Monday, November 28, 2011

Melanie Dickerson's The Merchant's Daughter

Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for Best First Book.

Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and is a former teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

You can find Melanie online at
www.MelanieDickerson.com
www.facebook.com
www.MelanieWrites.blogspot.com

The Merchant's Daughter

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.

Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

Here's an excerpt of The Merchant's Daughter:

August 1352, Glynval, England.


Annabel sat in the kitchen shelling peas into a kettle at her feet. A bead of sweat tickled her hairline while only the barest puff of warm air came through the open door.

“Annabel!”

Her brother called from the main house. As she hurried to finish shelling the pea pod in her hand and see what Edward wanted, the pot over the fire began to boil over. She jumped up, banging her shin on the iron kettle on the floor.

Snatching a cloth from the table, she used it to pull the boiling pot toward her and away from the fire. But as the pot swung forward on its hook, the cloth slipped and her thumb touched the lid. She jerked back. Spying the bucket of water she had used to wash the peas, she plunged her hand into it.

“Annabel!” Edward yelled again.

He thinks he doesn’t have to help with the work, but I should abandon my task and come running whenever he calls.

She blew on her burning thumb as she hurried from the kitchen.

Edward stood propped against the wall in the spacious front room of their stone house, scraping under his fingernails with a sharp stick. When he lifted his head, his green eyes fixed her with a hard look. “Mother was summoned this morning to appear before the hallmote.”

“I know that.” The manorial court, or hallmote, was being held today, and a jury of twelve men from their village of Glynval would decide the penalty for her family’s neglect of their duties.

“The new lord is coming to Glynval. Even if the hallmote is lenient, I’ve heard he is far from forgiving. What will happen to us? To you?” He thrust the stick at her face.

Annabel bit back annoyance at her brother’s derisive tone. For the past three years he had stood by, just like the rest of her family, refusing to do any of their required work in the fields, putting them all in this situation.

“I’ve decided to help with the harvest this year.” She crossed her arms as her brother moved closer to her. “We should all help.”

“Do you want to end up sleeping in ditches and begging bread? Help with the harvest? It’s too late to start doing your share now, little sister.” He flung the words at her, jabbing his stick in her direction with each phrase. “If you are wise, you will try to think whose bread you need to butter to see that you have a home after today.”

Annabel’s back stiffened, and she prepared for whatever offensive thing her brother would say next.

“We have to fend for ourselves. You’re seventeen years old now and well beyond the age of accountability. Maybe you know of someone who might marry you. Do you?”

“Nay, I do not.” She glared back at him, wishing she could think of a scathing retort.

He began rolling the stick between his fingers, smirking at it. “But there is someone. Someone who is prepared to smooth over our trouble with the new lord and pay the fines so we don’t have to work in our lord’s fields.”

Her brother wasn’t concerned about her, she knew — he wanted to solve his own troubles by throwing her to the wolves. But which wolf was he planning on throwing her to?

A pleased smile spread over Edward’s thin lips. “I am speaking of Bailiff Tom.”

Bailiff Tom? “He’s as old as Father!” Annabel’s face burned at the notion. She tried to think of some dignified reply, but the words tumbled out. “If you think . . . for one moment that I — ” She clenched her jaw to stop herself.

“He has been widowed these three years. Surely you’ve seen him look at you with the eye of one who is looking for a wife.”

She had seen the bailiff once or twice with a lecherous sneer on his pinched face — and been thoroughly disgusted that a friend of her father’s would stare at her that way. Marry Bailiff Tom? She would rather sleep in a ditch.

“You will marry him, because there’s no other way.” Edward leaned over her, his eyes cold and dark. “Besides, where will you get a better offer of marriage than from the bailiff?”

“I won’t marry him.” Annabel spoke through clenched teeth. “If Father were still alive, he’d never force me to marry Bailiff Tom.”

Her brother turned his attention back to cleaning his nails. “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice. I’ve already told the bailiff yes.”

Heat climbed up her neck and burned her cheeks. How dare you?

