The Merchant’s Dilemma
Published September 22nd, 2023
The Merchant’s Dilemma is described as a Companion Novel to the author’s medieval fiction series, The Meonbridge Chronicles, which currently features five books. Shorter and simpler than the main books, this follows directly on from Book Four, Children’s Fate, (published in 2020) and focusses entirely on Emma’s daughter, Bea, and her wealthy lover Riccardo. While you could happily read this as a stand-alone, it obviously helps to have read the other books, but be aware that it is quite different, and will appeal more to Romance fans, with none of the mystery, action or drama elements that characterise the main series books.
After being cast out of her home village, wayward seamstress turned involuntary Lady of the Night Beatrix has been living on the streets of Winchester for months until, starving and near frozen to death, she made her way to Riccardo’s doorstep, in the hope that he would arrange a decent burial for her. Riccardo, having married a gentlewoman to please his father, who then died in childbirth, is overjoyed to be reunited with Bea, his true love, and is determined that now they will be together forever. Unfortunately, he knows his status-obsessed father will never consent to their marriage, and Riccardo risks losing his inheritance if he disobeys, but feisty Bea is none too happy at being kept a secret. Can the star-crossed lovers find happiness despite their different backgrounds and the snobbery of Riccardo’s family?
While romance is decidedly not my genre, I’m invested enough in this series to want to know what happens to the various characters and soft-hearted enough to want happy endings for them. As in Children’s Fate, I didn’t actually like Bea much, even when I felt sorry for her – she’s flighty and immature – which is understandable given she’s still only a teenager, but all the pouting and sulking made me wonder why Riccardo put up with her! I did however love wily pragmatic Emilia and Cecily. The main tension comes from wondering how they can fool the gossipy society of Riccardo’s world into accepting Bea, and hide her shocking past from his shallow family, but the inevitable happy ending is never really in doubt. As ever with these books, fourteenth century life is vividly portrayed and the historical details well researched. Thanks to Carolyn for the ARC.