When the King orders the Margrave of Thornbeck to quickly find a noble woman to marry, Lord Reinhart decides to invite 10 suitable young ladies to his castle for two weeks in an attempt to discern their true character. Simple maidservant Avelina finds herself among the lucky 10 to be tested when her mistress— the daughter of the Earl of Plimmwald— disappears with a lowly knight. Can Avelina manage to save her home and her family by impersonating Lady Dorthea for two weeks? Despite her best efforts to keep her distance, will she eventually admit her growing feelings for the Margrave? Will Lord Thornbeck be able to forgive her deception before an even bigger threat takes his castle from him?
With her typical creativity in melding classic fairy-tales with medieval history, Melanie Dickerson creates a vivid and compelling story for her readers in The Beautiful Pretender. Unlike some of her previous novels, Dickerson doesn’t strictly retell a well-known fairy-tale, but instead loosely pays homage to The Princess and the Pea. The first half of the book reads more like a season of “The Medieval Bachelor"-- complete with conniving mean girls, secret tests, and romantic interludes.
While the story-telling is excellent, the dialogue often seems stunted and unnatural, and Avelina’s initial “interview" with Reinhart comes across as more cringe-worthy than endearing. That said, the characters themselves are well-developed, believable, and likable. With a hint of humor and plenty of interesting historical detail, Dickerson produces a delightful and entertaining piece of historical fiction.
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.