Book Description from the ARC:
ARC, 272 pages
November 2011, Zondervan
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.
Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf le Wyse, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of the lord’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 le Wyse. 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.
Source: Melanie Dickerson (Thank you!!)
After the death of Annabel’s father three years ago, her family didn’t have money to pay the censum – to keep them from working like the rest of the villagers. Her family managed to bribe the old lord’s steward, shirking their duty. But things were about to change when a new lord came to Glynval. Her family needed to pay an expensive fine or work with the people during harvest time while one of them served Lord le Wyse as a servant. There was one other option: Annabel could marry Bailiff Tom who would pay the family’s censum. But for Annabel, that was an option she wasn’t willing to consider. She volunteered to be Lord le Wyse’s servant instead of marrying the bailiff.
Annabel’s character was gentle, kind, compassionate, loyal, understanding and loving. She’s the kind of girl who was beautiful inside and out. From being a free woman she became a servant, bound to doing heavy household chores and running errands for her lord. She never complained but instead worked hard to fulfill her duties. As she stayed at the manor, she turned out to be a better servant than the ones who have served Lord le Wyse for a longer time. She really cared about her job and her lord. But staying at the manor meant being close to Bailiff Tom and that made her uneasy and scared.
Ranulf, the new lord, was physically beastly according to the people of Glynval. Worse, he had a temper. But his imperfection and temper were the results of his past. He had melancholy and painful experiences that made him who he was. But deep inside, he was a perfect gentleman who looked out for other people and always came to the rescue – mostly to Annabel’s rescue. I’ve encountered characters in other novels that had a hero complex. Ranulf was not one of them. I liked that he acted out of concern and not for attention. Another thing that I liked about him was his concern for the welfare of his servants. He wanted make sure they were fed, safe and didn’t have problems.
Annabel and Ranulf’s relationship as servant and lord bloomed into something more. Although it was filled with tension and uneasiness, they’ve seen past their physical appearance and knew one another in a deeper way through their encounters. The connection between the two was undeniable. Soon tension gave way to understanding, concern and love. I loved how the romance developed between the two: from full-blown awkwardness to sweetness.
The characters in the novel were diverse and realistic. Most of them – the ones who really mattered – were well-developed. I enjoyed reading about them. The plot was interesting and well-thought. Even though I knew how the story of Beauty and the Beast goes, I was never bored with The Merchant’s Daughter. The ambiance and culture of Medieval Glynval, England were refreshing. The author gave attention to detail, especially with the parts of the novel related to the judicial system, and I admire her for that.
Captivating, dramatic and moving, The Merchant’s Daughter offers a darker, sadder and more romantic version of Beauty and the Beast. I highly recommend this to historical readers, romance readers and retelling fans!