Krista Reviews: Jane Nickerson - "Strands of Bronze and Gold"

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.  Hardcover, 352 pages  Published March 12th 2013 by Random House Children’s Books

For those readers who have some knowledge of the fairy tale of Bluebeard, the events that happen in this story may not turn out to be a surprise. For those who are not familiar with the fairytale, I wouldn’t recommend that you read up on it before reading this book, as it will tend to be on the predictable side.

Perhaps the most unique part of this retelling is the setting.  The author chose to set this story in Mississippi during a time in American history in which slaves were still considered property and were beginning to travel north on the underground rail-road. There is quite a bit more history in the book than I would have expected, but it adds a flavour to the setting that makes the story interesting and compelling. There is a lot of down time in the scenes and relationship between Sophie and Bernard because of his business, but the side stories help push the narrative forward and add human interest.

Sophie is invited by her godfather to come and live with him in his mansion in Mississippi. It is very obvious from the beginning pages that he has more than just a passing interest in the girl. There is a sexual tension between the two from the moment they meet. Torn between family/guardian ideals and the fact that Sophie is physically attracted to him, leads to some very pensive moments throughout the story.

As Bernard is a very busy businessman, Sophie is left wandering the mansion, on several occasions and making discoveries about the past women and wives who have lived there. As barely an object is left behind in any of the rooms, she is eventually forced to believe that their disappearances are not coincidental.

The story is quite slow and the main character a bit “classic” in behaviour ie soft spoken overall and overly curious. It’s like the old saying, “curiosity killed the cat” and in this instance, Sophie’s nosing around the house does get her into trouble.

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a story that has a mystery at its core, but also includes a soft love story – as well as a villain who’s a bit handsy. The writing style emulates a classic fairytale but in a more modern day.

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