Living in rural Glynval, England, in 1352, a beautiful but penniless merchant’s daughter discovers appearances can be deceiving.
As she did with The Healer’s Apprentice (2010), Dickerson spins period romance from a fairy tale, in this case, “The Beauty and the Beast.” When their wealthy father loses his ships in a storm and dies of pestilence, 17-year-old Annabel and her family must pay a huge fine to avoid the indenture of one of them to Lord Ranulf le Wyse. Although her “dearest wish was to enter a convent,” Annabel opts to work as Ranulf’s serving maid rather than enter an arranged marriage with the lecherous bailiff. Rumored to have a fierce temper and beastly appearance, Ranulf finds himself attracted to kind-hearted Annabel and, to her joy, asks her to read him the Bible every evening. When the bailiff is brutally attacked and Annabel implicated, Ranulf knows he should send her away to a convent, but he can’t bear to lose her. Should Annabel flee or stay to defend lonely, disfigured Ranulf, whom she has come to love? Awash in meticulous medieval detail and heavily glossed with Christian overtones, this thinly veiled homily pulses with self-sacrifice, good intentions and suppressed sexuality.
A virtuous romance with characters who “fall in love with each other’s inner beauty in spite of outward appearance.” (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)