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. (Image and summary from goodreads.com)
My Review: Of all of the princes or villains that I was introduced to as a child, Bluebeard is the one I'd least like to meet. Blackbeard (I always thought they must be cousins), although not a fairy tale, is someone I'd LOVE to sit down and chat with. But Bluebeard? Creepy!
Jane Nickerson is forthright that the fairy tale of Bluebeard disturbs even her, but her retelling is masterful. Set in antebellum Mississippi, Nickerson has crafted the perfect world for her Bluebeard's dealings. His isolation of our heroine Sophie, his dual personality-one for the charmer, one for the controlling side, his flattery, generosity and simultaneous demands of repayment ... this book read like a manual "How to Spot a Bad Relationship".
It was disturbing. It was frightful. It left me feeling dark and icky, that although Sophie was able to see what kind of man her godfather is, that although she is bright and independent, she still allows the traps to be set. I think that was Nickerson's point - run while you first can. Run, and don't look back.
I couldn't help but think of that Twilight study - that Edward and Bella's relationship fits every question used to define an abusive relationship. This book would as well, but this time, Nickerson paints the relationship in a most unflattering light. Sophie wants to escape. She desires it to all end.
Did I regret reading the book? I don't know. Nickerson is a good author, and has done a fantastic job retelling a disturbing story. Did I feel dark and icky? Yes. Was I supposed to? Yes. Will I be checking out more of her books? Yes ... I don't think she can get creepier than Bluebeard!
My Rating: Three stars
For the Sensitive Reader: de Cressac's character is a horrible man. There are multiple murders (only one plays out in the book), one near molestation, and the entire novel is about an abusive relationship. Although the heroine does escape for the best in the end, it is disturbing.