A Curse Dark as Gold
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family's woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father's death, the bad luck piles up: departing workers, impossible debts, an overbearing uncle. Then a stranger named Jack Spinner offers a tempting proposition: He can turn straw into gold thread, for the small price of her mother's ring. As Charlotte is drawn deeper into her bargains with Spinner-and a romance with the local banker-she must unravel the truth of the curse on the mill and save the community she's always called home.
You guys. I'm in love. With this story, the words, the characters, the setting. Yes, it's set in a woolen mill, so I was inclined to like it from the start, but one thing can't make me love a book this much, or make me giggle with delight when the romance starts. Also, how much do I love that cover! I know I said yesterday that it's gorgeous, but it is. Still! Her hands are trapped in gold thread!
A CURSE DARK AS GOLD is a) a fabulous title, and b) a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, in which he is not just some straw-into-gold meanie, but a sympathetic character, even when he's frightening.
Charlotte Miller, who more or less inherits Stirwaters Mill when her father dies, is a smart, capable girl who knows how to run a business, and that the meager wages she pays her workers are the only thing keeping the town of Shearing from falling apart.
If only she could afford to pay all the debts her father left, too.
Which is where a man who can spin straw into gold comes in, isn't it?
This story had it all for me. Curses, amazing prose, yarn, romance (swoon--Mr. Woodstone!), mystery, history, magic, a real and developed cast of characters, great structure... (What? I find well-structured stories highly attractive.) (And, while it may or may not have been intentional, I kept thinking of Charlotte's Web with the heroine's name. The fairy tale girl is nameless, as far as I've seen. Intentional or not, I liked Charlotte. Known for what she weaves, keeping people safe and together... It was a nice--possibly imaginary--connection for me.)
I don't know how I missed this book when it originally came out in 2008. (You'd think certain friends who know my yarn habits might have mentioned it. AHEM.) In fact, I haven't seen this book get nearly the attention it deserves. So I want you to read it. Meanwhile, I'm going to buy everything else Elizabeth Bunce has ever written.
You know how sometimes when you read a book and love it so much you just want to run around the house hugging it?
Charming author, loved the book!
Reader reviewed by Allison
I bought this book expecting to fall in love with it, and it did not let me down. It was an incredible story, and my head is spinning with everything I want to say about it.
First of all, I was touched before the story even began. In Elizabeth Bunce's acknowledgements she says "And lastly, to my husband, Christopher, for always being there. If I wrote you into a story, no one would believe you were real." I think that is lovely, and I was in love with the author from the get-go.
On that subject-make sure you read the Author's Note at the end. I thought it was a fantastic addition to the story in itself. She touches on several key points of her story, and I thought the notes were fascinating.
Now: the story. I thought it began a tad slow, although I was in love with Charlotte Miller from the beginning. From the first paragraph, she easily takes on the "strong female lead" role. There are so many lovely characters in this story...everyone from the "witchy midwife" Biddy Tom to the wool dyer Mr. Mordant added such rich life to the story.
Usually when a book begins too "fairy tale-like" I get annoyed, but Curse has such a great mix of reality and fairy tale that it works. The things that would normally seem like quite a stretch just work in this case.
I love reading a book with a constant cloud of suspense. Through this entire book, you get the "something is just not RIGHT" feeling, and it intensifies as Charlotte uncovers just exactly what it is that isn't right. She falls in love with Randall. At first, he seems like a knight in shining armor, then his character begins to look a bit weak (I wonder if that was on purpose? I hope so), then at the end he really does help save the day.
Anyway...I'm rambling. Suffice it to say that I LOVED this story, and I highly recommend it to anyone that loves YA, fantasy, or fairy-tale retellings
Greed is a powerful thing!
Reader reviewed by Daisy
A very distraught Charlotte Miller finds that
her farther was in debt. But now that's he's dead, well... now Charlotte is in debt. All she has to work on is the old Stirwaters Mill,
which she can't bare to part with. With the help of her sister, Rosie, and the
mill's workers they try their hardest to make ends meet. But a series of
unfortunate events happen and Charlotte doesn't know what to do.
begin to talk of the Miller's bad luck and even curses and Charlotte is sick of
their silly notions. Then a mysterious man named Jack Spinner
arrives. He can spin gold thread with his bare hands. He promise to help her,
but at what cost? His gold thread gleams bright, but it has a very dark past.
C. Bunce creates a well written story which will have the reader stuck to their
seat until the final page. Bravo and well done Mrs. Bunce!
