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“A woman wishes to be swept up by a man’s fervent feeling for her, by love and longing and depth of feeling. She doesn’t wish to be married for her money or her noble birth or because she is a sensible choice,” Avelina. –The Beautiful Pretender
The Beautiful Pretender
by Melanie Dickerson
The Margrave of Thornbeck, Reinhart, must find a bride– and fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks. He’ll use the time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his 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.
Like a Hallmark movie, The Beautiful Pretender follows the typical love story plotline. Even though the plotline is predictable, readers will enjoy stepping back into a time when women’s roles were based on their birth. Avelina, a servant in disguise, is a likable character who is learning to express her opinions. Avelina willingly goes into danger to protect others and her courage is an admirable trait. The story has a typical happily-ever-after ending that will leave readers with a warm glow.
- Reinhart’s parents “hated each other. . . both of them had lovers.”
- One of the ladies visiting Reinhart was betrothed to a man who “was given to violent tirades and had impregnated two of his house servants.”
- Dorothea had a “tryst” with one of her father’s knights. Rumors were that Dorothea was with child.
- Reinhart talks about his brother who had a servant as a “lover.”
- Avelina’s maidservant falls in love with another servant. Avelina “wanted to warn Irma that the manservant would break her heart when they had to leave, but she couldn’t imagine Irma would be eager to hear any advice from her.”
- Reinhart and Avelina hide in a small space behind a bookcase. As they talk, Reinhart thinks, “How good it would feel to turn her face toward him and kiss her.” However, he does not.
- While Reinhart and Avelina are hiding, she becomes cold and thinks about asking for Reinhart to embrace her. However, she doesn’t because, “Doing such a thing would be an invitation to Lord Reinhart to make her his mistress, and she would never do that.”
- When Reinhart shows concern for Avelina, “her heart was thumping in a late reaction to wishing she could stand on her tiptoes and kiss him on the lips.”
- Avelina is dressing Reinhart’s wounds. “She should avert her eyes and not admire his magnificent, broad, powerful-looking chest, and focus only on his shoulder injury.”
- Before Reinhart surrenders to the enemy, “he took her [Avelina’s] face in his hands, caressing her silken skin with his thumbs. . . He bent and pressed his mouth to hers. He kissed her softly at first, making sure she did not want to pull away. . . Kissing her was achingly sweet.”
- While locked in the dungeon with Reinhart, Avelina “leaned forward to kiss his cheek, but he turned his head at the last moment and she captured his lips in an intense but brief kiss.”
- When Avelina agrees to marry Reinhart, “he pressed his lips against hers and kissed her long and thoroughly, not holding anything back.”
- Reinhart’s brother, his brother’s lover, and their unborn child die in a fire.
- One of the ladies ask Avelina to go to the balcony. The lady weakens the balcony railing and Avelina falls. “She flailed out both hands and grabbed the part of the railing still attached to the balcony. . . She clung to the railing with all her strength, her hands gripping the broken railing.” The lady leaves Avelina alone. However, Thornbeck hears screams and saves Avelina.”
- Avelina and her servant, Irma, leave Thornbeck’s castle during a storm. Once they are away from the castle, “Irma reached out and snatched Avelina’s fur robe off. Then she lifted her leg and kicked Avelina in her side. . . She hit the ground almost before she knew what was happening.” Irma frightens Avelina’s horse, so the horse runs off. Irma leaves Avelina to die.
- While in the forest, alone, wolves attack Avelina. A wolf “sprang at her, its eyes locked on her neck. She let go of the stick and lifted her arm, crouching at the last moment. The wolf sailed by her shoulder, but its claws raked her forearm as he passed.” Another wolf “sank its teeth into her ankle.”
- Reinhart hears Avelina’s screams and rushes to help. “He unsheathed his sword and leapt off his horse. The wolf lunged at her throat and Reinhart brought the sword down on its head, knocking it to the ground. . . another wolf caught his sword arm in its teeth. He switched his sword to his left hand and slashed the blade across the wolf’s belly and slung it to the ground.” Both Reinhart and Avelina are injured.
- A servant, confesses that she killed two lovers and their unborn child because “the duke told me to do it.” Gerhaws says, “I hid in their room, and when they went to sleep, I set their bed curtains on fire.”
- Gerhaws falls to her death. Her death is not described.
- While locked in the dungeon, Geitbart mocks Reinhart. “Reinhart lunged at Geitbart. His fist found its mark as it crunched into Geitbart’s nose.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Avelina’s servant, Irma, often appears drunk. One time, Avelina goes to wake up Irma, and “the scent of strong drink assaulted Avelina’s nose.”
- Reinhart’s brother was drunk the night he died.
- One of the servants drinks. Someone says, “It is well known that this Gerhaws drinks herself into a stupor in the evenings.” When Avelina sees Gerhaws, the servant “took a small flask out of a pocket in her apron and brought it to her lips.”
- When Reinhart is in the dungeon, Avelina takes a flask of wine to him.
- The older women in Avelina’s community say, “If you dreamed something three times it was bound to come true.”
- Avelina prays to God frequently. The prayers praise God as well as request something from God. For example, when Thornbeck questions Avelina, who is pretending to be Lady Dorothea, Avelina prays, “God in heaven, I am only a maidservant! What am I saying?”
- Avelina wonders, “What did it matter if one worshipped at a gold altar or a wooden one, so long as one’s heart and mind were focused on God?”
- During a dinner, Reinhart welcomes the ladies who are present. He says, “I pray you all enjoy yourselves while you are here, and God will show me which worthy lady among you should be my bride.”
- Reinhart and the women attend church. During service, there is “a brief homily from the priest on the importance of showing kindness as Jesus did. . .”
- Gerhaws confesses that she killed Reinhart’s brother. Gerhaws says, “I thought if my lord told me to do it, God would not hold me responsible for it. . . The priest told me it was a sin to disobey my lord, so I did it. I killed the margrave.”
- Avelina believes, “She [is] a human being, created by God to do good works.”
- While hiding from soldiers with Reinhart, Avelina prays: “I know that You do not always do everything we ask, so I plead with You to save us. Save us precisely because it is impossible, and because You are god.” The prayer goes on for a paragraph.
- When Reinhart believes he is going to die, he prays: “Dear Jesus and Lord God, forgive my sins and receive my spirit.” He goes on and asks for Avelina’s protection. He says, “She does not deserve to be punished anymore. . . Don’t let her be mistreated. . . by anyone.”