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“"The Merchant's Daughter", by Melanie Dickerson, is a very well-written and thoughtful historical romance. However, it is also an inspirational romance, written in such a compelling manner that the reader's own longings for spiritual answers are stirred just as are those of the characters in the...”see full review » see other reviews »
Turning fairy tales into parables again, Melanie Dickerson sets the story of Beauty and the Beast in England in the 1300s, creating a fascinatingt Christian romance, the Merchant’s Daughter. Seventeen-year-old Annabel, beautiful, gentle and reserved, finds herself thrust from the quiet refined life of a merchant’s daughter into the rigors of serving the manor’s new lord. Casting aside her former dreams of going to a convent and reading her own copy of the Bible, she has to accept the scorn of fellow-servants for her lack of marketable skills. But Annabel soon finds her reading skills in demand with the somewhat scary, maybe even beastly Lord Ranulf. Injured and mutilated in an accident long ago, he’s a short-tempered master, though his heart, if anyone can find it, seems to be in the right place.
Friends and fellow servants would like to marry Annabel off, perhaps to someone influential in the household. But “their crude idea of love didn’t seem satisfying” and Annabel clings to the financially impossible dream of becoming a nun. Meanwhile Lord Ranulf protects his wounded heart by trying not to fall for her. While builders create the lord’s new home, Annabel imagines the beauties of London’s churches and cathedrals and bemoans the misery of the local church.
Ranulf and his beautiful servant spend long hours together comparing passages from the Bible and quietly teaching each other from God’s word. The lessons are well-chosen and well-told, making this a pleasing Christian parable. The growing romance is sweet, threatened, of course by someone else whose intentions towards Annabel are less than pure. Meanwhile the promise that God does indeed use all things for good is nicely illustrated as the tale unfolds. Some of the historical details seemed unconvincing to me, but perhaps my English Catholic background’s to blame. It’s an enjoyable read with wise lessons to tell, aimed well at the Christian marketplace.
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to win an ecopy of this novel in a blog contest.
“Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.
Quick & Dirty: This was an adorable retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast.
Opening Sentence: Annabel sat in the kitchen shelling peas into a kettle at her feet.
Annabel was once the daughter of a very wealthy merchant, but 3 years ago her father lost all of their money when his ships crashed. Shortly after that he died from the pestilence. Her mother and brother refused to do their share in the village and they had no money to pay the debt they owned the Lord. Now as their punishment, one member of the family has to go and work as a servant for three years in the Lord’s house to pay off their debt. There is one other way for Annabel’s family to get out of their current predicament and that is for Annabel to marry the scary old Bailiff. Bailiff Tom was once a good friend to Annabel’s father and his wife passed away a few years ago. Annabel always thought he was a kind man until he started to make passes at her, and when she refused he tried to force her. Annabel decides that it would be much better to be a servant then to marry the Bailiff. So she travels to the house of the new Lord and offers up her services.
It turns out that the new Lord is actually quite young and unmarried, but he had an accident years ago that left scars on his face and took out one of his eyes. He also has a terrible temper and can be quite beastly. Annabel doesn’t mind being a servant but she does have to see Bailiff Tom everyday and he always makes her very uncomfortable. She tries to never go anywhere alone so he can’t make advances towards her. She also has a chance to get to know the Lord Le Wyse much better and she is eventually able to see past his horrible temper and see that he is quite a gentle man. Annabel never planned to marry, but the more she gets to know Lord Le Wyse it makes her doubt her decision.
Annabel is a wonderful character that was very easy to connect with. She is a beautiful girl both inside and out. Her dream for most of her life was to become a nun so she could read the Holy Bible for herself. Ever since her father died she has tried to do everything she can to help take care of her ungrateful family. Her oldest brother wants her to marry well so he can be lazy and not have to work, her other brother says that he is always ill and really can’t do anything to help. Then there is her mother who is accustomed to an easy life and she doesn’t want to have to do any hard labor either. Annabel has a good heart and she isn’t afraid to work hard. She also tries to see the good in everything even when she is in a dire situation. She is a very good character to strive to be like.
