A Rarer Gift Than Gold
by Lucy Branch
An enchanting patineur finds herself drawn into a conspiracy of magical realism, unchecked greed and heated passion in this stunning debut about Italy and alchemy.
Abigail Argent stands out. Some people notice that she always wears gloves and shudder when they know why. Those who know her best observe in wonder her remarkable ability in the colouring of metal.
On the brink of finishing her chemistry degree, Abigail chances upon a book that reveals a link between her own art and that of her favourite childhood fairytale: the changing of lead into gold.
Delighted with her find, and revelling in the news that she has been offered a high profile restoration job in Venice, Abigail is finally on the cusp of adventure, free to explore the world and all its riches. But Abigail’s specialist talents do not go unnoticed. A dangerous and powerful organisation are watching her closely, convinced that she alone holds the key to an ancient alchemist’s secret.
Through her work in Venice, Abigail’s skills attract the attention of a notable sculptor who entices her to work for him in Florence. Drawn like a magnet to this iconic city of culture,
Abigail continues to uncover more about the history of alchemy and develop her artistry while making new friends.
Vibrant model Therese and handsome new lover David breathe new life into Abigail’s once sheltered heart. As the weeks pass, Therese, David and Abigail’s new circle of friends will become inextricably linked to her own destiny, drawn directly into the path of the sinister forces who are stealthily closing in, threatening Abigail’s life. To save herself, Abigail is forced to call upon everything she knows - but what she discovers about herself is much darker than she could ever have expected.
A Rarer Gift Than Gold is an accomplished first novel, rooted in an authenticity derived from author Lucy Branch’s professional insight. An acclaimed specialist in sculptural and architectural restoration, working on high-profile projects including Nelson’s Column, Cleopatras Needle, Eros, St Paul's Cathedral, The British Library and Selfridges, Branch brings the mythology of alchemy vividly to life. Abigail’s story is played out against a carefully observed background of Italian culture and architecture, drawing romance and mystery into her passage through the streets of Florence. Branch was inspired by an incident in which she and a close friend were ominously warned off the materials they were studying by a stranger during a research trip to Italy to explore the works of Galileo. A Rarer Gift Than Gold will captivate fans of Kate Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy and is set to fascinate, enlighten and leave readers guessing until the very last page.
Please welcome Lucy Branch to Colorimetry!
Q: What’s your novel about?
A: It’s a conspiracy theory about alchemy. It follows Abigail Argent, a skilled patineur, who discovers a link between her own craft and that of this classic myth. Inadvertently, she trespasses into the realms of a strange group who hold the key to a mystery of what has been happening to alchemists, and those suspected of the ability, from time immemorial.
Q What drew you to this subject matter?
A: I love metals. I’ve always felt they were special and my career in their conservation and restoration has enabled me to specialize in the field. I wanted to explain to people why they were special and bring them into the very tactile experience of working with metal: alchemy is such a seductive subject - it seemed a perfect match.
Q: What types of themes are there in the book?
A: There are some big ones like love, betrayal, murder but I particularly wanted to write about issues that many people in early adulthood might encounter. The lead character's romantic life is not straightforward. She suffers from a skin affliction affecting her hands. It's very obvious and something she chooses to keep hidden. This makes personal relationships harder for her to forge.
There's also self-knowledge. The lead character has to look within herself to find her resources and to discover how they can serve her. This is something we all have to do at times and never more than when you’re out there on your own in the world for the first time.
Q Did anything particularly inspire the storyline?
A: A good friend of mine is a historian of science and was studying Galileo. He was calling up some pretty rare volumes on the subject and really did get a warning to stay away from the material he was studying. I wondered why anyone would be so protective of something so dry and academic. I wondered what motivation they could possibly have and what might happen if he ignored the warning. I built the book around this event.
Q What was your motivation in writing this story?
A: Everyday, I work with historic objects and one of the questions I often ask myself when restoring them is ‘what is missing from this object. What can I not see?’ and ‘why might evidence have been lost?’ It has made me very interested in what’s absent from history and why. This story is about how history can be manipulated by the removal of physical evidence for personal gain.
Q Why do you think your writing will appeal to readers?
A: I think conspiracy theories are always interesting because they are about challenging assumptions. I love walking the line between the logical fact and the unlikely possibility - as you gain ground sometimes you begin to wonder which one is which.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I've been writing stories since I was about fourteen years old. I remember writing through my break-times at school and not being able to bear to stop so I would hide my book under my desk, balanced on my knees and continuing to scribble through classes.
About the author:
Lucy Branch is a director of her family’s firm Antiques Bronze Ltd, one of the UK’s leading conservation and restoration companies. She has a degree in History of Art with Material Studies and a Masters from The Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Branch is an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. Lucy lives with her husband and their three children in North London. The first in the The Gold Gift trilogy, A Rarer Gift Than Gold by Lucy Branch (published by Clink Street Publishing RRP £7.99 paperback, RRP £4.99 ebook) is available to buy online from 20th March 2015 from retailers including amazon.co.uk and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information please visit www.lucybranch.com
For a review copy or interview request please contact: Kate Appleton, Marketing & Publicity Executive at Authoright / 0207 7993 4438 / firstname.lastname@example.org