"STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD," by Jane Nickerson, Random House, $16.99, 339 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)
"Strands of Bronze and Gold" is a novel with has romance, suspense, murder and horror.
Set in 1850s, 17-year-old Sophia Petheram leaves Boston to live with her godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, after the death of Sophia's widower father. Sophia's godfather lives on beautiful Southern plantation named Wyndriven Abbey in Mississippi.
Once the red-headed Sophia arrives at the Abbey, leaving all she knows behind in Boston, she must figure out the differences between appearance and reality.
Sophia discovers secrets about her godfather — that he has had four previous wives, all of whom were red-headed — that lead to her other secrets. And apparently, there are more than just people who live at the abbey and appear to be ghostly forms. There is also a love interest for Sophia, but there is someone else who is very interested in her.
The descriptions given in "Stands of Bronze and Gold" are incredibly detailed without bogging down the narrative. The details about the beautiful clothing worn by wealthy Southern women and the descriptions of the abbey and its grounds are extraordinary and help the reader visualize the setting.
Although the audience for this book is primarily teen girls, it can be enjoyed by ages could enjoy this book. It's clean of offensive language and the love stories don't go beyond flirting. There are murders committed, but they aren't described in detail. It may not be suitable for younger children as some of the content — the murders and apparitions — is dark.
Nickerson deals with the issue of slavery, as Sophia is not in favor of slavery and Nickerson includes characters who are free blacks living in the South at this time.
Nickerson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but none of the characters or themes in "Strands of Bronze and Gold" are overtly Mormon.
Nickerson has scored a home run with this book. It is extremely well-written and easy to read.