I'm a big fan of fairytale retellings. Therefore you can imagine my delight when I learned that this book had been loosely based around the story of Beauty and the Beast... although a slightly more historical/Christian version, and even though I'm not religious myself, I still found this book pleasantly enjoyable.
The story begins when Annabel - denied of her dreams to join a convent, is forced to pay her family's debts by becoming an indentured servant in the house of Lord Ranulf. A man, who rumour states, has a monstrous temper and a cruel heart to go with his scarred, wolfish face. Yet as Annabel soon learns, life at the Lord's castle isn't nearly as horrible as she feared.
After Lord Ranulf himself rescues her from the unwanted attentions of the repulsive, old Bailiff Tom, the two slowly get to know each other through evenings spent together reading the bible. It is here that Annabel learns that although on the outside Ranulf appears gruff and short-tempered, she finds that beneath his wild appearance he is really a noble gentleman, whose hard exterior hides a bruised and tender heart - as well as a very traumatic past. Yet after an event where Annabel is attacked and a man is found gravely injured, their new found relationship is put to the test when Ranulf's fate - and his heart - are left in Annabel's undecided hands...
I have to admit that I really did enjoy this book. It wasn't absolutely amazing and honestly there were probably many flaws in it - but it still left me with that warm, satisfying feeling that comes with finishing a nice story. Also while I probably wouldn't read again I'm really glad I picked it up.
Still, having said that I know from reading other reviews that the constant references to Christianity spoiled the story for some readers. Personally, they didn't really bother me at all as I thought it all matched up to Annabel's and Ranulf's characters, both of whom are devotedly religious. During times of trouble and conflict I thought it was their nightly readings of the bible that gave the characters the advice and courage they needed for the story to progress - and also helped bring them closer together. I also think the religious aspects fitted in well with the medieval, historic setting of the 1300's.
So overall I thought 'the merchant's daughter' was a nice, average read that kept away the boredom of a Sunday afternoon. Also despite some of its overly religious tones, this is a good story with a sweet romance that I think other fairytale lovers would enjoy. I look forward to checking out Melanie Dickerson's other works 