“Don’t look at me like that, dear sister. I had no choice. The new lord arrived in Glynval last night, and the reeve came this morning when you were out picking peas, summoning Mother to come to the manor house. Something had to be done to help our poor family.” He gave her a simpering grin. “Oh, I nearly forgot. Mother wants you to go to the village, to the butcher, and get us a goose for dinner.” Her brother raised his brows in challenge.

She glared at him then lifted her nose in the air, as if her life weren’t teetering on the edge of a cliff. At least this errand would get her away from Edward and give her time to think. Snatching the piece of delicate white linen from a wooden peg by the door, she wrapped it around her head, securing all loose hair away from her face, and tied it at the nape of her neck. She jerked the door open and flung it closed behind her.

The pain in her thumb drew her notice to the new red blister. She blew on it as she started down the lane toward Glynval and William Wagge’s butcher shop.

Spending the last of their money on a goose on the day their fate was being decided by a jury of their fellow villagers. Pathetic.

They would be penniless outcasts tomorrow if Mother couldn’t persuade the jury to have mercy on them. But could they truly hope for leniency from a village that resented them for not doing their share of the work?

Her family did not deserve mercy. Father had been a wealthy merchant, fully able to pay the censum so that his wife and children did not have to do the lord’s required fieldwork during harvest and at other times of labor shortage. But they were left destitute when his ships were destroyed in a storm, and shortly after that, he died in the pestilence. Even as the family of a freeman, due to their inability to pay the censum, they were now required to perform some of the same duties and work as the villeins. But her mother had insisted her health was poor and she was unable to work, and in her typical manner, she also announced her children should not have to do such menial work as harvesting grain.

For three years her family shirked their duties and went unpunished, kept safe by the old lord’s corrupt steward, who managed to postpone their fines.

But with the new lord arriving, Annabel had a feeling her family’s comeuppance was due in full. Bailiff Tom’s offer was proof enough. The bailiff, an old family friend, was using their lapse to his advantage, holding their predicament over them to force Annabel to marry him.

She shuddered.

The path to Glynval was empty, and Annabel realized most of the adults of the village would be at the hallmote to watch and see how each case played out, who won their complaint against whom, and what the ale brewers’ fines would be. She usually stayed away from the proceedings, but today she would go to see how her family fared with the twelve jurors. Whatever the jurors assessed, whatever the fine or punishment, it would be supported and upheld not only by the lord’s steward but also by the assembled villagers.

Lost in her thoughts, Annabel was surprised to see a form emerge from the shadow of the trees around the bend in the road. The figure progressed haltingly toward her, his right hip twisting at an abnormal angle with each step he took. Stephen Blundel.

She smiled at her friend. Having grown up with her, Stephen was more like a brother to her than her own blood brothers were. Stephen lifted his hand and waved.

At that moment, seven ragged, barefoot boys crept out from the trees and surrounded him. The malicious looks on their faces made her heart thump in her throat. Stephen neither flinched nor altered his pace, as though he did not see them.

With a flick of his wrist, the tallest boy sent a small stone flying. Then they all hurled rocks at Stephen, shouting ugly names at him. Dragging his foot along the ground and snickering, one of them mimicked Stephen’s crooked stride.

Annabel tried to read Stephen’s expression, but he stared straight ahead, his jaw set.

Frustration with the morning’s events surged through her. “Get away!” she screamed at the boys. She bent and dug her fingers into the dirt as she snatched up some rocks of her own. “You leave him alone or I’ll — !” She drew back her fist full of rocks and aimed them at the largest boy, the leader.

The boys scattered and halted a few feet away then formed a circle around her.

Turning on her heel, she tried to face them all at once and pin them down with her glare. They were younger than her, but some of the boys were tall enough to look Annabel in the eyes.

She checked over her shoulder. Stephen’s awkward gait had taken him far down the road, but he stopped and turned around. He frowned, probably waiting to see if she would need his help, and perhaps a little embarrassed that she had defended him.

The young ruffians began laughing and sneering at her.

“Trying to hurt someone who’d never hurt you,” Annabel accused. “For shame.”

