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Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Strands of Bronze and Gold

By: Jane Nickerson

Release Date: March 12, 2013

Rating: 2 Stars

Summary: 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.


What if Bluebeard were a wealthy plantation owner in the Antebellum South? I’ve never pondered that question before reading Strands of Bronze and Gold, but now that I have, it seems to me like Jane Nickerson picked the least interesting way of going about an adaptation. Rather than expanding on or exploring the source material as a good retelling should, hers is a version that does nothing but overembellish the original to the point the result is a book that’s extremely poorly paced.

I suppose some people might call chapter after chapter of ostentatious prose describing architecture, decorations, and *shudders* lots and lots of clothing and jewelry atmospheric, but I’m going to go with tedious, dull, and incredibly boring. A few paragraphs here and there wouldn’t have bother me, and I wasn’t too bored at first, I’m well aware of how to create a haunting atmosphere with just the right details, but Strands of Bronze and Gold just goes on and on and on. By the time a quarter of the book passes and Nickerson’s still creating the mood, setting up the atmosphere with her descriptions of Wyndriven Abbey – yes, yes, it takes place in a creepy English monastery transplanted to the Mississippi countryside, can we please move on? When will Sophia discover the dead wives? Who’ll rescue her? How and why does Bernard become a homicidal maniac? I think knowing this is a Bluebeard adaptation built up a lot of anticipation and expectation that the plot would move quickly, except, even as I’m asking those questions, I’m approaching the halfway point, and I’m still no closer to any answers. In a word, the beginning drags. Hard.

If that wasn’t bad enough, all the characters are pretty much failures for me, even after the story picks up in the second half. Bernard, obviously, is a psychopathic wife killer, but even still I didn’t like the way Nickerson approached his character. The original Bluebeard is sort of an object lesson in idle curiosity (don’t peek in that locked door!), but his descent into homicidal madness actually makes very little sense if you think about it (he couldn’t possibly have killed the first wife for discovering the dead bodies of his previous wives, she is after all, his first wife); Nickerson does include a sort of justification for Bernard’s murderous ways but it just felt really flimsy. And Sophia, Sophia’s reasons for marrying Bernard left a bitter taste in my mouth – for a person who knows how creepy her godfather is, a person who knows how inappropriate it is for a ward to marry her guardian, the fact she willingly submits to the marriage so she could get money to pay off her brother Harry’s gambling debts just didn’t sit right with me. Especially with the way Harry concealed the extent of his losses the first time she gave him money and then asked for more, forcing her into the wedding – I hate how she puts her own safety behind that of a compulsive gambler who’ll probably burn off whatever extra cash she gets him anyway.

If I’m kind of rambling, it’s because the book is kind of rambling, but there are two other things that pop up in the rambling that I want to point out before the rushed ending. The first is a matter of personal taste, but my favorite part of the original Bluebeard is after the wife is discovered, she’s locked in the tower and trying to buy time before Bluebeard kills her, and she keeps asking her sister whether the sister sees her brothers arriving – I read the Perrault years ago and that was the once scene that still sticks in my memory and I’m sorely disappointed of all things Nickerson had to cut from her adaptation (basically nothing), that was the scene that had to go, and with it, all the suspense. Now, it’s just a one and done confrontation. The other is that the plantation setting is completely misused; it’s as if Nickerson picked the setting for the romanticism of the Antebellum South Gone with the Wind style, then thought better of it because slavery is of course wrong and added some shallow nods to abolitionism to make things right, but of course that for me only makes things worse, like acknowledging a bad situation without really getting why it’s wrong.

Anyway, I don’t think Strand of Bronze and Gold is a very good Bluebeard adaptation – it drags at the beginning and is terribly rushed at the end. I didn’t like the characters and the setting was problematic to put it politely, so I can’t say I liked this.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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