This is a standalone novella that nonetheless nests within the excellent Earthgirl series – see my review of Earthgirl here.
Amalie’s the last unmarried girl in Jain’s Ford settlement. Life on a frontier farming planet in the twenty-eighth century has a few complications. The imported Earth animals and plants don’t always interact well with the local ecology, and there’s a shortage of doctors and teachers. The biggest problem though is the fact there are always more male than female colonists arriving from other worlds. Single men outnumber single women by ten to one, and girls are expected to marry at seventeen. Amalie turned seventeen six months ago, and she’s had nineteen perfectly respectable offers of marriage. Everyone is pressuring her to choose a husband, or possibly two of them. When Amalie’s given an unexpected chance of a totally different future, she’s tempted to take it, but then she gets her twentieth offer of marriage and it’s one she can’t possibly refuse.
Edwards writes with a chirpy energy that has her heroine pinging off the page with a likeable can-do attitude I find very endearing. Amalie is the eldest of eleven children and is used to making do so her tough practicality shines throughout this story. Because the character is both engaging and believable and the worldbuilding is filtered entirely through her, I found the newly established colony plausible and engrossing. Edwards perfectly depicts a small community with the town gossip, the eccentrics, the misfit with too much money and the rough-edged type of boisterous behaviour in the bar where Amalie works that would probably come to the attention of the law enforcement authorities in a more established settlement.
I’m a fan of a story that steadily builds on a series of small, everyday details that finally collide in a dramatic event – and Edwards is very skilled at handling this dynamic. Alongside her struggle to find the right husband – and avoid the plethora of wrong ones – Amalie is also trying to ensure her father’s experimental crop is successful. The sudden drama that impacts on the situation works well in raising the stakes for everyone in the small community and providing a reminder that life in such a place is always going to be risky.
Edwards perfectly judges the pacing and narrative arc for this novella and brings the story to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Those of you who found the Earthgirl series a delight and would like to once more experience this mostly upbeat, enjoyable world should track down this novella – it won’t disappoint.