The tallest boy crossed his arms, his tattered sleeves flapping. His bare legs were brown with filth. “My mother says you won’t be so high and holy, Annabel Chapman, now that our lord is here. Woe to the Chapmans.” The rest of the boys took up the chant. “Woe to the Chapmans. Woe to the Chapmans. Woe to the Chapmans.”

She stomped through the circle of boys, staring straight ahead as Stephen had done. The boys continued their taunts and insults, but she held her head erect and pretended to ignore them. They drifted down the road, launching a few weak insults at Stephen as they rounded the bend, their gloating laughter disappearing with them.

Stephen was coming toward her. She waited for him to catch up.

“I’ll walk with you,” Stephen said, giving her a sympathetic lift of his brows. “Are you going to the hallmote?”

Annabel nodded. “I have to go to the butcher’s to get a goose for Mother, but I thought I might see how my family fares in the court first.” She tried to look unworried, but she couldn’t fool her friend. They walked together down the dusty road.

“My mother is waiting for me at home to help her patch a leak in the roof. But I will stay with you at the hallmote if you need me,” Stephen offered.

“No, I’d rather you didn’t stay.” Annabel’s cheeks heated at the thought of her friend seeing her family’s name scorned and abused in front of nearly everyone they knew. She’d rather bear her shame alone. “I’ll be fine.”

The two of them passed an old woman bent over the field of beans next to the road. Let her not notice me, Annabel prayed as she ducked her head.

The older woman straightened as much as the hump in her back allowed and leveled her narrowed gaze at Annabel. “A Chapman. It will be your turn to tend the fields now that the new master has come, dearie!” She cackled a high-pitched laugh.

Annabel stared at the ground. Today wasn’t the first time she’d experienced the villagers’ contempt, but she blushed again at what must be going through Stephen’s mind.

It seemed to take forever to walk past the woman, for her lingering laughter to fade away. Stephen said softly, “Don’t let it bother you.”

Annabel tried to smile and say something flippant, but she couldn’t think of anything. Dread slowed her feet. Fear crept up her spine and gripped her around the throat as she came closer to the place where her family’s fate would be decided. She imagined each person at the hallmote today, derision and glee mingling on their face, as they too anticipated her family’s reckoning.

Annabel stopped and faced Stephen. “You better go on back home. Give your mother my love.” She gave him a little wave and started to turn away.

“You always have a home with us,” Stephen said.

“Thank you.” She waved again as she walked toward her fate. His words seemed to emphasize even more the trouble she was in.

She would refuse to marry Bailiff Tom, of course, and under church law no one could force her to marry. But by doing so her family would lose the only offer of help they were likely to receive — Tom’s offer to pay the lord for the work the Chapmans had not done. The lord would get what was owed him, one way or another. Would the jury order that their home be seized and given to the lord? Or would they devise some other punishment? The old lord had lived far away and never came to Glynval, choosing to send his steward instead, a man who accepted bribes. But the new lord, it was rumored, had come to Glynval to build a proper house and live here. His new steward would make sure he received all that was owed to him.

Annabel shivered at the thought of the new lord, Lord le Wyse. He was getting harder to force from her mind.

The hairs on the back of her neck prickled as she remembered the things she’d heard about him. Exaggerations, surely. He couldn’t be as frightening as people said. But they would all soon find out.

As she rounded another curve in the road, the houses and shops of Glynval came into view. Each wattle-and-daub structure was made of white plaster and a thatched roof. Chicken coops, looking just like the houses, only smaller, crowded in the backyards along with slick, muddy pigsties full of snorting swine. The animals filled the air with their pungent stench. Annabel wrinkled her nose and hurried on, forcing herself to go to the manorial court meeting first before going on to the butcher’s to get the goose. Besides, the butcher is probably at the hallmote with everyone else.

She passed quickly through the main road of the village, which was also nearly deserted. She turned down the lane that led to the manor house, a structure more like a hall than a house. The upper floor was one big room where the hallmote was held in bad weather. But today, as the weather was fine, though a bit hot and cloudy, the court would be held outside in the courtyard.

