The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
YA Christian Historical Fiction/Romance, Published Dec 2011
Challenges: Christian Historical Fiction, NetGalley Month (Jan)
Read: January 2012, 288 pp
4/5 STARS – Highly Recommended!
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.
Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff-a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.
Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, so as soon as I saw this was a retelling of that story, I knew I wanted to read it. Annabel is sentenced to work for the new Lord of the town. Her family was once wealthy when her father was alive, but he lost all his money with the loss of his shipping business and he soon died thereafter. Annabel’s mother and brothers are portrayed as useless louts who refuse to pay their taxes or work the yearly wheat crops with the rest of the town. When Lord Ranulf comes to town and takes over, Annabel’s family is sentenced for their negligence. Annabel is the one to take this responsibility on, working in the wheat fields. But when Lord Ranulf notices that she is having such a hard time with the work and that she is being bullied by his own bailiff, he sends Annabel to work in the kitchens. Her troubles don’t end there, however, and her only respite is finding the one thing her heart truly desires – to read the Bible for herself, not believing her God, a loving God, would teach the hellfire and damnation that their local priest preaches. Along the way, her heart is opened to the one person she never saw before.
There are a lot of characters to dislike in this book, but I can’t imagine living in 1352 was an easy life for most. I enjoyed Annabel’s relationships with her friend Stephen, the head maid – Eustacia, and with, of course, Lord Ranulf. The historical setting of England in 1352 is beautifully written. I wanted to go there and see the new castle, or “manor” as it is called, being constructed.
I really enjoyed Annabel’s enthusiasm for wanting to read the Bible for herself. Often times I think that nonbelievers and even believers can misconstrue the teachings of God and I think reading the Bible for yourself can help you understand and strengthen your faith in Him. After reading this book, I just happened to read the book of Ruth and enjoyed seeing the parallels with the part of the story where Annabel is working in the wheat fields to Ruth and Boaz’s story in the Bible. This was my first time to read Melanie Dickerson and it won’t be my last!
He surveyed the undulating countryside, green and lush along the river bank, despite the lack of summer rain. The river shimmered and tripped over short, rocky falls and wound around the bends and through bogs where bluebells bloomed on the banks. He couldn’t have chosen a more picturesque village for his new home.
Glynval was the location he had run to, an area where he intended to live at low ebb, flow with the simple rhythm of village life, breathe fresh air, and keep aloof. His peace would come from the natural beauty of the countryside, from his own independence and freedom.
As he entered, she once again caught sight of the sky behind him, which had bruised blue and purple with clouds and threatened rain.
For another retelling of Beauty and the Beast, check out Beauty by Robin McKinley.
Thanks to NetGalley and Zondervan for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.