The Merchant's Daughter is the story of Annabel, who, after her family is found guilty in court and given the choice of paying a fee that would take their home or sending someone to work as a servant for 3 years in the lord's home, flees in the night to become the servant and save her family. As the servant to the lord, Annabel is expected to do hard labor, something that she has never done due to her father's wealth when she was a child, and her mother's insistence to their town that, even after her father died, their family didn't need to help with the harvest. It's the reason why her family was in court to begin with. Annabel's only sorrow is that, with the loss of her father's wealth when he and his ships sunk, she will never be able to afford the fees to join a nunnery and gain the right to read the bible, which has been her dream for years. But she is fine with doing the work to earn her place, even if her new lord is scarred and cruel. Except that she's quickly finding, to her surprise, that he isn't as cruel as he seems.
The easiest way I can sum up The Merchant's Daughter is that it's Christian fiction for someone who doesn't like Christian fiction. In a time when most YA books tend to be gritty and real, and when most romance books tend to involve the main characters jumping into bed within the first half of the book--and in graphic detail that makes reading outside of the home mortifying--it's really nice to read a book where the story is just...nice. I know that sounds really bland, but that's the best word for it, I think.
Annabel's story reads like a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it's a very sweet telling at that. The lord is gruff and ugly, scarred down his face from a wolf attack and hardened against women thanks to hardships in his past. Annabel is sweet and pretty, a young girl who has never done work willing to give herself up so that her family doesn't have to lose their home. I love the characterization in this book, from the main two characters to the absolute vileness of Annabel's selfish, spoiled brothers. There were flaws, and I feel that the vile characters were somewhat flat, but at the same time I liked them that way. Part of me kind of missed books where the bad guy was the bad guy was the bad guy, rather than the bad guy whose secretly good pretending to be bad while he does some really good things, like..saving the main character's life. Frequently.
The book wasn't perfect, obviously, but then again, what book is? Personally, I really liked The Merchant's Daughter, and kudos to Melanie Dickerson. It's not a life changing book, or the next big thing, but it's simple and it's sweet and for someone who wants to read something where a duck is a duck not a shapeshifter trying to take over the world or something, it's a nice change. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this to specifically...but if the synopsis seems interesting to you, even if it's not your usual book fare, then pick up a copy of The Merchant's Daughter when it comes out December 1, 2011. You might be pleasantly surprised.