She walked up to the outskirts of the crowd unnoticed and pushed through to see the jurors standing or squatting in a group off to the left. Only two men were sitting — the clerk, who was busy writing on a long strip of parchment, and another man Annabel guessed to be the lord’s new steward, who was in charge of the meeting. The steward and clerk would probably only stay long enough to conduct the hallmote and then leave in the morning, off to see to Lord le Wyse’s other holdings.

When the clerk had finished writing, he stood up and proclaimed, “John Maynard complains of John, son of Robert Smith.” Then he sat down.

John Maynard came forward and described, in great detail, an argument he had with John, son of Robert Smith, which resulted from a missing chicken he claimed John stole from him, killed, and ate. John Maynard also brought five men with him who swore on the holy relics either that they knew what he was saying was true or that he was a trustworthy man. John, son of Robert Smith, had failed to bring his own “oath helpers.”

While the case was being decided, a man near Annabel kept looking at her out of the corner of his eye and then nudging his neighbor with his elbow and motioning at Annabel with his head.

Had her family’s case already been decided? She looked around but didn’t see any friendly face she could ask.

Finally, the case of the missing chicken was decided in favor of the complainant, John Maynard. The jury fined John, the son of Robert Smith, four pence for stealing and consuming the chicken. Four pence was a heavy fine, but chickens were valuable.

The clerk announced the next case. “The steward of Lord Ranulf le Wyse accuses Roberta Chapman and her three grown children, Edward, Durand, and Annabel Chapman, of shirking all their required fieldwork, harvest work, and boon work for the three years past, as of this Michaelmas.”

Annabel felt her face grow hot as she kept her eyes focused on the jury members and the steward. She felt as if everyone was staring at her, but she didn’t want to look around to confirm her suspicions.

Mother came forward and stood in front of the entire assemblage of villagers. She looked tense, her lips bloodless and pursed, but defiant. Oh, Mother, please don’t make it worse.

The steward called the reeve forward to attest that this accusation was true.

Annabel was surprised Bailiff Tom wasn’t there also, either to confirm or deny that her family had not done the work required of them.

The reeve confirmed the accusation, and her mother refused to deny it. The jury conferred for only a few moments, then the foreman turned to the steward and his clerk and said, “The jurors find that the Chapmans are all equally guilty and therefore must pay sixty pence per person, totaling two hundred forty pence, or twenty shillings.”

The entire assembly gasped.

Annabel felt sick. She had never heard of a fine anywhere near that amount. It was impossible. Her mother’s defiant expression, however, never wavered.

“Roberta Chapman, are you or your children able to pay this fine?”

“No, sir steward.”

“Jury, the Chapmans are not able to pay their fine. What will be their alternative penalty?”

The jury huddled together. Annabel watched them, unable to walk away until she learned her family’s fate. She should have gone straight to the butcher shop instead. More people were staring at her, and she took a step back, partially hiding behind the miller’s overfed son.

Finally the jury foreman broke away from the other eleven and stepped forward. “Sir steward, the jury says that Roberta Chapman, who is not able to pay the fine of two hundred forty pence, will send one of her grown children to work as Lord le Wyse’s servant for the next three years, doing whatever tasks his lord deems fitting, to pay for the three years the family did not do their work. If they are unwilling, they will forfeit their home and property immediately to Lord le Wyse.”

Annabel backed away as murmurs of approval rose from the circle of villagers. Soon she was on the lane, heading back toward Glynval.

Her face still burned from her family’s public humiliation, and she kept her gaze on the ground as she reentered the village, drawing her head covering closer around her face. A few more steps and she’d be inside the butcher’s shop and away from prying eyes.

“Annabel? Is that you?”

She recognized Margery’s voice and groaned. It would be impolite to ignore her, so she tried to smile. “Good morning, Margery.”

Both girls had blue eyes, blonde hair, and evenly proportioned features, so people occasionally remarked that the two of them could be sisters, but Annabel hoped the resemblance was only physical. She always dreaded Margery’s embarrassing questions. Lately she was even harder to take, bragging and smirking at having married the wealthiest man in Glynval and remarking on the fact that Annabel was still unwed. But Annabel couldn’t imagine marrying such an old man. Or any man, truth be told.

