Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

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The Advocate

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Reviewed by Nora St. Laurent

"...[has] the right mix of romance, adventure, battles and a mix of scenery, which all added to the mystery and fun of the story."

Back Cover: Two Hearts. One Hope. Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her---a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill. When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

I’m thankful for the review copy of this wonderful, enchanting novel. It is written for a youthful audience, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I haven’t had this much fun reading a youth book since experiencing Beauty and the Beast with my kids. Rose, the main character in The Healer's Apprentice, reminds me a little of Beauty and the Beast’s, Belle. She is well-educated, an avid reader, loyal, passionate, poor and opinionated.

“The townspeople of Hagenheim craned their necks as they peered down the cobble stone street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Duke of Hagenheim’s two handsome sons.”

I was quickly drawn into this great fairy tale from the beginning. Can you see the ladies pushing through the crowd to catch a look at these most handsome men?

The author’s characters are likeable and promptly draw on your heart strings as their situations quickly unfold. It’s April 1386, in the heart of the middle ages. Lord Wilhelm and Lord Rupert have returned from studying abroad. Rose and Hildy, her best friend, were in the crowd along with everyone else trying to see these men. Hildy, a romantic at heart, yells to her friend Rose to try to catch these men’s attention. Rose is level-headed and practical, and she quickly reminds Hildy that Lord Wilhelm is betrothed and Lord Rupert must marry an heiress since he’s the second born son.

Lord Wilhelm had been betrothed since an early age. He had always guarded his heart and his eyes and was in control of his situation. But since he’d met Rose, his world had been rocked. A lot was expected from him. He couldn’t let a beautiful poor woodcutter’s daughter get the better of him. But he had to be honest with himself, “For the first time in his life he wished he was an ordinary man, instead of Wilhelm Gerstenberg, Earl of Hamlin, the future duke of Hagenheim.”

Lord Wilhelm had been in wild adventures most of his life trying to capture Moncore, who was set on killing his bride, the one he’s never met. Her parents had kept Lord Wilhelm’s bride safe from this evil doer.

Lord Wilhelm was exasperated, “Moncore had eluded him before. The fact that one man had continued threatening lady Salomea’s safety despite Wilhelm’s best efforts, was a frustration like he’d never known, a splinter he couldn’t gouge out no matter how hard he tried.”

Rose knew her status as well as what was expected of her, yet struggled to find her way, her gifts and how to be loyal to God and her family. Rose was the eldest child of a poor woodcutter. She wouldn’t be in the running for either of these men’s affections. Rose prayed, “O God, make me like Frau Geruscha, (the healer)…because one day she would be expected to take over as healer. If Rose returned home a failure, her mother would torment her until she accepted one of her suitors-a desperate widower with nine children, an old man with no teeth…and her newest---Peter Brunckhorst, his greasy black-and-white hair plastered to his head.”…her mother had told her this was her best offer…”why was he the best she could hope to get? Because she thought she was stupid? Mean? Lazy? Unworthy of being loved? ...She’d never experienced love. Most married people didn’t either.” Could she hope for more and marry for love or not marry at all?

Melanie Dickerson had the reader in the middle of the action during her story, which I adored. The author also had the right mix of romance, adventure, battles and a mix of scenery, which all added to the mystery and fun of the story. I liked the depth and complexity of these characters as their spiritual fight was revealed. It was refreshing to see characters struggling as they attempted to live out what they read in the Bible. Rose and Wilhelm had a personal relationship with God. Both struggled with their emotions and how not to be taken over by them. Melanie had several supporting characters I grew fond of and was drawn into their dilemmas, as well. This story was suspenseful in parts; I found myself holding my breathe until the situation was resolved. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I anticipated the story going in one direction, then something would happen and I doubted where I thought this would end up. The author kept me guessing all the way through.

I was totally taken into this fairy-tale and read it in one day; my family gave me grace so I could keep reading. I had to find out how this ended. This is Melanie Dickerson’s debut novel---wow!! I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I definitely can’t wait to read it.

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Nora St. LaurentNora St. Laurent is the CEO of The Book Club Network Incorporated and runs two book clubs near Atlanta, Ga., and is the former ACFW On-Line Book Club coordinator. Nora currently writes a Book Club column for the Christian Fiction OnLine Magazine and is a Book Club Talk "Columnist" for Novel Rocket. She writes reviews and interviews authors on her blog Finding Hope Through Fiction, Novel Reviews, Title Trakk, Suspense Zone and The Christian Pulse.