An isolated and fantastical abbey, with rooms painted like underwater castles or adorned with paintings fit for any museum, sets the stage for Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold. An endearingly naive heroine and an insidiously twisted antagonist added a level of suspense, while the ghosts of Cressac’s ex-wives added a certain creepiness that kept me turning the pages late into the night!I absolutely adored Sophie. She tried her hardest to be a proper lady, but her eccentric godfather would have none of it! Being “genteel, but only in a theoretical way” she theoretically knew how to live as a lady of wealth, but in practice hadn’t been able to afford it – and now that she could afford it, her godfather wished for her to enjoy life and carpe diem. At first, his oddness was something that Sophie entertained so as to appease him, to show him that she was grateful for his generosity.I leaned in to him a little stiffly since he was still practically a stranger, and I bravely kissed his cheek. It was not terrible, being the extraordinarily attractive cheek it was, after all.As time passed, Sophie began to question her godfathers’ eccentricities.I allowed my godfather to stroke my hand or bring it up to his lips or his cheek, labeling his caresses his “Frenchities.” Besides being smitten by him, I genuinely liked him, although sometimes there was a look in his eye that made me uneasy. He could be…dangerous. now, why did that adjective leap to mind? Perhaps because it fit. M. Bernard resembled a tiger – sleep, velvety, smiling, dangerous. And very attractive.But due to her innocence, I had the hardest time deciphering if his “dangerous” ways were a real threat or merely Sophie and her overactive imagination. It made Strands of Bronze and Gold a fantastically suspenseful read as I worked to unveil Cressac’s infatuations with redheads and true intentions with Sophie. It also made me really enjoy Sophie’s character growth: her childlike innocence was slowly stripped away as she realized the entire household was holding its breath, waiting for Cressac’s next blowup, and that Sophie, and Sophie alone, had the power to cool his temper and restore peace. As her eyes were opened to Cressac’s true nature, and her own curiosities were peaked concerning the details of his four former wives’ deaths, Cressac’s gentile manner was soon shown to be a mere farce, hiding a much more hostile temperament.His voice blasted me. Would he actually strike me? I had been waiting for it, fearing it, I realized now, for a long while.And Cressac! What a brilliant antagonist; he’s an absolute master at manipulating those around him and at hiding his devious thoughts under the pretence of playful banter.“I worried you might be huddled in your bed terrified. I tried to come reassure you.”“Did you?”“I did, but your door was locked. Do you lock it every night?”“I do.”“Do you think someone is plotting against your virtue?” A gleam of amusement twinkled in his honey brown eyes.“No sir, I simply feel more secure with the big dark house shut out.”“You know I have all the keys, don’t you? I could enter at any time I wanted.”*Shivers* He knew exactly how to let Sophie know that he had all of the power, while maintaining his smiling and caring facade. It made it that much harder for Sophie to believe that he might not be as sweet and charming as he pretended. My only minor issue with Strands of Bronze and Gold was that despite my love for the two main characters, I didn’t really connect with either of them. I was completely invested in their fates, but only to appease my own curiosity – not because I truly cared about what happened to either of them. Mostly though, it didn’t matter. Thanks to Nickerson’s spot-on pacing, I was completely caught up in uncovering the secrets behind Strands of Bronze and Gold’s plot, and became as obsessed as Sophie in uncovering the truth behind Cressac’s devious scheming and sinister past.For fans of historical romances with a thrilling twist, Strands of Bronze and Gold was an absolute pleasure to read. With simply lovely prose, an enchanting heroine and a sly antagonist I had a hard time putting it down!