Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
(Reviewed for the Debut Author Challenge)

From GoodreadsWhen 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 over-generous 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.

First, I love this book’s cover. I think it’s gorgeous, and it totally draws me in. Its muted color palette and elegant font very much convey the tone of the story. It’s the reason I purchased a copy even though historical fiction (which Stands of Bronze and Gold is, sort of) is not normally my thing. Book Cover = Win

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a hard book to review. It is exactly what it claims to be: a fairy tale retelling set against a historical backdrop, and it does almost everything right. Its characters are engaging. Its prose is lovely, and boasts some of the most delectable food descriptions I’ve read. And its plot, while a bit slow in the beginning, moves along at reasonable pace and includes some interesting twists and turns. All in all, Strands of Bronze and Gold is very well done.

But… I’m not sure it’s the book for me. It’s just not the type of tale that moves me. And that’s what I’m looking for when I read — a story that gives me an emotional walloping, rips my heart out and makes me feel, and then, just when I think I can’t stand another moment of anguish, slowly restores my sense of hopefulness. I found myself wanting more from Strands of Bronze and Gold, particularly in the way of the Underground Railroad thread, and in the hinted-at romance with Mr. Stone. I thought these elements were the most compelling of the story, and I would’ve loved to have seen them expanded on.

For me, knowing that Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Bluebeard retelling stole a bit of its magic. Early on, I had a basic idea of what was going on with Monsieur Bernard de Cressac and his previous wives. And while I liked Sophie and wanted her to solve the story’s mystery and escape Wyndriven Abbey, I pretty much knew she would, somehow. That kept me from becoming truly invested in her plight. But, as I mentioned, there are a few surprises in the story and they, along with Jane Nickerson’s enchanting prose, kept me reading through to the end.

Strands of Bronze and Gold is everything it’s supposed to be — though it’s simply not the right story for me. That said, if you enjoy historical fiction and fairy tale retellings, I suspect you’ll love this one, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Have you read Strands of Bronze and Gold? Thoughts?
Do you have a favorite fairy tale retelling?

(Learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.)



  1. Rachel (writes things/007) says:

    I LOVE historical fiction and fairy tales, so I really ought to check this one out. Thanks for the review, Katy. (P.S. If you like the gorgeous prose and all, check out BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood. It’s historical fiction/fantasy ish/alternative history about three sisters and I can’t speak highly enough of it.)

    • katyupperman says:

      Rachel! I just started BORN WICKED today, thanks to the post you did on it last week. I’m about 70 pages in and really enjoying it so far. Thank you for the recommendation!

  2. Stephanie Allen says:

    I’m not that familiar with Bluebeard (I mean, I’ve heard of it, but I’m not familiar with the actual story) so that should be helpful for me when I read this one. I love historical fiction, so I’m going to give this one a try 🙂

  3. Erin Funk says:

    I felt the same way about the Underground Railroad story line and the romance. Both seemed liked the author dropped them toward the ending, which is really too bad because I think these are the elements (along with the setting) that differentiated this story from the original tale. I also wish she had developed the ghosts a little more. I kept waiting for them to play a more significant role. The book started off so well, and then fell a little flat. Spot on review, Katy!

    • katyupperman says:

      It almost felt like two different books, right? The whole Underground Railroad bit really fizzled out. I was hoping Sophie would get involved with that cause, which would have furthered her relationship with Stone. Oh well… Now we know. 🙂

  4. Elodie says:

    I have this on my Kindle and already the last time you mentioned it, I was wondering if I should bump it up or not. I tried to read it before but wasn’t in the mood so I have to see if I can fall into the story this time around 😀

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