Author: Jane Nickerson.
Published: March 12th 2013.
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Sort: Part one of ‘Strands of bronze and gold.’
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.
When Sophia’s father dies, he leaves her, her sister and her two brothers behind as orphans. Sophia is lucky enough to have a rich godfather. She hopes to help her family by moving in his mansion. He is very charming and he overwhelms her with expensive gifts. Sophia is starting to see him not only as a godfather, but as a man. But something is not right and his facade is slowly starting to crumble. Sophia feels smothered by his possessive nature and she is afraid for his explosive temper. He practically forces her to marry him and that is when she finds out about his greatest secret. His other wives didn’t die from a natural cause and he isn’t planning to let Sophia leave.
What bothered me is the fact that her father never questioned why his friend only wants to be godfather of Sophia. He admits that Bernard has strong affections from Sophia, but he never thinks this is strange? What about his other children? I would’ve tried to arrange something for them as well, but that would have changed the complete story of course.
Sophia is not a bad character in the beginning. She is shy and she seemed intelligent, but I didn’t like the way she changed herself to please Bernard. I can see why she was falling for him. He was kind, interested in her opinion and he makes her feel safe and wanted, but that doesn’t mean you need to do things that make you feel embarrassed. I wished she showed more of the spunk she has at the end. Throughout the story, I was bored by her and I didn't feel connected to her. There were times she annoyed me.
Bernard. It’s clear that he is out of his mind, but I think that grief changed him in the person he is now. I liked how Nickerson painted his split personality. It makes him a villain you don’t hate a 100% and it makes him a more realistic treat. I think he cares for Sophia in his own twisted way. There are also some secondary characters: while they have their distinct role, I find them a bit underdeveloped.
Nickerson has a pleasant writing-style. It’s detailed and easy. It wasn’t hard to imagine how the characters and the environment looks. I liked the plot, but I already knew that since I’m familiar with the original story. It’s such a morbid tale. The ending held some of the tension I expected earlier. It was satisfying and fairytale-ish: good wins, evil loses. I just wished I felt more creepiness in the overall story.