Author: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Random Buzzers (ARC)
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.
Gideon made me happy because, as Sophie says, "He certainly didn't resemble the heroes of romantic novels. Far from it. But the very qualities that made him unlike most fictional love interests endeared him to me all the more. Kindness is undervalued in written romances." I do wish he had gotten more scenes, but his time on the page was successful in endearing him to me and I felt he and Sophie had a believable relationship growth for the time period.
The historical setting lends to the mood of the story pretty well. The writing is good and I enjoyed much of the dialogue. There are some nice themes floating about in the pages. I just wish the plot hadn't started off so slowly, because it did take about 125 pages (out of ~340) before I got to the point where I really wanted to keep reading. Up until that point, I would just read a chapter here and there. A little tightening up of the first third or so of the story could have probably had me devouring the suspense much sooner.
If you're looking for a different sort of retelling with a sinister edge to it and don't mind being patient in the beginning, then this is a nice option. I do recommend reading the Grimm's Bluebeard fairy tale before picking this book up, as it's really short and can be read online, and I'm a firm believer in knowing the background material.