Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold #1)
What follows is a mystical romance based on the old Bluebeard fairytale. Sophie soon learns she's trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac's intoxicating world.
In spite of the somewhat predictable plot (I have read many but not all of the Grimm fairy tales, so this was one with which I was not familiar), Jane Nickerson manages, with her writing, to weave a world that is both frightening and absorbing, not missing any details in describing the rooms, the dresses, the food--in essence, the incredible grandeur of Wyndriven Abbey and the life de Cressac leads. It is because of the writing I stayed with the story. Having read stories of this nature before, the reader is probably going to be quick to tell the general plot--predatory, charming, powerful rich man can get whatever he wants and so uses it to get away with terrible secrets--but the character development, albeit slow-going, nevertheless built upon itself. Initially, I was bored with Sophia, but by the end of the book, she had truly blossomed into a strong and interesting woman. If you like historical fiction and mysteries, hers is a story you may thoroughly enjoy.
Bernard is easily the most intriguing aspect of this book, as he is such a dynamic character. There are hints about his true nature from the beginning of the book, though at first they’re overshadowed by the more positive aspects of his character: his good looks, his generosity, and his charming personality. There is a slow buildup to the revelation of his true character, which is kind of disturbing to behold, though readers with prior knowledge of the fairy tale will not be surprised by it.
I have mixed feelings about the protagonist, Sophia. Her naive, unassuming nature was to be expected, as she said herself that she had been fairly sheltered from the world since her father’s death. Her willingness to sacrifice her happiness to ensure that her family is provided for is admirable, though the inquisitive nature that I expected her to possess – after all, the Bluebeard story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of curiosity – is somewhat lacking.
While I like the Southern Gothic setting, there is a subplot involving the slavery and Underground Railroad that I was not particularly fond of. It’s never fully explored and seems merely to be a plot device to highlight how kind Sophia is for wanting to help the slaves.
Overall, despite all of its potential, Strands of Bronze and Gold was merely an “okay” read. If I hadn’t been familiar with the original fairy tale – which provided me with expectations of a creepy, dark, and horror-filled story – I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more.
I absolutely adored Sophie. She tried her hardest to be a proper lady, but her eccentric godfather would have none of it! Being “genteel, but only in a theoretical way” she theoretically knew how to live as a lady of wealth, but in practice hadn’t been able to afford it – and now that she could afford it, her godfather wished for her to enjoy life and carpe diem. At first, his oddness was something that Sophie entertained so as to appease him, to show him that she was grateful for his generosity.
"I leaned in to him a little stiffly since he was still practically a stranger, and I bravely kissed his cheek. It was not terrible, being the extraordinarily attractive cheek it was, after all."
As time passed, Sophie began to question her godfathers’ eccentricities.
"I allowed my godfather to stroke my hand or bring it up to his lips or his cheek, labeling his caresses his “Frenchities.” Besides being smitten by him, I genuinely liked him, although sometimes there was a look in his eye that made me uneasy. He could be…dangerous. now, why did that adjective leap to mind? Perhaps because it fit. M. Bernard resembled a tiger – sleep, velvety, smiling, dangerous. And very attractive."
But due to her innocence, I had the hardest time deciphering if his “dangerous” ways were a real threat or merely Sophie and her overactive imagination. It made Strands of Bronze and Gold a fantastically suspenseful read as I worked to unveil Cressac’s infatuations with redheads and true intentions with Sophie. It also made me really enjoy Sophie’s character growth: her childlike innocence was slowly stripped away as she realized the entire household was holding its breath, waiting for Cressac’s next blowup, and that Sophie, and Sophie alone, had the power to cool his temper and restore peace. As her eyes were opened to Cressac’s true nature, and her own curiosities were peaked concerning the details of his four former wives’ deaths, Cressac’s gentile manner was soon shown to be a mere farce, hiding a much more hostile temperament.
"His voice blasted me. Would he actually strike me? I had been waiting for it, fearing it, I realized now, for a long while."
And Cressac! What a brilliant antagonist; he’s an absolute master at manipulating those around him and at hiding his devious thoughts under the pretence of playful banter.
“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.”
*Shivers* He knew exactly how to let Sophie know that he had all of the power, while maintaining his smiling and caring facade. It made it that much harder for Sophie to believe that he might not be as sweet and charming as he pretended. My only minor issue with Strands of Bronze and Gold was that despite my love for the two main characters, I didn’t really connect with either of them. I was completely invested in their fates, but only to appease my own curiosity – not because I truly cared about what happened to either of them. Mostly though, it didn’t matter. Thanks to Nickerson’s spot-on pacing, I was completely caught up in uncovering the secrets behind Strands of Bronze and Gold’s plot, and became as obsessed as Sophie in uncovering the truth behind Cressac’s devious scheming and sinister past.
For fans of historical romances with a thrilling twist, Strands of Bronze and Gold was an absolute pleasure to read. With simply lovely prose, an enchanting heroine and a sly antagonist I had a hard time putting it down!
Review: I received this book in various formats, which was great. I could experience it in a variety of media formats. I started with an e-book, then received ARCs and an audiobook. I dabbled in all of them. I also have a giveaway on the blog for one of my ARCs.
I really enjoyed this story and had to put it down only to try to slow down my reading, I didn't want to miss anything or take any detail for granted.
The plot is full of suspense, intermingled with spine chilling realizations and blood curdling non-gentlemanly actions. I found that Jane Nickerson's writing was a delight. It was beautifully composed and the historical elements only added to the ambiance of the plot.
Sophia, our heroine, is a bit naive and stubborn, but soon realizes her folly and tries to assert herself within the household of M. de Cressac. Sadly, she finds out very horrible things about her, now, captor.
The whole time there is a feeling of disgust with everything M. de Cressac does and it is NOT wrong to feel that way. I was not disappointed with his horrific character or the part he played, only that he did send shivers up my spine on many occasions.
This may be a slow moving book for some, most of the suspense is in emotions and psychological rather than running, chasing, and such. I did not feel this way but was a little taken aback by the time it took to get to the plots apex, and when it finally did, I felt the book was immediately over...
Overall I felt this was a beautiful retelling of a horrifying fairy tale.
Sophie leaves her other family members behind when her father dies to go and live with her godfather Monsieur Bernard de Cressac to help keep their costs down. When she arrives things are very much different from her old home. But there is a mysterious air about Wyndriven Abbey and as it unfolds, things start to get more and more weird. Then out of nowhere, the mystery finally unfolds and Sophie is left in a compromising position.
For the story to be a retelling, it did not feel like it. For me not having read it before, it really felt like I was reading the original story. The story flowed so smoothly it didn't feel like a retelling. I was also very impressed with the writing of Nickerson. It gave off so much back story without it feeling like an info dump. This was so amazing because the book the background of the slaves, Sophie, and towards the end De Cressac. The only thing I'd like to know is how the sequel will come into play. The ending of this one pretty much sums up the whole story...
Sophie, the main character, grows so much throughout the novel. When she first gets there she seemed a little naiieve and scared to me. She believed anything de Cressac said. As De Cressac's true identity comes to light, Sophie grows by trying her hardest to stay safe. Her character grows stronger as the novel goes on.
Overall this was a wonderful retelling with a great main character and even more amazing writing. This novel is sure to keep and hold your interest and leave you wanting more.