WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
Type: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Basic Plot: The pride and laziness of Annabel’s mother and brothers has landed her in a bad situation. She is now forced to work for the gruff and frightening Lord le Wyse as she is pursued by his bailiff.
Plot: 3/5 Average: The plot mostly covers Annabel’s and Lord le Wyse’s relationship, but the thing that drives their relationship together is the threats of Bailiff Tom, a man that wishes to marry Annabel. Now, Bailiff Tom isn’t the kind of suitor who is ridiculous like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (the fairy tale the book is based off of) or partially attractive yet annoying. He is actually a real creep, being an older man who doesn’t seem to understand people have personal space. His behavior is what causes Lord le Wyse and Annabel to form and grow a relationship as well as creates a plot outside of their romance, as some attempts at defense lead to a little accident. The plot is interesting and the romance does not seem too forced, but the events that cause the romance do seem to be a bit obvious of their purpose.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: Her writing style is in the third person, and is told from the perspective of Annabel and Lord le Wyse. The thoughts were not extremely unique for the romantic genre, but they were realistic. The actions were more realistic when being seen from the other person’s perspective than when in their mind.
The plot moves at a good pace, having little to no boring parts. Some of the relationship growth might seem fast, but some of the events that happened were necessary to do in a short time, and it was better than some books that have choppy time skips or drag out the events.
Probably the best part about her style was that she tried to be historically accurate. She read several books and talked to many people in the effort to have a historically accurate book. I definitely appreciate historical accuracy in a book.
Moral: 4/5 A Good Moral: There were several morals throughout the book, though the main one was to trust God to guide your life. Annabel and Lord le Wyse both have plans for their lives (mainly to stay single), but eventually find out that God intended for them to be together, which includes giving of the bitterness against women and dreams of the nunnery. Though the main moral is cliché, it is still a good one, and it isn’t the entire book or so obvious that seems like the whole book is just one long moral. Other smaller morals can include forgiveness and mercy.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: If you are a young lady looking for a historical Christian romance book to read that is accurate and not too serious, I would recommend this book. It is better than most of Janette Oke’s books, but don’t’ expect to be reading Pilgrims Progress. I recommend it in quality to girls twelve to eighteen as being the most interested in it.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: A preacher preaches on how all men and women are lustful and seductive. A man makes several unwanted advances towards a girl that include staring, grabbing, and a forced kiss on the cheek. He threatens to tell everyone that she is “a loose woman.” “Lecherous” is used to describe him. There are a few suggestive comments made in the book, most if not all of them referring to the “privileges of marriage.” It is mentioned that a man who “took advantage of the maidens” in the land he ruled, and Annabel worries there new ruler will be like that. A man wonders if a girl has impure intentions. A man asks a girl in if she has been “hurt” (meaning assaulted). A man and woman hug and kiss several times. The author describes how they feel about touching each other. Girls flirt with and even try to seduce a man. One girl comes to a man’s room at night and offers to “comfort” him. When he refuses her she accuses him of using her. It is mentioned that a woman had been cheating on her husband, though it does not say to what extent she was. A different girl sniffs a man’s shirt while she is doing the laundry. A girl is worried that a man will be partially undressed when she goes to deliver his clothes. He isn’t. Two girls take a bath together in the river. Some women and a man are mentioned that for a medical examination to have removed a man’s clothes while he is in a coma. A woman looks at a girl’s legs for medical purposes, embarrassing the girl.
Violence: 2/5 Light and Threatened Violence: Descriptions with violence are used, and “violent” is used as a description. A man dreams several times that a woman is trying to kill him. A girl wonders if a man will hit her. He doesn’t. A snake is killed. A man harasses a girl and is rough and sometimes hurts her in the process. A girl bites and smacks a man. A boy throws a rock at a man and knocks him out for several days. A man shoots and arrow and hits another man’s leg. There is mention of violent things people would do to each other if they could or if they knew certain things.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 0/5 None
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3/5 Some Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content and Subjects: People threaten each other throughout the book, sometimes with violence. A girl wonders how a man got injured. A girl is harassed by a man throughout the book, which sometimes results in hurting her. More can be read in “Sexual and Inappropriate Content.” She later breaks down crying when questioned about it. A girl carries knife around with her for protection and takes it our when a man threatens her. People get or already have bite marks, blisters, bruises, bumps, cuts, rashes, and scars; some of the injuries having fresh or dried blood on them A girl feigns having hurt her ankle several times. A fire burns down a building, and a man is injured, though no one dies from the fire. Several people are mentioned to have died, usually by a plague. There are some paintings of scenes that could be considered disturbing, such as of skeletons, crying people, a woman and baby, and a scene of confrontation between a man and wolf. A man is depressed for a while because his wife had been cheating on him, and dreams of her attacking him. He also dreams about his dead child, and the child disintegrating. Some people plot to burn down a man’s home while he is still in it, though it never happens. A man is hit on the head and is in a coma for several days before waking up. It mentions that a man dies after passing out. A girl wonders if a man will be executed. A woman fixes a man’s injuries, and sometimes they are described. It is slightly gory. An animal has a hurt leg with blood. A man jokes about falling and crushing a girl.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestive: Several Catholic ceremonies, objects, and positions are mentioned. This includes Eucharist, last rites, purgatory, gesticulating, abbeys, convents, nuns, monks, altar boys, priest, saint days, etc. A man describes his anger as a “demon temper.” It is mentioned that some people think a man “met the devil in the woods” when he hadn’t. The phrase “devil’s spawn” is used as an insult once. A man calls a girl “possessed” when she tries to defend herself.
Magic: 1/5 Suggestive: Some people say that there land is cursed because the new lord has odd injuries. Some people believe a boy is cursed and can curse others because he is crippled. A man calls a girl a “witch.”
Others: The NIV version of the Bible is used. Ale is drunk throughout the book. A man tries to harass a girl while he is drunk.
Overall: 3/5 Teenager Appropriate: I would recommend this book morally to children twelve to thirteen and older because of the harassment Annabel receives and some of the disturbing and lightly violent content. Though many references to Catholicism are made, salvation is presented as by grace and little to no Catholic doctrines are mentioned. The Catholic references may have been for historical accuracy rather than because the author is or supports Catholicism.