Lord Le Wyse is a bitter man that has had a past filled with lots of heartache. There was an accident that left his faced scared and his left hand maimed. Most people that look upon him find him to be rather hideous and he has a temper to match. He was married a few years back to a very beautiful girl that betrayed him and only married him for his money. Because he truly loved his wife her betrayal hurt him deeply and he has been bitter towards women ever since, especially beautiful women. When he meets Annabel his first impression is that she is very attractive so at once he doesn’t trust her, but as he gets to know her he realizes how wrong he has been all these years. He thought that no one could ever love him, but as he lets Annabel enter his heart. She starts to heal some of the wounds he has carried around for all these years.
This was a great retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I loved that it was set in England in the 1300’s. The author really captured the true meaning of the classic fairytale, which is that it doesn’t matter what you look like but what is inside that counts. I loved the writing and I found the story very intriguing. The character development was great and I couldn’t help but fall in love with them. This is the first book I have read by Melanie Dickerson, but I would love to read more from her. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fairytale retellings, or is a fan of Beauty and the Beast.
Anger surged through her. She gave a sudden tug at her arm and, managing to maneuver around Tom, she stood in the doorway. He let go with a shove, sending Annabel falling backward through the door. She struggled to right herself as she fell, and landed on her hip in the dusty street.
Hooves pounded toward her, and a horse’s high-pitched whinny sounded above her head. Annabel raised her arm to protect herself.
Just inches away, the horse danced to a halt, snorting and throwing dirt into her face. The animal’s hot breath ruffled her hair. Dust clogged her nose and throat and made her cough.
The rider dismounted. “What are you doing?”
The man’s voice and accent were unfamiliar. Her hair had fallen in front of her eyes, making it difficult to see the hands that slipped under her arms and hauled her to her feet. She pulled away, looking around on the ground for her headscarf. Darting a glance a t the butcher shop doorway, she saw Bailiff Tom lurking in the shadows. She wiped his vile saliva from her face with her sleeve.
“Throwing yourself in front of a galloping horse?” The stranger’s voice reminded her of a snarling animal in its pitch and intensity. “We could have both been killed.”
Shiny black boots waited beside her. Even the stranger’s stance showed his irritation.
Finally seeing her scarf, she bent and snatched it from the dirt.
Her eyes traveled from his expensive leather boots to his broad chest. He wore the most elegant clothing she’d seen since the last time she visited London with her father-a red velvet doublet and gold-embroidered shirtsleeves-a vast departure from the dull gray and brown of the villagers’ coarse woolens.
She beat the dust from her skirt as anger boiled up inside her. It wasn’t her fault she’d fallen in front of his horse. Did he think she had tossed herself into the street? First that disgusting lecher Bailiff Tom, and now this stranger … Her gaze finally met his face and she stifled a gasp.
FTC Advisory: Zondervan provided me with a copy of The Merchant’s Daughter. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.”
“I love Beauty and the Beast and this retelling is wonderful. I normally do not like historic fiction, this I did not want to put down.
Set in England during the 1300’s, The Merchant's Daughter had a real feel for the time period. The characters were complex and the story never dragged. I liked how the heroine Annabelle was strong and brave but all the while searching to understand God better.
This is one story I would recommend to teens and women alike. It is a clean, Christian romance and I give it 4 stars.”
“Annabel was raised the fine daughter of a merchant - educated and well-mannered, life was good until her family lost everything. Now, to pay off her family's debts, she has been indentured to the Lord le Wyse, a reportedly cruel man who is both scarred and fierce. Not only is she becoming a servant, but she feels her own safety is at risk because the one man she truly fears - her medieval town's bailiff -is a member of the Lord le Wyse's household. How could a loving God deal out such a cruel fate? Annabel truly wants to understand and longs for a real understanding of God's word and how he deals with his children. Soon, she has a chance to learn all about forgiveness, love and second chances.