Margery caught Annabel by the arm and leaned close. Annabel leaned back to get away from the smell of garlic emanating from her.

“Have you heard the news?” The girl placed a hand on her slightly protruding belly. “I’ll be a mother before spring plowing!” She giggled then stopped abruptly. She clamped her free hand over her mouth while her eyes widened and her face turned gray.

“Are you unwell?” Annabel grasped the girl’s elbow and took a step away, afraid Margery would heave her breakfast on Annabel’s only pair of shoes.

Margery took a deep, slow breath, then another, and lowered her hand from her mouth. “That was nearly the third time today.” She smiled in spite of her pallor.

“I’ve heard that dry bread eaten in the morning before you rise is helpful for the sickness.”

“All is well with me, but I’m distressed for you.” Margery’s brows drew together.

“Oh, I’m well. I’m on my way to the butcher’s and must hurry — ”

“All the people say your mother and brothers have played our lord very false. Some say you’ll all be turned out of your home, your mother put in the stocks — or worse. Where will you go? Do you have any other family who could take you in?” She put one hand on her hip and pointed her finger at Annabel’s nose. “You should marry. I hear Bailiff Tom is looking for a wife.” Her eyes grew wide with excitement at her brilliant new idea.

Annabel’s family deserved to be turned out of their house, as they’d not served their lord according to the law — and now that would indeed be their fate, as decreed by the hallmote, unless she or one of her brothers became Lord le Wyse’s servant. But Annabel had to feign confidence or risk Margery going on about Tom.

“When everyone sees how willing we are to begin doing our share of the work, I’m sure everything will be well. In fact, the jury only moments ago decided our punishment. One of my family will work for the lord in his manor.”

A visible shudder went through Margery. She whispered, “I’ve heard the new lord is a beast.”

“Nonsense.” Annabel fixed her eyes on Margery, anxious to know if she had actually seen him.

“He has a beard and one of his arms is afflicted. He holds his arm up like this — ” Margery demonstrated by crooking her arm across her midsection. She drew nearer, until her lips were almost touching Annabel’s ear. “And he has only one eye.”

“One eye?”

“He wears a black patch of leather over his missing eye, and a scar runs through his beard all the way to his chin.”

“You saw him?”

“I heard it from Butcher Wagge’s wife, who heard it from Joan Smith, and she heard it direct from Maud atte Water, who’s to be one of the dairy maids in the new lord’s buttery.”

“You mustn’t believe everything you hear.” She could not let Margery’s description frighten her. Maybe the new lord was only very ugly, and that was why people made up such horrific stories about his appearance.

“I must go now,” Annabel said quickly, trying to walk away. “May God favor your child and bless you. Good day.”

“I’m sorry you’re in haste. You didn’t tell me what you’re going to do when they turn you out — ”

“We won’t be turned out. Good day.” Determined to get away from Margery, Annabel headed straight for the butcher’s shop. As she hurried inside, she immediately collided with a man, her sundrenched eyes almost blinded inside the dark shop.

“So glad you could come.”

Annabel blinked as the man’s face came into focus. It was Bailiff Tom.

The bailiff wrapped his hands around her upper arms.

She looked up into his small-eyed, sharp-nosed face, and then down to the hands that were holding her arms unnecessarily. Even though he wasn’t a large man, he still loomed over her.

Bailiff Tom’s greeting was odd, as if he had been expecting her. He must have arranged with Edward to send her to the butcher shop, where he’d be waiting for her. The realization made her feel sick.

She straightened her shoulders and tried to free herself from his grip by taking a step back, but he did not let go. “Pray excuse me. I was looking for the butcher.”

“Are you sure?” He chuckled in a way that made her stomach clench. His dark, oily hair hung below his ears. He leaned over her, and she smelled his sweaty odor. When had he last taken a bath? It was summer, after all. He couldn’t use the excuse that the water was too cold.

“The butcher’s not here, but I would be right pleased” — he paused as though to emphasize the last word, reaching his rusty-looking hand toward her face — “to help you.”

She jerked back to avoid his touch.

