by: Melanie Dickerson
So, this was a sort-of retelling of “Beauty & the Beast,” except without a literal Beast, or magic (or mean sisters or a widowed father or much of anything to do with the original tale, really).
Set in England in 1352, Annabel is the daughter of a merchant, whose death financially devastated his family. Annabel’s lazy brothers and mother refuse to work, but cannot afford to pay the fee that enables them to get out of their required work on the estate, so blah blah blah, Annabel has to work for three years as an indentured servant to the new lord, Ranulf le Wyse. Lord Wyse is (shockingly) young, ruggedly handsome, and misunderstood, not to mention all scarred up from a wolf he fought off to save a young servant-girl many years before.
Meantime, the bailiff of the estate, who is old enough to be Annabel’s father, really wants to marry Annabel, but she doesn’t like him and refuses, yadda yadda. The story unwinds and gets more and more unbelievable. In the end, everyone is surprised when Annabel ends up marrying Lord Wyse and living happily ever after.
Things about this book I liked:
- The retelling was a bit different, and I liked that.
- Annabel herself wasn’t terribly obnoxious. Overall, I liked her and wanted her life to be happy in the end.
Things about this book I disliked:
- Lots of parts of this book felt forced. I don’t know how else to describe it. A truly good book flows very naturally (although not always predictably; there is a difference). This book frequently felt jarring–as though there was another way (or several others) that the plot could have turned that would have been more likely or natural, but instead the author shoved the plot the direction she needed it to go.
- The Bailiff. How can he be this horrible person lurking about waiting for a chance to rape Annabel, but everyone else in the town thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread? (Maybe better, because this was, I do believe, before sliced bread!) Why does Lord Wyse believe Annabel’s stories of how the Bailiff is distressing and threatening her, and yet not fire the Bailiff? Why does the Bailiff continue to pursue a girl so obviously favored and protected by his lord? The Bailiff is just a bit too melodramatically evil for me, while at the same time, no other character in the book seems to care, or even notice, that he’s a creeper.
- Lord Wyse. He’s mysterious, but not. He’s angry and cranky and then not. And those changes occur within a week. Because yes, that’s another thing that makes me roll my eyes at this book:
- It takes place over about three weeks of time. This mostly annoys me because we don’t really get that feeling that Annabel is able to (a) really appreciate the fact that she is going to be stuck here for a very very very very long time, or (b) that Annabel is able to love “the beast” for his true character. And really, those two points are the foundation to a true Beauty & the Beast story.
- The religion. Don’t get me wrong, I am a conservative Christian myself. Involving God in the story does not immediately annoy me. And I knew what I was getting into, because the book is published by Zondervan and the author was a finalist for the Christy Award. But, once again, the introduction of religion felt forced, as though modern-day Christian platitudes were being mouthed by historical characters. This could be because the author decided to use the NIV as her quoted Scripture version, which definitely sounds nothing like 1532 language. (I realize they were reading in Latin, but still… NIV?? Seriously!?)
This was a fine book, but not one that I would read again, or particularly recommend. For me, it overall did not have that happy, easy flow that allows a reader to believe that these events could actually have occurred. 2/5.