Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Merchant's Daughter - Review and Giveaway Contest

 by Dina Sleiman

Earlier this week we featured a wonderful article by Melanie Dickerson on Fairy Tale retellings. The subject definitely struck a chord and many of you joined in the conversation. So today, I'm delighted to recommend Melanie's wonderful new Beauty and the Beast tale, The Merchant's Daughter.

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. 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. 

Click here for video trailer.

Dina's review:
We've already agreed that we love a good fairy tale retelling. I'm sure we can also agree that the cover is just gorgeous. And it captures the tone of  the book so well. Zondervan did a lovely job packaging this novel.

The novel itself does an incredible job of capturing this timeless tale in a more realistic manner. Of course the theme of inner beauty is strong, but it goes further to present a story of redemption and healing. One of my favorite elements was Annabel's strong desire to read the Bible for herself and not just hear the priest's skewed take on it. As a fellow medieval writer, I was thoroughly delighted by this historical depiction, which is so true of that time. Annabel's wish to enter a convent also thrilled me, and showed her sincere devotion to God. But God channeled this love in a different direction. I found the romance in this book gentle and touching, as fit Annabel's strong but quiet spirit. The book powerfully illustrates a true sort of Godly love.

As I read it, I couldn't help but wonder, what makes this young adult fiction. It dealt with some hard realities and many themes adults would relate with. Lord Ranulf is far from a child and has experienced much heartache. I suppose the fairy tale element is popular among young adult readers, making this a smart marketing choice. But I also noticed how Annabel blossoms into young womanhood during the story. I think that might be the reason it's well suited to young adults. I know my daughter loves Melanie's books.

So yes, whether or not you are a young adult, I highly recommend this book to fairy tale fans, romance lovers, Anglophiles, and medieval enthusiasts. It's a great quick read, and you'll enjoy every moment.

Giveaway Contest: INKIES ARE ELIGIBLE! Since I somehow ended up with two copies of this book, I'm going to give one away. But you must follow my rules. You must make up your own backstory for beastly Lord Ranulf. If you were to write this book, what sort of past would you give him that might stir our compassion? Leave your ideas along with your email address in a safe format to win. I'll choose my favorite on Monday.


  1. I loved Annabel's longing to read the Bible and desire to join a convent, as well, Dina.

    This is a lovely story, and I hope Melanie has a long and successful career.

  2. I haven't read it yet, though I do own an E copy. As more people get Kindles (I don't know if you can do this with Nook to Nook, probably not Nook to Kindle...) it's also nice to know we can lend and borrow.

    Beast's backstory is ... burned. He's a cocky young man, a show-off, the leader of the pack of his wealthy friends, but they use him and only pretend to care. At some point in one of their partying days, on a hunting expedition, a jealous insider pushes him into a firepit (he's inebriated and doesn't see who pushes him) and then leaves him. He survives (duh, or that would be a short book) and is cared for by some gentle woodland couple who help him return to his home where only his now senile father and servants are. He has to deal with trying to figure out who pushed him and how to enact revenge AND his desire to cast off revenge and be a better person. Which is where Beauty comes in again.
    Sort of a mix of classic tales not excluding "As Good as it Gets" ha ha.

    by the way, I loved The Healer's Apprentice so I am saving The Merchant's Daughter for a special occasion.

  3. Lord Ranulf was born the eldest son into a very old, esteemed and wealthy lineage. Tall, strong, and handsome, he possessed a keen mind and sharp wit. While never jolly or outgoing, he was nonetheless blessed with forbearance and goodwill toward others. He planned to fulfill his duties as heir by marrying a suitably proper beauty with whom he had fallen in love. His future promised to be rich with contentment and prosperity. Shortly before his wedding date, Lord Ranulf gathered together a hunting party to track and kill a marauding wolf which had been decimating local livestock and had injured several men in the community. This was no ordinary wolf, but one of immense size and strength and supernatural cunning. During the hunt, one of Lord Ranulf's own men is attacked by the wolf. When Ranulf intervenes to save the man's life, he himself is grievously injured. The violent attack leaves Ranulf maimed, scarred, and horribly in pain. His face is mutilated, causing the loss of one eye, and giving him the look of a "beast". Even his own mother weeps at the very sight of him. His intended bride cannot bear the thought of marriage to such a monster, so she elopes with Ranulf's younger brother, who has always resented Lord Ranulf's rightful inheritance. Superstition and religious ignorance soon create a malicious web of livid tales of "Ranulf the Beast". Lies that are sharper than swords result in the shunning of Ranulf's family, and the disgrace causes his father to seek oblivion in drink. Eventually the alcohol offers a permanent escape, as Ranulf's father is killed in a drunken fall down the main stairway of their home. His mother's grief over all their losses claims her as well, and she dies of a broken heart. Always the dutiful elder son, Ranulf somehow continues to oversee the family affairs and manage the estate, ensuring that those for whom he is responsible will not suffer due to his family's misfortune. His wounds are deep and way beyond just physical pain. He retreats into a shadowed existence, carrying out his duty, and living with great inner torment. His terseness and darkened nature, combined with his startling physicality, only add to the legend of "Ranulf the Beast". When lovely young Annabel comes into his life, they each must relearn what they thought to be the truth of both faith and human nature. To truly love is to place another's happiness above your own, to sacrifice for them without question, and to see them with the heart and not just with the eyes.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