He took a step toward her. She dodged away from him, but as he was still holding her arm, she couldn’t get away. He leaned so close she could smell his breath, see a black spot on a side tooth and black hairs protruding from his nose.

“Has your brother told you about my generous offer?” His smile grew wide.

Imaginary bugs crawled over her. “Get your hand off me.” She jerked out of his grasp and turned to leave.

The bailiff leapt around her, pushing her back and blocking her way. He hovered over her with menacing eyes.

“I shall help you, help your whole family. Your brothers will be very disappointed in you if you say no to me.”

“My mother is handling the situation, and I will not accept your offer.”

She tried to dodge around the man, but he moved another step and covered the doorway with his body.

“Let me pass.”

His leer made her clench her teeth.

“Tarry awhile. No need for haste.” He grabbed her hand. “I think of you, Annabel. With your mother about to get you all turned out of your house, you should marry me. I could take care of you, could keep your family from trouble with the new lord.”

Her eyes darted to the door.

He grasped her arms again, and suddenly his lips were coming toward her mouth. Annabel turned her head, and his slobbery lips landed on her cheek. She struggled to break free, but he tightened his grip on her arms until pain shot up to her shoulders.

The bailiff growled and tried to kiss her again, muttering his vile intentions, what he planned to do to her. She couldn’t move her arms, so she stomped down on his foot as hard as she could. He oomphed, then shook her until her teeth rattled.

Her heart beat so hard it vibrated from within, but she refused to let him know she was afraid. “Get out of my way. Let go of me or I’ll raise the hue and cry. I’ll scream until every person in the village — ”

He dug a finger into the underside of her wrist, sending shards of pain up her arm. “You think you’re too good for me, but who’s going to help you now? Do you think the new lord will not punish you, will not throw you out of your fine stone house? Eh?”

Anger surged through her. She gave a sudden tug at her arm and, managing to maneuver around Tom, she stood in the doorway. He let go with a shove, sending Annabel falling backward through the door. She struggled to right herself as she fell, and landed on her hip in the dusty street.

Hooves pounded toward her, and a horse’s high-pitched whinny sounded above her head. Annabel raised her arm to protect herself.

Just inches away, the horse danced to a halt, snorting and throwing dirt into her face. The animal’s hot breath ruffled her hair. Dust clogged her nose and throat and made her cough.

The rider dismounted. “What are you doing?”

The man’s voice and accent were unfamiliar. Her hair had fallen in front of her eyes, making it difficult to see the hands that slipped under her arms and hauled her to her feet. She pulled away, looking around on the ground for her headscarf. Darting a glance at the butcher shop doorway, she saw Bailiff Tom lurking in the shadows. She wiped his vile saliva from her face with her sleeve.

“Throwing yourself in front of a galloping horse?” The stranger’s voice reminded her of a snarling animal in its pitch and intensity. “We could have both been killed.”

Shiny black boots waited beside her. Even the stranger’s stance showed his irritation.

Finally seeing her scarf, she bent and snatched it from the dirt.

Her eyes traveled from his expensive leather boots to his broad chest. He wore the most elegant clothing she’d seen since the last time she visited London with her father — a red velvet doublet and gold-embroidered shirtsleeves — a vast departure from the dull gray and brown of the villagers’ coarse woolens.

She beat the dust from her skirt as anger boiled up inside her. It wasn’t her fault she’d fallen in front of his horse. Did he think she had tossed herself into the street? First that disgusting lecher Bailiff Tom, and now this stranger . . . Her gaze finally met his face and she stifled a gasp.

A black patch covered his left eye, and a scar cut a pale line down his cheek, through his thick brown beard, all the way to his chin.

The back of her neck tingled. His expression demanded an answer as he glared at her from one brown eye.

Her surprise at his formidable appearance quickly turned to anger. She was determined to let him know she wasn’t a lack-wit and didn’t relish being treated like one.

“My lord.” Her voice was surprisingly steady. “My name is Annabel Chapman, and I am not in the habit of throwing myself in front of galloping horses. I was pushed.” She had to bite her tongue to keep from adding, And perhaps you shouldn’t gallop your horse through the village as though you’re the only person on the street.

She leaned down to continue beating the dust from her clothes.

