Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Series: Strands (Book #1)
Author: Jane Nickerson
Summary: 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.
Review: To be honest, I'm not as familiar with the original Bluebeard tale as I'd like to be. Bluebeard's always been one that just didn't speak to me. *shrugs* However, from what I know of the tale, Nickerson turned out a really cool retelling with plenty of the original elements intact.
Sophie Petheram with the beautiful red hair is now the ward of one of the richest men in Mississippi. She's always loved fine things, and now she's getting to live her dreams of luxury in the extravagant Wyndriven Abbey, a building that was originally built and furnished in Europe, but her godfather paid to bring over and rebuild in America. Bernard de Cressac, at first glance, is all kindness and generosity, paying for new wardrobes and finery -- whatever Sophie wants. Even though he's older, she quickly fancies herself as being able to think of him more than just her godfather. On top of that, it appears that de Cressac himself may be thinking more of her than just his ward.
But all too soon she begins to learn the secrets of the abbey, and the red-headed ghosts haunting the halls may have more purpose there than she originally thought.
I liked how real Sophie was. She had realistic, everyday struggles, particularly in trying to figure out what she thought about things. She has a Jane Bennet-esque innocence where she wants to believe the best of people. I loved that she was well-read, and made quite a few references to famous literary works -- including several fairytales.
I really loved Gideon. It was so refreshing to see a pastor in this kind of book who wasn't portrayed as a selfish or inconsiderate man. He was thoughtful and kind, and it was really neat to see his behavior and beliefs on courtship so starkly contrast de Cressac's.
Advisory: Although this book is written as a type of horror/gothic style, it isn't overly scary. It reminded me a lot of Northanger Abbey and Catherine Morland's romantic and gothic tendencies. Sophie does see ghosts and speaks to them, but they don't appear hugely haunting and terrifying.
Some violence/blood. Different characters are injured or killed, and dead bodies show up at one point. Again, I didn't find it all overly scary.
The big caution for this novel is its romantic/sexual content. As de Cressac makes his intentions of passion known, he is not always clean in his advances. That leads to much touching and several kisses, but Sophie is appropriately disgusted by his behavior as they are not married. She does manage to discourage his passion so it doesn't go all the way. For some readers, it may be too much, so I would advise a good deal of discretion. Although it is portrayed as evil/not appropriate, it's still a big part of the novel.