The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson is a retelling of Cinderella set in Germany of the 1400s. Gisela’s father has died and her step-mother has taken over and treats Gisela like a servant. While Gisela submits when she has to, she is spirited and uncowed When a big tournament is held in town, Gisela sneaks away to see the games and unexpectedly runs into Valten, the duke’s son. They had met years ago when she was seven and he and his father had bought one of her father’s horses, and she has thought about him ever since.
Valten is the older brother of Gabe from The Fairest Beauty but quite different in personality. Where Gabe is glib-tongued, especially with the ladies, Valten never knows quite what to say and seems aloof. Valten excels at winning tournaments, particularly in jousting, but is beginning to think there has to be something else in life.
Valten also has an enemy in Ruexner, his main challenger in the tournaments. When Ruexner observes that Valten has an interest in Gisela, Ruexner sees her as a means of getting back at Valten. And of course Gisela’s step-mother hinders her attempts to pursue a relationship with Valten, so, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the course of their true love is not going to run smoothly. But I won’t spoil the details.
Along the way, Valten has to realize that he needs to rely on God’s strength rather that his own, and they both have to wrestle with the vengeance belonging to the Lord rather than being theirs to exact.
I didn’t think the writing in this story flowed quite as smoothly as in some of Melanie’s other books, and, although it is normal for couples to have some misunderstandings at first as they are getting to know each other and learning to read each other, the misunderstandings and misreadings here seemed excessive. But overall I did enjoy the story. I think anyone who likes fairy tale retellings and/or clean Christian romances would like this book.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)