother when she married John Parish. John had a stepson he referred to as Young Mark by his first wife, Jenny. Rue was understandably bothered when Marcus Sutherland turned out to be older than her, larger than her and even more opinionated than her. (And that was saying something.)
Step-rating - 7/10 for intention. It never actually happened which was as well considering what did!

Knightfall, Knight Protector and Knight Triumphant: Simon Knight has a stepmother named Sarah and a stepsister named Reba, who are determined to include him in their activities. Simon has other ideas.
Step-rating - 7/10 for Sarah and 6/10 for Reba. Sarah means well. Reba doesn't, but she does improve. At least, unlike  Traveller, Becca, and Peggy, the other girls in the series, Reba doesn't toss Simon over the hedge, terrorise him with pepper...or threaten to eat him. As for slippery Simon, let's give him a 6/10. 

In Looking Out for Sam teenager Bree Daley had a stepmother named Caroline. They weren't altogether friendly, but Caroline didn't mistreat Bree and they were courteous enough. 
Step-rating - 7/10. Bree really didn't want to help renovate a room...

     In Man Overboard Zach Rowan’s mother married Nik Vasiliev’s father when the boys were young. Anton used to take the boys sailing. Now adults, Zach and Nik are still good friends. Their parents are off sailing around the world, but Zach and Nik stay in touch. Nik has a partner and a five-year-old daughter whom Zach considers his niece.
Step-rating - 9/10. Anton and Delia have sons the same age, and they all get along very well. When Zach is missing, presumed drowned, Nik couldn't be more cut up if they were blood siblings.
The Mares of Merryland Chase: Smiley Sunshine South has a stepmother named Claire and a baby half-brother named George. She adores them both and they adore her.
Step-rating - 10/10. Claire is the perfect stepmother and Smiley knows it.

The Peacock’s Pearl: Cat Mahal has a nasty feeling Patrick Beckingham is either courting or stalking her mother Cordelia. That’s bad enough, but if they marry she’ll end up with her eighth cousin James “Fox” Beckingham as a stepbrother. She’d rather walk barefoot up Mount Kosciuszko.
Step-rating - 5/10.  This could go very badly, but it hasn't happened - yet. Patrick and Cordelia can both be difficult people though they're not bad people. As for Cat and Fox - frenemies is what they are. On a good day.

In Pisky Business, there are all sorts of odd relationships, but whether they all qualify as steps I don’t know. Tam had a son by Merryn, who already had a son with Rachel. That made Jory and Tane half-brothers. Tane was a half-brother to Tam’s other children, but was Tam Jory’s stepmother? Was Jory’s mother Rachel, Tane’s stepmother? Then Merryn and Rachel reconnected and married, producing Richenda, who was Jory’s full sister and Tane’s half sister and possibly a stepsister to Tam’s other children. Or possibly not. I don’t know. Jory was fond of Tam and called her Stepmama but then, Jory sometimes turned into a fluffy white dog. I rest my case. Jory's friend Linda really does have a stepfather; Geraint Trip. Since he was her landlord before he was her stepfather, and since he was unfailingly kind to her, this worked well...once Linda got over the initial shock.
Step-rating - 9/10. Everyone works at making it work, so it does.  Why not ten? Because Linda's an adult and so isn't as much affected as if she'd been younger. 

In Replay, Harry's widowed mother Mistress Gwenhwfar married Sir Godfrey du Mer and gave Harry a stepfather and half-brother named Gilles, but Harry never had the chance to meet them, though he did meet some of their descendants.
Step-rating - 5/10 or 10/10. They never met, but Mistress Gwen and her new husband did the very best they could for Harry. On the other hand, maybe Godfrey never knew the extent of Mistress Gwen's intentions. He probably did though, since Gilles would have had to know when he assumed the heriad mantle which finally descended to his distant descendant Saranna.

In Sam and the Sylvan, Sam's mother Sherry married Barrett Jones, thus providing Sam with a stepfather. Since Sherry was pretending to be much younger than she was, she had to adjust Sam's age as well, so she saw to it that Barrett and Sam had as little contact as possible. Tane Pendennis became Sam's stepfather long before she knew he existed. Once they met, Sam liked him well enough, and she loved her youngest half-sister Mirri.
Step-rating - 7/10. It's not Barrett's fault Sherry keeps Sam out of his orbit and though Tane isn't quite what Sam expected as a stepfather (or maybe stepmother in this case), there are good intentions. Tane keeps Sam's father Jillian James on an even keel. Just as well. Someone has to.

In Summerfeste and Crossover, Ash Coleman acquires a stepmother and stepsisters when his father marries Barberry Chalk. His stepsisters are married, and Barberry is a warm-hearted person who has a softening influence on Ash’s grumpy father. Ash’s only regret is that Teak and Barberry hadn’t married years ago when he needed some hands-on mothering.
Step-rating - 9/10. Barberry is a fine woman. If only Ash had been younger this would be a 10/10.

Tied up in Tinsel. George Dark’s mother Sarah had married Ajay, making Ran, George’s best friend, his stepbrother. George was very happy except he hated the idea of his dad Chas being alone at Christmas while he enjoyed a family holiday with Sarah, Ran and Ajay. Luckily, George was instrumental in Chas meeting Flick Echo, who became his stepmother.
Step-rating - 10/10. This is a solid win/win situation all round. As with Tane (see Pisky Business), George's parents were never married, but they remained good friends. Their spouses Ajay and Flick could have been made to order, and Ran had been a best friend before he was a stepbrother.

In Timedetectors 11, Thane "Coxie" Cox has acquired a stepfather and baby half-sister. He is ever so much happier as a result. Tom, his friend, used to being the more fortunate of the pair, is nonplussed to find himself envious.
Step-rating - 10/10. Not only is Coxie's stepfather Mr Watts a thoroughly good bloke, but now Mrs Watts has Natalie, she has stopped helicoptering over Coxie.

In Time Off, Rosemary Candy is nonplussed when her mother marries John Roberts. She likes her stepfather all right, but his children are a bit of a stretch. Alison is standoffish and superior, Alan is quiet and barely-there, while Elizabeth is consciously cute and a chatterbox. That’s bad enough, but then Rosemary gets packed off with the other kids to her step-grandparents where she meets step-aunts and uncles and wishes they’d just all go away.   
Step-rating - 6/10. There's no actual malice (except from Alison, maybe) but this could, and should, have been managed a lot better.

In Wicked Rose, Rose and her second husband Bill O'Reilly have a daughter they name Nasty Nell. When Bill dies in unfortunate circumstances, Rose mourns for a bit and then marries Tim, a cattle thief. Tim has his issues, but he makes an excellent stepfather for Nell.
Step-rating - 9/10. Well done to Tim, though maybe a little more moral rectitude would be an improvement.

So, there are the steps, and a few avoided and missteps. And below are some covers...


Sally is Sally Odgers; author, anthologist and reader. You can find you way into her maze of websites and blogs via the portal here.(Sally is me, by the way.)

The goal for 2017 was 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. 2017 is well behind us, but I ran out of year before running out of books. As of June 2018 I STILL hadn't run out of books, but many of those still to come are MIA by which I mean I don't have copies and remember little about them. There are more new books in the pipeline, and I'm certainly showcasing those, but in between times, I'm profiling some of my characters, places, objects and themes. Thank you so much to everyone who's come along on this journey so far!

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