“The Beautiful Pretender” is a medieval fairy-tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast and the Princess and the Pea and is the second book in the Thornbeck series.
Melanie Dickerson chooses to narrate the book through both of the main characters, Avelina and Reinhart. Every couple of chapters the perspective switches; and I think that style works with this book. Dickerson also uses this narration style in all her other books, giving the reader insight into the main character’s thoughts. I like this style because when one character suddenly goes through a kind of plot twist, we switch to the other character, thus keeping the reader in suspense.
Despite Avelina’s best efforts to divert attention, Reinhart keeps noticing her. But Avelina is not a high-born lady. Lord Plimmwald sent her in his daughter’s place. Avelina’s only instructions are to stay in the background and don’t get caught. Reinhart (Margrave of Thornbeck) must find a bride who meets the King’s approval quickly. So he invites ten noble ladies to his castle for two weeks to test their true character. But something nefarious is brewing in the background that could affect their lives forever.
The book is set in medieval Germany in the year of 1363. The King would rule over the entire country but split up the land into regions and give them to different Lords to govern. Because Reinhart is the Lord over his region, the King expects him to marry for advantage. The relationships between Plimmwald and Geitbart have been strained for many years, so the King suggests Reinhart pick one of the two ladies from those areas. The marriage would ease the discomfort between the two regions.
I really loved Avelina’s character. Typically we think of ladies in medieval times to be submissive and kind of dumb; especially in the lower class. But Avelina is strong in her own way. She is independent without being too ahead of her time. She cares about her family a lot (her income is the only one her family gets to live on.) And later when Reinhart is in trouble she courageously does whatever she can to help.
What I loved especially was the relationship dynamic between Avelina and Reinhart. Reinhart used to be a knight but in a tragic accident his ankle was twisted up. He hates having to use a cane to walk around and hates the idea of all the noble ladies giving him pitying looks. Avelina is the only one who doesn’t pity him; she compliments him (sometimes through critique) with concern and care. And the whole time Reinhart also fiercely protects her. Watching them gradually learn to care for each other is sweet and seeing Reinhart let go of his fear of being like his parents shows growth in his character.
Over all, I gave this book five out of five stars. I recommend this book to readers who love clean romance with a little bit of action. These characters were so easy to love (or hate) and I can’t wait to read more of Melanie Dickerson’s work.