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.
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About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth (SheilaDeeth)
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
'A virtuous romance with characters who 'fall in love with each other's inner beauty in spite of outward appearance.' - Kirkus Review -- Kirkus Review
'True, readers will peg the happy ending at the start, but the progression of Annabel's honorable love affair will have the rapt attention of Christian-fiction fans.' - Courtney Jones, Booklist Review -- Booklist Review