Today’s book review is of Melanie Dickerson’s recent release, The Beautiful Pretender. This was my first experience with a story from Melanie, but from other reviews, I knew she was praised for her retellings and twists on fairy tales. After reading, I can say they were well deserved!
What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?
The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.
Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?
From the beginning, the reader is drawn in to a medieval world and sympathetic of the heroine, Avelina (don’t you love that name?!). Random side thought: Melanie was very creative with inventing names in this novel, both of places and people. Geitbart, Plimmwald, Fronicka, and more! These added to the atmosphere established with candlelight, a mysterious stone castle, and preying wolves to convey the old-world, chivalrous feel of the story.
There were allusions to both the princess and the pea and beauty and the beast. At times, the plot had an Esther-like feeling. These stories combined with Avelina’s disguised identity and a possible plot to thwart Reinhart’s rule very well. I thought the latter half of book more entertaining, with a little more action and movement to the story.
My favorite part of this story was the relationship dynamic between Avelina and Reinhart. I loved how she complimented and encouraged him, sometimes through critique, but always out of true concern and care. She was brave and loyal (and not a ninny). And, he learned to embrace her willingness to help him while fiercely protecting her at the same time. ❤ Through all of it, they both learned lessons of how God can work and reveal His love in even the most unexpected or forced circumstances.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for a complimentary review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.