Monday, October 18, 2010

Medieval Love

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Healer’s Apprentice
By Melanie Dickerson

Masquerading as a medieval romance, The Healer’s Apprentice is really a fairly recognizable fairy tale. A wicked sorcerer threatens the daughter of a duke because he has been slighted. So the duke hides his infant daughter after betrothing her to the son of another duke. The son’s job is to find and destroy the sorcerer and then rescue his betrothed. On the other hand, that is only the basic framework of the story; the real plot makes it a romance after all.

Rose is the beautiful daughter of a woodcutter who has been given a chance to raise her lot in life by becoming apprentice to the town healer. She lives in the castle of the duke and is noticed by the duke’s two sons. Both fall in love with her, but the older one is betrothed and, although she finds him extremely attractive, she responds to the attentions of the younger. About half of the book is devoted to Rose’s relationship to Lord Rupert, the younger son. However, her mentor, the healer, does not approve and Rose has her own doubts because of Lord Rupert’s reputation as a philanderer. Even as he presses his court, she wishes it were his older brother doing so, even though she knows it’s wrong to even think of him. In the meantime, Lord Hamlin, the older son, spends his time looking for the sorcerer, even though he wishes he could marry Rose instead of a woman he has never met.

I like historical books, and The Healer’s Apprentice provides a window into life in fourteenth century Germany. Medieval life is woven into the story well, except for a few points that seem wrong. For example, Lord Rupert’s goal in life is to be appointed bishop by his father so he can become rich. I know that the church in those times was corrupt and that kings (or dukes) appointed clerical leaders, but there is never any suggestion that Lord Rupert must become a priest. He just wants to be bishop.

But my real disappointment in the book is Rose and Lord Rupert’s relationship. It dominates the first half of the book and seems to me to be more of a seduction than a courtship. Although Rose is chaste by our standards, she allows Lord Rupert to take liberties that she knows are not proper for a maiden. They meet him in hidden places, he kisses her hands, occasionally holds her to his chest and kisses lips briefly. Even though that is the extent of their physical relationship, Dickerson’s descriptions leave no doubt that Rose is being seduced and enjoying it. I suppose that may be the point of the story – that as a believer, Rose faced temptation and overcame it before she allowed it to overcome her. But I was looking for more action in the story.

The action eventually develops and the story has a satisfying ending. If you enjoy romance, you will probably enjoy the book. I think it is intended for adolescent girls, but it is better written than many adult inspirational romances I’ve read and I can recommend it to fans of that genre.

Pros: Well written historical romance with a bit of a mystery. The characters are developed well and the protagonists love God and want to please Him with their lives.

Cons: The first half of the book is mainly descriptions of the characters’ feelings for one another and the real plot doesn’t start until halfway through the book.

About the book:

In this book by author Melanie Dickerson, the story of Sleeping Beauty is retold through the life of Rose, the young daughter of a woodcutter, who has fallen in love with the perfect man for her, only to be kept away from him due to a curse.

About the author:

Melanie Dickerson is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Her novel has been a finalist seven times in RWA-sponsored contests, including winning the 2007 Fiction from the Heartland Contest over all categories. Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education of the hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Author Website:

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