“Who pushed you?” He shouted the question so thunderously, she forgot about her dusty clothes and stared up at him. “Where is the man who would push a woman into the street?”

Her gaze involuntarily shifted to the butcher shop’s doorway, where Bailiff Tom stood just inside. He immediately stepped back into the shadows.

The lord followed her gaze and then looked back at Annabel. “Wait here.”

His expression became even fiercer just before he turned from her and strode into the shop.

“Bailiff Tom? How dare you shove that maiden?” His booming voice easily carried into the street.

He reappeared in the doorway, clutching Bailiff Tom by the back of his neck.

Pushing Tom toward her, the stranger jerked him to a halt only an arm’s length away.

“My bailiff wishes to ask forgiveness for his behavior.”

Tom didn’t look her in the eye but said in a strained voice, “Forgive me.”

She nodded, aware of the small group of wide-eyed villagers gathering to watch.

The man let go of Bailiff Tom’s neck. After straightening his elegant waistcoat, the lord stood tall, his back straight and his broad shoulders looming over the small group of villeins that now surrounded him. He held one arm tight against his midsection as he spoke. “I am Ranulf le Wyse, the lord of this village.”

The people immediately sank to one knee and bowed their heads before him.

“I will not tolerate loutish behavior from the men of my demesne.” The people lifted their heads. Lord le Wyse’s commanding tone riveted every eye. “And I warn you not to hope for preferential treatment. My father’s steward may have taken bribes, but I’m the lord now, and,” he fairly growled, “it isn’t in my nature.”

He turned in one swift motion, mounted his black horse, and galloped away.

Annabel watched him disappear down the road, then she turned to go home, moving quickly to get away from all the people staring at her. What kind of man was this new lord? He’d assured them that he didn’t tolerate bribes or lawlessness. Her mother had been guilty of both.

What would her family’s future be at the mercy of Lord Ranulf le Wyse?

Here's the book trailer for The Merchant's Daughter:

A personal note from Esther: I absolutely love, love, loved The Merchant's Daughter! I spent a whole morning and part of an afternoon reading it because I couldn't put it down. Adults, not just teens, will love Melanie's new book. Watch for part of my review tomorrow!



You can purchase The Merchant's Daughter from Amazon.

Melanie is giving away a copy of The Merchant's Daughter. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

14 comments:

wfnren said...

This sounds like a very interesting story. Thank you for hosting this giveaway.

wfnren(at)aol(dot)com
wrensthoughts.blogspot.com

Josh Healy said...

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Linda said...

A definite 'must read' for me. Please enter me! Thanks.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Merry said...

The Merchant's Daughter sounds like a lovely story. Add me please!
worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

Joy Hannabass said...

I love Melanie's books and would love to have this one to read!
Blessings....Joy
ibjoy1953(at)yahoo(Dot)com

Patsy said...

Sounds like a great book! Count me in!

plhouston(at)bellsouth(dot)net

apple blossom said...

please enter me thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Suzanne said...

This sounds like a great story, especially since I love YA historical novels.
Suzanne :O)
shartmann5(at)yahoo(dot)com

Teela said...

Oh I hope to win this book, The Merchant's Daughter. Thanks for the giveaway and chance to win!
Teelayoung@hotmail.com

Courtney said...

I really hope I win this book!! It's on my Christmas list already but I'm just dying to read it!! A Healer's Apprentice is one of my all-time favorite books!!

Thanks
Courtney
kcmelone at yahoo dot com

Pam K. said...

I'm ready to read the rest of the book! I'd love to win a copy of The Merchant's Daughter. Thanks for the opportunity.

pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

Lady DragonKeeper said...

OMGoodness, thank you for such a long excerpt! I loved "The Healer's Apprentice" and I'm sure "The Merchant's Daughter" is just as good. Thanks for the chance to win!

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read melanie's latest novel :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Lane Hill House said...

The Book Trailer for "The Merchant's Daughter" is awesome! And the Excerpt! I would love to win your book giveaway, Melanie! Delightful. I want to read the rest. I was left walking quickly down the road behind Annabel!
lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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