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The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .I had very high hopes for Strands of Bronze and Gold, and who, really, could blame me? It takes place in my beloved home state, Mississippi, and is a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale! I was actually unfamiliar with the fairy tale prior to reading the book--though I did look it up when I started reading--and it's a fascinating story that I think is perfect for retelling. While I had my concerns regarding Strands of Bronze and Gold, I found it to be altogether a very atmospheric and entertaining read!
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.
The story excels in its perfect setting and atmosphere. It was very Gothic, and I felt like a ghost was going to pop out at every twist and turn as Sophie traversed the house. I don't like scary movies or stories, but I adore Gothic ones! Wyndriven Abbey is fascinating in its air of mystery and history and I would die to spend an afternoon exploring it's dark corners myself. I thought Mississippi just prior to the Civil War was also a very fitting time period for the story; it works to explain a lot of the uneasiness of the people and makes the environment almost crackle with a certain kind of excitement.
My only qualm is that I couldn't really get a grasp on Sophie, the protagonist. She has a love for fine things and a fanciful heart, but her family is not so comfortably situated that she can spend her life in leisure. When her father dies and Monsieur de Cressac wants to take her in as his ward, she jumps at the chance to enter a world of riches and comforts. At first she's entranced by de Cressac and by his world, but she soon comes to realize that not all that glitters is gold. My problem is that she was so changeable and so able to brush off major concerns. She falls in "love" quickly and without much information on the object of her affections. She has clear and easy to understand signs that things are not as they seem, but she skips along. The only time I found myself really rooting for her was when it came to her family. I could see her love for her brothers and sisters, and I did enjoy that interaction.
Honestly, though, the beautiful and lush setting completely makes up for my frustration with Sophie. If you love Gothic novels, and I bet you do if you're interested in this book at all, you're sure to be entranced by Wyndriven Abbey and the secrets it holds! And you will want to come to Mississippi! :)