Swan Lake meets Robin Hood when the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant by day becomes the region’s most notorious poacher by night, and falls in love with the gamekeeper.
Jorgen is the gamekeeper for the wealthy margrave, and he is in pursuit of the poacher who has been killing and stealing the margrave’s game. When he meets the lovely and refined Odette at the festival and shares a connection during a dance, he has no idea that at night she is the one who has been poaching the margrave’s game.
Odette is caught up in a ring of black market sellers of poached animals. She thinks the game is going to feed the poor, who are all but starving, both in the city and just outside its walls. However, most of the animals are being sold by the greedy leader of the ring-her stepfather. When Odette discovers what he is doing, she threatens to expose him, putting herself in great danger.
The gamekeeper finds her poaching one night and shoots her, wounding her. When he realizes who she is, he hides her to keep her from being executed by the margrave and also to protect her from her stepfather. Jorgen and Odette will band together to stop the black market poaching ring . . . as they fall in love. But what will the margrave do when he discovers his gamekeeper is protecting a notorious poacher?
I will be completely honest with you from the beginning — it was the cover that drew me to this book. Even though I have another book from Melanie Dickerson on my to be read (TBR) shelf, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is my first encounter with this author’s writing. Furthermore, I went into this book blind, with no expectations or presuppositions only a desire to mix up my reading list. What I encountered was a good medieval tale undergirded with Christian themes.
It is important to note that while Melanie Dickerson is well known as a YA author, this title is not earmarked as such. Pleasantly you will find that the romantic aspect of the story remains G-rated. Interactions between male and female characters are commonly held in public settings, with only a few stolen moments alone or a brief embrace (i.e. dancing). The author’s choice of setting in which she introduces a character by the name of Kathryn precludes me from recommending this title to a teen audience. One thing that the setting does allow is for the author to broach the topic of victimization, and God’s ability to redeem our past and give us hope for the future.
The Robin Hood-like heroine Odette Menkles has experienced her fair share of heartache and struggles during her 21 years. Following the death of her parents, Odette learned to fend for herself and from that experience acquired the skill of longbow hunting skill. Odette’s Uncle Rutger, a wealthy merchant, learns of her dire situation and steps in to become her legal guardian. While experiencing the trappings of affluent life, Odette endeavors to help the less fortunate by teaching them to read and providing them with wild game for sustenance. Unfortunately, she provides the latter through poaching in the king’s forest. This leads to intense internal conflict where Odette finds herself falling for the margrave’s forester, Jorgen Hartman.
Even though I found the story to be a refreshing change from my usual fare, some aspects of the story were a little weak. To begin, I felt an overfamiliarity with the storyline. To compound this issue, the story seemed to lack a surprising event or strong character which would set it apart as a must read story. To the author’s credit, Odette and Jorgen’s relationship developed gradually, which I prefer over a love at first sight situation. However, their connection wasn’t fiery nor did it evoke a feeling of desire or longing (romantic tension) I tend to crave in a love story. Despite my mixed feelings about the book, life in 1363 felt well represented — the rich enjoying Midsummer Festivals and royal dances while the poor struggled with starvation and illness.
About the Author
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 has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.