    Love is patient, Love is kind,
    It does not envy, it does not boast,
    It is not proud, It is not rude,
    It is not self-seeking,
    It is not easily angered,
    It keeps no record of wrongs.

    Love does not delight in evil,
    but rejoices with the truth.

    Love always protects, always trusts,
    always hopes, always perseveres.

    Love bears all things, believes all things,
    hopes all things, endures all things.

    Love never ends.

    L o v e N e v e r F a i l s.

    Corinthians 13 : 4 - 8

  4. Virginia! nicely done!
    nice to see you today, my foodie friend.

  5. Hey, Deb!

    Thank you : ) I hope you have a chance to check out the link I sent you for my blog post "Mama & Elvis--a true story". I tell about how her sacrifice for me resulted in a very special blessing for her, and I share all her recipes.

  6. Nice, ladies. This is some awesomely fun interaction for so early in the morning.

    Deb, interesting take. Virginia, wow. Very in depth. I'm impressed. That's all I'll say for now until more commenters get a chance to try.

  7. Very nice, Virginia. What's your blog addy so we can check it out?

    And Deb, I like your take, too. Like you, I have certain books and authors that I save for special times. :-)

  8. What a cool idea, Dina! And I love your review! Thank you so much.

    Suzie, thank you so much for your kind words!!!

    That is really cool, Deb! You should write that story! All this talk about "beastly" heroes makes me want to write another Beauty and the Beast story!

  9. Wow, Virginia, that was beautiful!!! I really like that backstory. ;-) You captured the story emotions beautifully. Maybe you should write a Beauty and the Beast story too!

  10. Everybodies back storyes sound as interesting as the novel. My idea would be to have placed him in the wrong place and a victim after helping someone.
    Theresa N

  11. Melanie, I think you could write another Beauty and the Beast story. You could write a Beauty and the Beast subseries while still doing other fairy tales. Who knows, maybe you'll start a whole new sub genre and become known as the premiere author of the genre.

  12. Wow! Virginia and Deb have some awesome stories!

    Hmm. I'll say... Beast is an extremely wealthy, handsome young man who inherited a fortune from his indulgent, deceased parents. He can afford to be self-centered and cocky, because he is so powerful that no one dares cross him. He is surrounded by hangers-on and is, of course, popular with maidservants and eligible ladies alike. He spends his days in masculine pursuits: hunting, swordplay, fisticuffs, etc. And he always wins--he takes down the largest buck, lords over his opponents, rides the fastest horse, etc. He perceives no need for God.

    Then he contracts a disease. The few who visited while he was ill hastened from his sickroom in disgust and never returned. Beast is now scarred and suffers paralysis in one arm and leg. While he is still able to move, he cannot do most of the things which gave him a sense of esteem, like wield a sword or take down an opponent. Because his face is scarred, the only women interested in him now are ones who desperately need his money.

    God must be a punishing God, Beast believes, to treat him so cruelly. He locks himself away from his so-called friends, but no one wants to be near him anymore anyway. His life is one of utter misery, spent plotting ways to make his "friends" as miserable as he has been by undermining all of their investments, etc. Their lives are ruined one by one. Meanwhile, he can't bear to look at himself--on the inside or the outside--because he hates what he sees. He sometimes wonders if he was wrong to discount God all along, but he is still prideful, and doesn't know how to escape his pain.

    Perhaps if someone told him how...but no one dares come near him...until one of his old friends determines to seek revenge, and Beauty is thrust into his life...

    I loved The Healer's Apprentice and I can't wait to read The Merchant's Daughter.

  13. Y'all are wonderful : ) You have always been so kind to me since the first time I visited here a couple years ago after I had just lost my job. Losing your job in the middle of a global recession is not for sissies! Some of what I have lost can never be recovered. Much of it I have learned to just live without, but I would like to regain some peace of mind.

