Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review AND Author Interview! The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

In this hauntingly beautiful retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, Melanie Dickerson takes the reader to 14th century England where we meet Annabel Chapman. At seventeen years old, Annabel is of the age to marry, but her one desire – to read the Bible – can only be fulfilled by entering a convent. However, her father’s death and the family’s bankruptcy three years earlier have made that dream impossible. 

To save her family from losing their home, Annabel becomes a servant of the new Lord, Ranulf le Wyse, a man whose scars and missing eye make him fertile ground for rumors and speculation. While in this potentially dangerous situation, Annabel learns that underneath Lord le Wyse’s gruff exterior lies a desperately wounded man. When Lord le Wyse asks her to read his Bible aloud to him in the evenings, they find common ground. 

One of the most intriguing parts of this story is the appearance of more than one “beast” and more than one “beauty”. Annabel’s depth of beauty is more than skin deep, and she is contrasted with another girl who appears beautiful on the surface. Lord le Wyse’s beastliness is legendary, but again, the author holds other beastly men up for the reader to compare with him. These contrasting characters give this story many complex layers to explore.

This is Melanie Dickerson’s second book, matching her first, “The Healer’s Apprentice”, in historical detail and appealing romance. Even though both stories are retellings of classic tales, they read more as richly detailed historical fiction than fairy tales. 

With her complex characters, detailed historical settings and compelling stories, Melanie Dickerson writes the kind of fiction I wish more Young Adult readers had access to.

And now you can meet the author!  

Hi Melanie, and welcome to my blog!

Thank you, Jan, for inviting me! I’m thrilled to be here!

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a wife and stay-at-home mom of two daughters and I live near Huntsville, Alabama. I’ve always been fascinated with the middle ages, and I love writing in that time period. I also love to cook, but I hate to clean up. It’s a classic internal conflict, but now my daughters are getting old enough to help out with the dishes, so … classic happy ending! (Just don’t tell my daughters I said that.) And we have a crazy dog, a Great Pyrenees mix who loves to escape our fenced in back yard and run wild all over our neighborhood. And that’s my life in a nutshell. Pretty boring, really.

Both of your published books are retellings of classic fairy tales – The Merchant’s Daughter is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”, and your first book, The Healer’s Apprentice, is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”. What made you choose these stories?

When I started getting the idea for The Healer’s Apprentice, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as fairy tale retellings. I was watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty movie with my daughters and it occurred to me that it would be fun to flesh out the basic story and make it more realistic. And since publishers at the time all wanted series, I thought it would be fun to do a series of books based on fairy tales. And since Beauty and the Beast was my favorite fairy tale, it was the natural choice for my second novel.

Even though your books are enjoyed by readers of all ages, they are in the “Young Adult” age group. What is your vision for writing for this audience?

I love feeling that I am writing something that shines light in the darkness. So many YA books these days seem so very dark. I have nothing against showing good versus evil, but I dislike the idea of my daughter, and other teen girls, reading books that blur the lines between what is good and what is evil. Today’s “heroes” are often anything but heroic. And I fear that many of the novels teach kids that it’s okay to do evil if one can justify it somehow. It’s okay to kill innocent people if you’re forced to do it, or vampires can be good if they don’t kill people. That bothers me, frankly. And I love it when I get emails from girls all over the world (thanks to e-books!) who say that they appreciate the Christian aspect, or the spiritual aspect, or the moral aspect of my books. The teen years are so crucial! If I can positively affect a life in that pivotal time, then I am happy and blessed.

Even though this is just your second book, you’re already developing a loyal readership. Can you tell us about your next project?

Well, it’s top secret of course, Jan (wink) but I just finished the first draft of a Snow White story involving Rose and Wilhelm’s (from The Healer’s Apprentice) second son, Gabe. He learns that his older brother’s betrothed is actually still alive and being persecuted by her evil stepmother. Since his older brother has a broken leg and can’t go rescue her, Gabe goes himself. He and Sophie escape from the duchess, but they have to battle her hired henchman, wild animals, and their own attraction for each other as they ride toward the Cottage of the Seven, the mysterious house where they’ve been told they will find safety. I’m hoping this one will be published late next year.

Thanks for stopping by, Melanie! We'll be looking forward to your next book!
I received a free galley copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a favorable review nor did I receive any incentive to do so.


  1. Thank you, Jan, for having me on your blog today!

  2. Welcome, Melanie!

    I made some tea with lemon and honey just for you, and help yourself to some cranberry scones!

  3. Jan, how did you know I love cranberry scones! And thank you for the hot tea! I need it today. I'm battling a sinus infection, starting to feel better after the antibiotics I started yesterday.

  4. Just got my copies of The Merchant's Daughter in the mail and I can't wait to read it. I gave Healer's Apprentice to my book club girls last year, they loved it so much they're gettin Merchant's Daughter this year. :) Great interview Melanie and I look forward to the Snow White tale.

  5. Melanie is a sweetie pie and I am so looking forward to reading this book. LOVED the first one! A Christy nominated author even, wow! Blessings and thanks for posting. I tweeted this and it will go to FB too.

  6. April and Carrie - I know you'll love the Merchant's Daughter! Thanks for stopping by to say hi!