by Jane Nickerson
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Genres: Historical Fiction
The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . . When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi. Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world. Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.
As a young child, I read the Grimm’s fairy tales and they are so much darker than the versions most of our children read today. I was terrified of Bluebeard and slept with a nightlight. This was quite embarrassing for a ten-year-old and I remember claiming to simply have fallen asleep while reading. I love retellings and when I saw Strands of Bronze and Gold, I knew I had to revisit this dark tale. Nickerson did a lovely job and Monsieur de Cressac personified Bluebeard and made me shiver.
The tale takes place in America before the end of slavery at Wyndriven Abbey in Mississippi. Seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram has recently lost her father and receives a letter from her Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather to come and live in his home since he has been appointed her legal guardian. Her older siblings are left to deal with the financial burden their father’s loss has thrust upon them. At first Sophia’s enchanted with her handsome godfather and all that his home offers but soon she grows lonely. She quickly learned that her godfather wants to keep her separate from others, is extremely jealous and suffers violent mood swings. As she unravels the mysteries of this complex man she quickly finds herself trapped with no escape from the monstrous side of her godfather.
Sophia is a red-headed beauty with an inquisitive mind. Throughout the novel, this gets her into trouble, reveals clues and introduces her to some interesting characters. While she is naïve she is also brave, clever and strong. Her sense of loyalty to her family and her indebtedness to Monsieur Bernard bring her trouble. I adored how she treated the servants and slaves at the Abbey. Because her godfather has always provided Sophia with gifts since her childhood, she at first sees only the good in him and imagines herself a little in love. Have you ever met a man who beats and verbally abuses his wife; a man who comes from a good home, is financially successful and devilishly handsome? These men have many faces, they are witty and charming, admired by men and adored by women. Beneath that facade lies a monster and this is Monsieur Bernard. He is handsome and endearing; his words whisper only kindness but reek with something sour and sinister. The young French maid, the preacher and the young slave couple all add to the tale. Sophia’s siblings force her to make decisions against her wishes and you truly feel for her.
Nickerson weaves a deliciously dark, Gothic tale and while I was not scared enough to keep the lights on, the tension slowly built throughout the tale keeping me on edge. The last part of the book was climatic and I turned the pages at a dizzy pace in fear for Sophia. I think those who aren’t familiar with the classic will enjoy the twists and find it quite surprising. After having read the original tale this was somewhat predictable, but the author added her own voice to the tale and changed up the ending a bit. The author’s writing is beautiful, had excellent pacing and all the threads came together. I loved how the title was woven into the tale and it fit beautifully.
Fans of retellings, Gothic tales, and suspense thrillers will adore Strands of Bronze and Gold. The Mirk and the Midnight Hour is the next book in the Strands of Gold trilogy and will release in 2013. The third book the Twisted Trees will release in 2014. I for one cannot wait to read them.
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