    Melanie, thank you very much! I get your news updates, and I have been intrigued by "The Merchant's Daughter" from the very first glimpse early last year! "Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale, closely followed by "Cinderella". I personally identify with elements in both of the story lines.

    Thank you so much, Suzie. I don't mean to jump in someone else's sandbox here, but since you asked, here is the link to read about Mama & Elvis and check out Mama's recipes:

    I don't have my own website yet because everything is still quite tenuous for me. I am very blessed that four kind souls asked me to guest blog once a month. I also frequently post online reviews and commentaries. You can call me "long-winded", just don't call me late for supper ; )

  14. Hmm...another intriguing backstory from Susie. Awesome.

  15. Theresa, I think that's a great idea. That's basically what happened with my hero. He saved someone and ended up the victim.

    Suzie, I think that could be a great idea. Should I do all my Beauty and the Beast stories as Medievals? Or should I change up the time periods? I also love the Regency time period and the late 1800's in the South. Hmmm. That is definitely something to think about. A beauty and the Beast story for all of the historical periods I love!

  16. Susanne, that is a great story, girl! You should definitely write yours too! I would definitely want to read it.

    Virginia, I can totally feel your pain! My husband lost his job over 16 months ago and still hasn't found a job, and was the only person working outside the home. I'm kind of glad that it's just as hard to get a teaching job, or I might feel pressured to get my teaching license renewed! Seriously, it is a hard time, but God provides.

  17. I think if you did a set of Beauty and the Beast books it would be more interesting to set them in different times.

  18. I agree with Dina, Melanie. Different time periods would make for an interesting series. "Beauty and the Beast Through the Ages"

  19. Ooops, it's Tuesday, isn't it. Well, anyway, my obvious winner is Virginia C.

    A) For her detailed and lengthy backstory.

    B) Her version had many similarities to Melanie's.

    C) I know she'll really enjoy and appreciate this book.

    I'll contact you by email soon, Virginia.

  20. Oh, golly! Thank you! Very much appreciated : )

  21. Thank you Melanie & Dina for my wonderful book prize, "The Merchant's Daughter"! I wanted to thank you both for the opportunity to read such a wonderful, wonderful book. Here's my online review, posted at Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Powell's Books:

    "The Merchant's Daughter", by Melanie Dickerson, is a very well-written and thoughtful historical romance. However, it is also an inspirational romance, written in such a compelling manner that the reader's own longings for spiritual answers are stirred just as are those of the characters in the story. Set in mid-1300s England, the story line very much makes us aware of the strictures of the feudal and judicial systems of the era. Superstition warred with religious faith, and brave were those who sought out the word of God. Anabel Chapman is a young woman who longs to read the Bible, and to live out her days in a nunnery. She thinks not of marrying, but of living a devout life. Her father was a rich merchant who lost his shipping fortune and then died when a virulent illness affected many in their home village. Anabel's mother and brothers resisted working to pay their debts to the feudal system, and when the new lord comes to claim his lands, they must pay him for their years of sloth. The payment due is for one family member to serve the new lord for three years as a servant. Anabel seizes the opportunity to leave her idle, dependent family and to avoid marrying the loathsome and persistent Bailiff Tom. The new lord, Ranulf Le Wyse, disfigured and maimed by an attacking wolf, is said to be "beastly" in both looks and temper. Rumor-mongers claim he is cursed and that he brings an ill wind with him to the village. Anabel and Ranulf's first meeting is unexpected and unpleasant, but she later comes to see that he has been greatly misjudged. Her gentleness and unaffected beauty warm his cold heart and do much to change his mistrust of women. Anabel is overjoyed when Ranulf asks her to read to him from the Bible each evening. The more she reads, the more she wants to learn of the Lord's teachings and holy word. Despite all that he has suffered in his life, Ranulf has never completely turned away from his faith. Seeing the genuine spiritual yearning in Anabel reaffirms his own love of God. As their friendship and mutual respect begins to grow, so does the jealousy and malicious intent of others out to do them harm. Will their spiritual strengths and genuine love for each other be strong enough to defeat their enemies and lead to a lifetime of happiness? I very much enjoyed "The Merchant's Daughter", and I also look forward to reading "The Healer's Apprentice" from the talented Melanie Dickerson.

    "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever."
    Psalm 28:7-9

  22. I have just in the last week got around to writing my review on Goodreads and my blog (though not yet posted on Amazon.

    Click the link in my name to see!


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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.