It’s the story of Annabel Chapman in the England of 1352, whose merchant father has died and whose proud family refuses the duty of every villager to work in the lord’s fields. As punishment, someone from her family is required to be his servant for three years, and Annabel offers herself for that position.
Lord Ranulf le Wyse is said to have a very short temper and to have some sort of deformity, making him repulsive to look upon and frightening to Annabel, but she soon discovers a different side to him.
Meanwhile, the bailiff, old enough to be her father and disgusting, has set his sights on her. Unfortunately, her duties at the lord’s house bring her into more contact with him, and even worse, her brother has given the man permission to pursue her.
Annabel feels the only way to both escape the bailiff and have access to the Bible she longs to read for herself is to escape to a nunnery as soon as her servitude is over, but when the opportunity arises, she questions that desire.
This story is based loosely on Beauty and the Beast, so of course I knew where it was ultimately going, but that was actually fun, to see how it corresponded to the fairy tale. It is a realistic retelling, though – no magic wands or spells – but I enjoyed that.
Probably my favorite parts involved Annabel being asked to read the Bible to Lord le Wyse since she is one of the few people in his household who can read Latin. Reading the Bible for herself (not everyone had one: even the local priest did not) has been one of her lifelong desires, and it’s a joy to watch her pore over it and discover its treasures for herself, stopping in her reading to ponder what it says.
This book was a pleasant companion on a recent “sick day,” and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to checking out Melanie’s other books.
Here’s the book trailer for The Merchant’s Daughter:
Updated: I just discovered that the Kindle edition of this book is on sale for a limited time at $2.99. You don’t have to have a Kindle to get deals on Kindle books: they have apps for computer, tablets, and phones.