It took me a while of reading before I figured out that hey, this is just really a clean and Christian romance novel. There is nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't quite what I was expecting. While the setting is clearly medieval, mostly it is the story of two hurt people who fall in love. It was the internal drama that finally tipped me off that this wasn't supposed to really be more than that - and once I realized it, I just zipped through it without being so frustrated by the slow pacing of the story. I did like the Christian angle (being a Christian myself), so it was nice to have a female main character that wanted religion and God to be a part of her life - and a romantic story that isn't graphic is nice too. It certainly wasn't a waste of time, it just isn't one that will necessarily stick with me either. 3.5 stars”
“So good. Annabel must be the lord's servant for 3 years to pay off a debt her family owes.”Dawn W wrote this review Saturday, April 28, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great! Loved the sweetness of this story so much. Really made me think about how we don't value getting to read the Bible like people used to. Great story line and message!”ContinuousDelights wrote this review Sunday, April 8, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Enjoyable story.”Barb R wrote this review Tuesday, April 3, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“"The Merchant's Daughter", by Melanie Dickerson, is a very well-written and thoughtful historical romance. However, it is also an inspirational romance, written in such a compelling manner that the reader's own longings for spiritual answers are stirred just as are those of the characters in the story. Set in mid-1300s England, the story line very much makes us aware of the strictures of the feudal and judicial systems of the era. Superstition warred with religious faith, and brave were those who sought out the word of God. Anabel Chapman is a young woman who longs to read the Bible, and to live out her days in a nunnery. She thinks not of marrying, but of living a devout life. Her father was a rich merchant who lost his shipping fortune and then died when a virulent illness affected many in their home village. Anabel's mother and brothers resisted working to pay their debts to the feudal system, and when the new lord comes to claim his lands, they must pay him for their years of sloth. The payment due is for one family member to serve the new lord for three years as a servant. Anabel seizes the opportunity to leave her idle, dependent family and to avoid marrying the loathsome and persistent Bailiff Tom. The new lord, Ranulf Le Wyse, disfigured and maimed by an attacking wolf, is said to be "beastly" in both looks and temper. Rumor-mongers claim he is cursed and that he brings an ill wind with him to the village. Anabel and Ranulf's first meeting is unexpected and unpleasant, but she later comes to see that he has been greatly misjudged. Her gentleness and unaffected beauty warm his cold heart and do much to change his mistrust of women. Anabel is overjoyed when Ranulf asks her to read to him from the Bible each evening. The more she reads, the more she wants to learn of the Lord's teachings and holy word. Despite all that he has suffered in his life, Ranulf has never completely turned away from his faith. Seeing the genuine spiritual yearning in Anabel reaffirms his own love of God. As their friendship and mutual respect begins to grow, so does the jealousy and malicious intent of others out to do them harm. Will their spiritual strengths and genuine love for each other be strong enough to defeat their enemies and lead to a lifetime of happiness? I very much enjoyed "The Merchant's Daughter", and I also look forward to reading "The Healer's Apprentice" from the talented Melanie Dickerson.
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever."
Psalm 28:7-9 ”
“Annabel's family has neglected to do their duties for the lord of the village. Annabel's father was a wealthy Merchant. He has now died after losing all of his ships. Annabel's Mother and 2 brothers have always put on airs and thought they were too good to do any work. It has finally caught up with them when the new lord comes to run the village.
Annabel's brother has a solution to their problems. Marry Annabel off to Bailiff Tom. One problem, Bailiff Tom is a disgustingly older man! But Bailiff Tom has been lusting after Annabel for a long time. He has promised to pay their debt if he is allowed to marry.
The punishment for not fulfilling their duties is that one of their family must become a servant in Lord Ranulf le Wyse's household. Rumor has it that Lord le Wyse is a deformed evil man. Knowing that she will not marry Bailiff Tom, Annabel goes to Lord le Wyse and offers herself as servant for her family.
Unfortunately being a servant in Lord le Wyse's household does not keep her safe from the advances of Bailiff Tom. Annabel does everything in her power to stay out of his way. One of Annabel's greatest desires is to be able to read the Bible. The local priest doesn't even have a Bible which explains his roaring sermons on the evilness of women. When Lord le Wyse asks Annabel to read for him in the evenings she is greatly pleased when he brings out his own Bible for her to read.
Just when things seem to be finally falling into place for Annabel a horrible event strikes Bailiff Tom down and puts Annabel and her childhood friend Stephen in grave danger with the authorities. Will Lord le Wyse's softening heart be able to save Annabel and Stephen from this new threat?
I love retellings of fairy tales and this is no exception. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and I loved this story with Ranulf and Annabel as Beauty and Beast. I also love the fact that the characters focus on inner beauty rather than on outward appearance. Both Ranulf and Annabel are truly good people inside. Ranulf is misunderstood because he has allowed himself to become bitter with his circumstances. Annabel, although from a formerly wealthy family has a nurturing heart that endears her to people around her. Ranulf learns to see women differently through Annabel's eyes and Annabel is able to see that all men are not lecherous, vile creatures to be avoided. A very well-written love story!”