Author: Melanie Dickerson
Title: The Merchant’s Daughter
Publisher: Zondervan

When is a fairy tale not a fairy tale?

Seventeen-year-old Annabel Chapman is the only daughter of a family that has fallen on hard times. Her merchant father is dead; his ships lost at sea, the family’s fortune at the bottom of the ocean. Annabel’s mother and brothers are unable to pay their debts and unwilling to work. In this year of our Lord—well, we’re not exactly sure when, but it’s sometime in the Middle Ages—the punishment for such behavior is decided by a jury of townspeople. They decree that one of the Chapmans must work for the new lord of the manor as an indentured servant for a sentence of three years.

Not to worry, though, Annabel’s eldest brother has a plan. He’ll marry her off to the revolting Bailiff Tom, a man old enough to be her father, in return for payment of the family’s fine. (Like that’s going to happen. Tom is as dishonest as he is lecherous.) Old Tom is truly awful, lurking in dark corners trying to grab the unwilling Annabel for a cuddle and kiss at every opportunity. (Bleah.)

Naturally, Annabel wants no part of this scheme. She doesn’t want to marry anybody; her heart is set on becoming a nun. Unfortunately, admission into a nunnery takes money Annabel doesn’t have. So she sets off to the manor and offers to be his lordship’s servant, hoping to prove she’s not as useless as the rest of her family. The work is hard, but it’s better than the alternative.

At first, Lord le Wyse is almost as scary as Bailiff Tom. His lordship has a mangled hand, an eye patch, a loud voice, and a foul temper. He also has a Bible. In this day and age, that’s a rarity. Annabel has never seen a Bible—the village priest doesn’t even have one (which explains a lot about his preaching). She can read Latin, though, and soon finds herself designated reader to his lordship. Will evenings filled with the beauty of God’s Word tame the beast in Lord le Wyse’s heart? What will happen when Bailiff Tom attempts to take matters (and Annabel) into his own hands? With the village up in arms and a man’s life hanging in the balance, will Annabel find the strength to follow her heart?

When is a fairy tale not a fairy tale? When magic is replaced by God’s provision and a change of heart means accepting his grace.

Award-winning author Melanie Dickerson transforms the classic story of “Beauty and the Beast” into a thought-provoking tale for young readers. She effortlessly incorporates biblical teaching into the story, making conversations about fear and forgiveness both believable and interesting. Annabel’s medieval world is a fascinating glimpse into a time when common people did not have access to Scripture and ordinary folk were not expected to know God. The Merchant’s Daughter may technically be a book for younger readers, but they may have to tear it out of the hands of (ahem) older readers who appreciate a good romance.