Synopsis According to Goodreads:
“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.”
Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Bluebeard retelling set in the pre-Civil War South. It’s a classic gothic tale, with ghosts, mystery, villainous yet charming characters, and sumptuous garments.
It’s a well-wrought, if familiar, tale. I was pleased that Sophie, the protagonist, was realistically flawed. As a woman of that age, she was attuned to propriety and devoted to her family. In fact, much of the novel struck me as Austen-esque, if by its bones: a young female struggles against more privileged but callous folk to become a heroine in her own right, bound my familial obligation, dealing with attraction to a preacher, and so on.
That’s not to say it’s Regency- it’s very much rooted in the politics and physical character of Mississippi. I appreciated the sadistic/volatile/narcissistic nature of the villain, who reminded me of a couple of ex-boyfriends (which is to say….he’s a believable villain).
I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, classic Southern gothics, Jane Austen-esque coming-of-age novels, and those who enjoy a bit of morbid mystery with their historic fiction.