Annabel Chapman is the youngest of three children and the only daughter to a once wealthy merchant. Each year the villagers of Glynval must assist in the harvest. To forego this duty, Annabel’s father paid an annual censum. Losing his ships in a storm, then soon after, Mr. Chapman succumbs to the pestilence outbreak leaving his family penniless. Unwilling to partake of the harvest toil, Roberta Chapman bribes the village’s corrupt steward allowing her family to neglect their share of labor for three years. Lord le Wyse, the new lord of Glynval, demands repayment of the Chapman’s shirked duties. In exchange for paying the family’s fines and to avoid working in the fields, Annabel’s oldest brother Edward, promises her in marriage to Bailiff Tom, a friend of her father’s. Unbeknownst to Edward, Tom intends to cover only Annabel’s fees. “Her brother has arranged for her to marry me in exchange for paying her censum” (34).
As a means to repay their debt and retain their house and property, one of the Chapman children must serve in the new Lord’s manor home for three years. Annabel a true “Angel in the house” sacrifices herself to provide for her lazy, self-serving family and accepts the indentured servitude in Lord le Wyse’s household. While under the subjugation of Lord le Wyse, Annabel discovers much about her “beastly” Lord and is soon “mesmerized by his scars, eye patch, and maimed hand” (53). Unperturbed by Annabel’s rejection, Bailiff Tom is determined to have Annabel. Unaware of the lurking dangers, Annabel suffers an unfortunate incident leading to a dramatic unfolding.
The Merchant’s Daughter is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Forgiveness, faith, hope, and love are the themes threaded throughout the novel. I found the book dragging in several spots, as well as, the central conflict lacking climatic action. The characters were barely tolerable especially Annabel, who in addition to suffering from timidity, possesses zero gumption. Dickerson overemphasized Annabel’s desire to read the Bible. Her longing to study the Holy Writ seemed to be mentioned on every other page. The novel ended with too many loose ends. With the impending marriage how did Beatrice feel or treat Annabel? How is Annabel’s marriage going to affect her family? Would the family’s debt be forgiven or would Lord le Wyse require one of her brothers to complete the indentured servitude? Would Annabel provide financially for her family or would she make them work? On a positive note, I will close with a nice line from the novel, “Trust me, dear girl, you were born for love, for loving and caring and healing” (152).
**Quotes taken from ARC**