Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

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!

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