Halloween is less than two weeks away and if you’re still looking for a ghost story to get you in the mood of the season, check out Edgar Award winner and borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, which will see its 15-year anniversary next spring, available in hardcover, paperback, and E-book editions from Amazon and other booksellers. The audio book (available free with an Audible trial) as read by British actress Charlotte Parry, known for her roles in Tony Award winning Broadway plays and TV work, is a great way to immerse yourself in this ghost story. A Curse Dark as Gold is set in the Gold Valley in that far away land where fairy tales reside. Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearing’s woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie. Unwanted responsibilities fall into the lap of this young woman from page one. At its foundation A Curse Dark as Gold at first is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-type “helper” tales of the past, but this story takes on a life of its own. Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to emanate from every corner. A mysterious uncle arrives and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives, pecking away at their sanity. As if sick itself, the mill begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down, textile machines failing, and the very fabric of the town seeming to unravel.
The story is set at the dawn of an Industrial Revolution in a world not unlike our own. Water wheels are about to be replaced with steam power and the smoke-filled cities that come along with that new technology. Charlotte has inherited her father’s acumen as a savvy businessperson, yet pressures including competition from big city wool firms and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace cause the mill to lose its workers. The economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems. A strange neighbor lady is a follower of Old World ways, superstitions and magic, and she tries to help. Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition as she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.
The rustle of the wind, the creaks of the mill building, the thump of the belts on the mill wheel, all come alive. Thoroughly creepy images of the mysterious stranger manipulating Charlotte’s uncle will stick with you long after you’re done reading. And at the heart of the novel is a dark ghost story. Elizabeth’s exquisite prose, and the determined and believable voice of narrator Charlotte, will leave you believing you didn’t pull a work from 2008 off the bookshelf, but a classic work written in 1808. It’s a perfect read to get you in the mood for the coming holiday and its hauntings.
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, A Curse Dark as Gold has won several national awards, including being listed on the Smithsonian Institution list of notable books, Oprah Winfrey’s recommendation list for YA, the American Library Association recommended reading lists including best fiction, listed on the Amelia Bloomer Booklist (honoring strong female roles), and winner of the first William Morris Award (honoring first time authors). It was also selected along with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and In Cold Blood for the Kansas state sesquicentennial 150 Books/150 Years list. Elizabeth’s next two books are still in print, the Thief Errant fantasy series books StarCrossed and Liar’s Moon, also published by Arthur A. Levine books, and her Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning mystery series published by Algonquin debuted in 2020 beginning with the novels Premeditated Myrtle, How to Get Away with Myrtle, and Cold-Blooded Myrtle, and continuing with this month’s Amazon #1 New Release, In Myrtle Peril. Check out Elizabeth’s reviews of TV, film, and books at borg here.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg