Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
Official Synopsis: 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.
For some strange reason, I keep picking up books about grown men having strange fixations on teenaged girls. Sometimes it’s “love” and sometimes it’s the creeptastic situations that is “Strands of Bronze and Gold.”
Sophia, a teenage girl who has always dreamed of a fancy, genteel, lavish life is about to get her wish. Unfortunately, her new life comes at a grave price. Her father has just died and she is off to live with her godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac. Bernard is a handsome widower who happens to love women with red hair. The same color Sophia just happens to have. At first, her new luxurious home and her enigmatic guardian blind Sophia, until she begins to realize that she is not a guest, she is a prisoner.
I only vaguely remember the tale of Bluebeard from elementary school, but I did remember a devastating reveal dealing with murder. That foreknowledge worked against the book for me. I didn’t have a chance to be charmed by Bernard or get swept up in the lavish scenery. I knew that no matter what Bernard seemed, there was no way he would be the good guy in the end. Going into a book with that kind of conviction is no good. Even if you’re wrong and are pleasantly surprised by a twist ending, it still is no good! I will not say in this review how close to the “Bluebeard” story this book is or whether Bernard truly is evil or if it’s just false suspicion. I will say that by going into it with the knowledge that it’s a “retelling” of such a famous story, it clouded my judgment. I could not completely fall into this story, because in my head I already knew how it would end.
Sophia is an interesting character. Part of me wondered how she so stupidly could be pulled into Bernard’s web, but then I realized she was a teenage girl who just lost her father. Of course this handsome older man charms her! With his money and his promise of the life she has always wanted, how could any girl resist? The great thing about Sophia is that she quickly smartens up. I was really sympathetic to her plight and really rooted for her to win in the end.
Bernard on the other hand was just creepy to me. Not “oh I am so scared” creepy, but “stalker!” creepy. He was possessive, angry, had mood swings and most of all was obsessed with a girl who is not only under his responsibility, but is also old enough to be his daughter. I am sure that some people will say he was romantic or that they loved to hate him. I just hated him. I think everything about him from page 1 is smarmy. There are moments where he’s like a kind father figure and then all of a sudden he’s a jealous lover! Ill.
I found the first half of this book extremely dull. Sophia arrives at the Abbey and then doesn’t leave for quite awhile. She explores the abbey, has dinner with Bernard and that’s it until she begins to realize something is up. Still, I wasn’t too interested in the build up. I kept thinking “is he bad or isn’t?!” That’s all I cared about. I liked the historical elements and thought the author did a great job of retelling an old story and giving it a southern twist. Still, had I not wanted the macabre events to unfold, I would have put the book down before the action started.
My biggest issue with this book is the author’s writing. I got used to it after awhile, but I found it to be awkward and a bit too flowery. It lacked subtlety for me.
“I worried you might be huddled in your bed terrified. I tried to come reassure you.”
“I did, but your door was locked. Do you lock it every night?”
“Do you think someone is plotting against your virtue?” A gleam of amusement twinkled in his honey brown eyes.
“No sir, I simply feel more secure with the big dark house shut out.”
“You know I have all the keys, don’t you? I could enter at any time I wanted.”*
I used this quote, because I saw another reviewer used it. While this got the other reviewer’s heart beating fast, it made me roll my eyes. I remember thinking “wow, dude way to be an obvious bad guy.” I don’t know. It’s just creepy and not really any kind of double entendre. I rather he say something that could honestly mean more than “I can come in your room and rape you whenever I want.” It would be more interesting if I read it and was like wait, does he mean that he wants to come in and seduce her with words or was that a thinly veiled threat?
At the end of the day, I gave this book 3 stars, because it is a well executed retelling of a very classic and well known story.
***ARC Provided by Netgalley and Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: March. 12, 2013
Recommended for fans of epic tales, fans of retellings or anyone look for a good historical young adult thriller.