Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf'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 Ranulf. 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.
My source for book: Local LibraryMy Thoughts:
Like most of Melanie's novels, this one is marketed as YA fiction...but don't let that scare you away if you're older! I'm in my late 20's, and the story certainly didn't feel too young or simplistic for me. Fairy tales have a universal appeal, and similarly I feel that The Merchant's Daughter has appeal for many different ages. No, it's not a fairy tale per-say, but it's based on one, and the time setting of so very long ago gives it a hint of an other-worldly feel.
I really liked the reminder that love should be based on inner qualities, rather than the outer. We've all heard it before: appearance shouldn't matter, it's what's inside that counts. The story does a nice job of getting that point across, and it's a truth that's worth being reminded of. But in all honesty, Ranulf actually didn't sound all that hideous to me. A little scarred up, yes... but hideous? I don't think so. Thankfully, Annabel didn't think so either. Some of the characters described Ranulf's personality as "beastly", which I thought was a unique way to bring the traditional "beast" imagery into the story without involving fantasy elements.
Though I don't feel it's Melanie's strongest novel, it's also not the weakest, either.... it falls somewhere in the middle. However, I do think the faith element fits more seamlessly into this story than any of her other fairy-tale retellings. Maybe it's because I'm not all that familiar with the original Beauty & the Beast tale, but from my perspective the faith and Bible reading really fit into the story well, giving Annabel and Ranulf something to bond over. I do admit that Annabel's desire to go into a nunnery seemed slightly odd and out of place, but it wasn't a large enough plot point for it to be a deal breaker for me.
Overall, The Merchant's Daughter kept me moderately intrigued through-out. It held my attention and I wanted to see how everything would play out, but it just didn't seem to have the "wow" factor that I was hoping for. Still, it's an admirable re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, and I love how the Christian elements are woven in as a large part of the story without feeling preachy or out of place. If you're a fan of the idea that love conquers all (shouldn't we all be!?), then it's worth considering giving The Merchant's Daughter a chance.
My Rating: 3.5 stars