Mysterious Curses and Family Loyalty
Reader reviewed by Lisa
in a sentence or two: the curse on the Miller family, the mill house, and pretty much the whole town of Stillwaters never held much weight with Charlotte. and then she inherits the mill from her father after his death and is forced to see just how real that curse is...
for as long as she can remember, Charlotte Miller has been hearing about the Miller family curse. after some money woes surface at the mill, she is forced to solicit help from a mysterious little man who calls himself Jack Spinner. it just so happens that Mr. Spinner can spin gold and only wants a little trinket of a ring in exchange. while he temporarily relieves their financial hardship, he leaves a flood of bad luck in his wake. Charlotte and her handy sister Rosie know there has to be away to get out from under all this bad luck business and are determined to find a way to save both the mill and their family.
Bunce cleverly re-tells the Rumpelstiltskin story by using the miller's daughter as the narrator. Charlotte is a way to explore the depths and unanswered questions from the original fairy tale and, quite frankly, is done pretty darn well. the theme of curse vs. luck is examined through the different characters, who are each complex and multidimensional - even the minor ones. Bunce balances the fantasy element with the authenticity of Charlottes impossible situation to show her path of self-discovery and deep love of family. the writing style was so intricate and thoughtful, which really complimented the peaceful plot pace and helped to walk the line between fantasy and reality.
bursting with mystery, plot twists, and magical elements, this 1700s-era tale is something that can definitely be enjoyed by a broad audience of young adults and adults alike. after all, who doesn't like a fairy tale?
fave quote: "But I sensed a fragility in that barrier, and I vowed then that I would let nothing disturb it. Whatever else happened, this was sacred. I think that was the moment when I truly drew Randall close in to me, alongside Rosie and Shearing and Stirwaters. These things were mine, and I would let no harm come to them." (198)
fix er up: for whatever reason, i really got bored with it halfway through. looking back, i think it was a case of the right book at the wrong time for me. i really really really liked this one!
Reader reviewed by Mairi
The Stirwaters Woollen Mill has been in the Miller family for five generations, but it has never passed from father to son- it passes to cousins and nephews and long-lost siblings, and now it has passed to a daughter named Charlotte. Unlike her father, Charlotte has never believed in the legends of a Stirwaters curse, but when the mill is expelled from its guild and things go from bad to worse she starts to wonder. Somehow she must find a way to keep the mill in the hands of her family and avoid foreclosure without calling on the help of her grasping Uncle Wheeler.
I have wanted to read this book for about a year now, ever since I read a review someone wrote of the ARC. As soon as it came out, I requested it at the library. It must have been a popular book, for it was a long time before I got my hands on a rather battered but still attractive copy.
A Curse Dark as Gold was more than worth the wait- it is a lovely book.
I LOVED this book!
Reader reviewed by Mary
The death of her father leaves Charlotte Miller with nothing except a mill buried in debt. Charlotte wants to or rather needs to, keep the mill afloat. But how can she when everything seems to go wrong at the mill?
Then, her uncle comes, bringing with him pleads to sell the mill. Charlotte refuses. She is determined that the mill will not go under and there will always be a Miller at the mill.
But bad luck only seems to follow with more bad luck...When all seems lost, Jack Spinner appears with the promise of gold thread...But can he be trusted? Can anyone be trusted?
Charlotte Miller is a strong heroine who is vividly portrayed with Elizabeth Bunce's lavish description. This book is a fascinating read that I could not put down!
Move Over, Rumpelstiltskin!
Reader reviewed by Julie M. Prince
Charlotte Miller doesnt believe in curses. Accidents happen and the fact that they happen frequently around her familys woolen mill means nothing. Its all just coincidence.
Now that her father is gone, Charlotte and her sister, Rosie, are all thats left of the Miller line. Just the two of them and the old mill. Charlotte means to keep it up and running no matter how many potential buyers show up to explain that a mere girl cannot possibly run a business. She'll show them.
If only her father hadnt bequeathed a legacy of debt! Left with little choice, Charlotte takes on a debt of her own by agreeing to help from a strange man who promises to make gold from straw. This saves her precious family mill and in turn the entire village of Shearing that relies upon it&and her&but what will happen when the next crisis comes along? That Miller bad luck is beginning to seem all too real.
In a debut novel that kept me up at night and had its characters dancing their way through my dreams, Elizabeth C. Bunce has managed to spin a tale worthy of any folklorists admiration.
The millers daughter tells her side of a Rumpelstiltskin-like tale. Beautiful language, a vivid late 1700s setting, and imaginative, but realistic characters bring every scene to life.
This book is highly recommended, especially for fans of Libba Bray books, movies like EVER AFTER, and other fairy tale retellings and stories that put a strong female character squarely in control of her own destiny.