Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Miller is left to run a woolen mill with the help of just her younger sister, Rosie, when her father dies. Her mother died years before after giving birth to their baby brother, who lived only a week. Their mill, Stirwaters, has been handed down through several generations of men in the Miller family — but never from father to son — it has always been to cousins or other relations. Now the Miller girls are all that is left.
Despite her young age and the urging of a newfound uncle to sell the mill, Charlotte feels bound to keep it running on her own. But the task is daunting, and the villagers have always talked about the “curse” that seems to hang over the mill — at the very least, it has been haunted by a string of bad luck. Charlotte doesn’t escape it, either; no matter how hard she works or strives to better the mill, things keep going wrong. And she refuses to give any credence to superstitious talk, even though she has grown up in the same little valley with folk who are steeped in tradition and superstitious ways.
When a strange man offers to help her, she is unsettled, but since she is desperate, and he doesn’t ask for much in return, she allows him to spin her a loft full of gold thread. Of course, anyone who knows the story of Rumpelstiltskin, on which this novel is based, will know that that is only the beginning of the story — later on, the man will ask for much, much more.
Elizabeth C. Bunce, an avid needleworker, spins a rich tale woven with many details of wool, thread, weaving and millworking such as was done in the 18th century, either in England or the Colonies. The characters, too, are well fleshed out and true to life. Charlotte’s story evolves and becomes intensely believable and sympathetic.
A Curse Dark as Gold is entertaining, mostly enrapturing and evocative of time and place, appropriate and interesting for many ages.
Rated: None. There is little to offend in this book.