I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beauty and the Beast--The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Melanie Dickerson has done it again! I loved her first novel, The Healer’s Apprentice—a delightful interpretation the story of Sleeping Beauty with a Christian worldview in a medieval setting—and Dickerson’s second novel, The Merchant’s Daughter, is just as charming, inspiring, and well-crafted. This time, the story re-interprets Beauty and the Beast, set in the medieval English village of Glynval.

Annabel Chapman yearns to be a nun and study God’s word for herself.  Her lazy family offers no support, however: they want to marry her off to the lecherous bailiff, Tom atte Water. Since Annabel’s merchant father died, the family has suffered financially, but they are too proud to do their duty to the local lord…and now the law has caught up to them. As punishment, Annabel or her brothers must serve the local lord, Ranulf, Lord le Wyse, for three years. Annabel sees her dream of becoming a nun deferred, but serving Lord le Wyse is preferable to marriage to the bailiff.

Not that Lord le Wyse doesn’t scare her. He is gruff, unpleasant, and frightening to behold, with a patch over one eye and countless scars. No one can love a man like him. When Annabel sees him in the woods one night, crouched and howling like an animal, she wonders what causes him such anguish and pain.

Despite his formidable exterior, Lord le Wyse offers Annabel a gift: the opportunity to read the Bible to him each evening. Throughout their times together, both grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord, and become vulnerable with one another. As their friendship deepens, so do their troubles. With mortal danger threatening each from different sides, only one thing remains clear. The only way to protect Beauty is to separate her from the Beast.  And that’s what Annabel wanted all along, isn’t it?

The portrait of medieval life Dickerson paints is textured and colorful, the result of detailed research which enhances the story, and in no way sounds forced or distracting. The spiritual element remains strong throughout the book, the secondary characters are memorable, and I enjoyed watching the main characters’ grow from start to finish. Annabel learns the meaning of sacrifice as she embarks her incredible journey from home. Lord le Wyse is a complex man, and much like his fairy-tale counterpart, there’s a lot to love about him once someone tries to see past his exterior.

Although a Young-Adult publication, The Merchant’s Daughter will appeal to any fan of medieval-set romance (click here! And right now, it's available for only 2.99 on Kindle!).

I look forward to Dickerson's next novel—her books are keepers on my shelf!

A copy of this book was furnished by the publisher in exchange for my review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks so much, Susie, for the great review and for letting your readers know about my book!!!

Susanne Dietze said...

Oh Melanie, it was my pleasure. I loved every minute of this book. I know it's been a hit with countless other readers, too. Congratulations!