Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: Black Silk by Jan Gordon


Black Silk by Jan Gordon is one of the top free downloads at Feedbooks right now and has been downloaded about 15,000 times. So, does it prove the theory that internet self-publishing is a wonderful innovation and we don't need publishing industry gatekeepers to give us quality reading?

With apologies to Ms. Gordon, who posts at Mobile Read and seems very nice, not entirely. I do think it shows potential, and Ms. Gordon may have it in her to be a hit novelist someday. But it reads very much like a first novel to me, and a draft one at that.

The problem: it's too short, and there is no real connection among the main characters. The male lead just shows up at the beginning of the story and immediately falls in love with the female lead. Were the novel a little bit longer, there might have been time for some lead-up.

If you look at some of the romance best-sellers, the male lead very seldom just happens to instantly fall in love with the total stranger. Let's take another recent read of mine, Black Hills by Nora Roberts as an example. Granted, Ms. Roberts has written a zillion novels already, so perhaps it's unfair to compare her to a total novice. But structure is structure, and Black Hills is a fairly straightforward story. Boy meets girl (roughly a third of a novel's worth of past---talk about lead-up!) Boy and Girl are Separated by Fate. Boy comes back, still loves girl. Girl requires convincing. There is a past connection between the characters which explains their growing bond. Here's another one, from the more novice Elizabeth Dearl. Girl is new in town. Boy is not. Boy shows her the ropes. Peril brings boy and girl together.

My point is, there is a progression, a reason for them to get together beyond 'boy shows up at opportune moment, sees girl and falls instantly in love with her.' This, I felt, was missing in Black Silk.

Deepen the characters a little, stretch things, relax into the story and do another draft? Maybe we'd have something commercial-quality here. Maybe in the next book :) But for now, it;s right that this book is a free release.