Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Beautiful Pretender {Review}

The Beautiful Pretender (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance, #2)
The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson
Thornbeck #2
Visit the Author's Website HERE
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publishing Date: May 17, 2016
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?

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Buy a copy today!

My Thoughts:
I've read three previous Dickerson novels, two just this year already. After finishing "The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest", I was really hoping we would get to see the margrave's story. Enter in "The Beautiful Pretender".

I had trouble connecting with the characters in the beginning. Dickerson has the reader jump right into the start of the plot with no setup for the characters. I was left floundering, thinking 'Why should I care for this character?'  I even thought Avelina a bit childish when we first meet her, as she is trying to steal a cherry tart from her lady. Her thoughts were quite simple and easy. But as I scan through the reviews on Goodreads, many other readers found this thrilling and attention grabbing. I, however, struggled and could have cared less about Avelina and her situation for quite a few chapters.

The margrave on the other hand...he is gruff and tough, exactly like the Beast, snarling at everyone. But his tough exterior just hides the compassionate inside. He is downright heroic, rescuing Avelina time and time again, caring for an addled old lady, and ensuring every orphan in the village has a warm bed and full belly. Being forced to choose a wife by the king, Reinhart searches for the lady who will be most caring, kind, and full of inner beauty. Because of his own injured appearance, I loved that he didn't care about a woman's outer appearance either.

Over the course of two weeks, Avelina (posing as Lady Dorothea) and Reinhart get to know each other ala 'The Bachelor'. As Avelina tries to purposefully fail the challenge, she just can't seem to not show her true colors, revealing again and again her kind and caring heart. This gets her in trouble with the biggest competition, Lady Fronika, who is selfish and evil much like Gaston, but also gains her a wonderful friend in Lady Magdalen.

I haven't read anything like Dickerson's books yet. Her attention to detail and her knowledge of the historical setting helps pull the reader in, making an insta-fan out of them within a few pages. She chooses a fairy tale to weave into her story, but the books always stand on their own. I wouldn't have guessed it was a retelling at all if it wasn't for a few, key plot points such as the 'West Wing' and a wolf attack. So if you don't prefer retellings, you can still enjoy this one.

This loose 'Beauty and the Beast' retelling clips along fairly smoothly until the end when Dickerson ramps up the action in dramatic fashion which had me turning pages as fast as I could. I still can't claim this was my favorite read, or even my favorite Dickerson read, but it has recieved many five stars on Goodreads. So perhaps take my middle of the road 3 star review with a grain of salt.

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