The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest
By Melanie Dickerson
Nelson, Thomas, Inc., 2015
Once an orphan herself, Odette Menkels is overwhelmed by the unmet needs of the poor in her village. Now the ward of her uncle, a kind and wealthy merchant, Odette leads a double life as a beautiful maiden by day and a poacher by night. She is convinced that stealing the king’s deer is a forgivable sin since she does it to feed the poor, but things get complicated when she meets the margrave’s handsome forester, Jorgen Hartman. It is Jorgen’s job to find and stop the poacher and he is under pressure from the margrave to make it happen soon. But as he investigates the poacher’s whereabouts, he realizes that there is more to this crime than meets the eye.
Odette struggles to continue hunting despite the ever-growing watchfulness of Jorgen, all the while fighting a growing attraction to him that she knows can come to no good. How could a poacher marry a forester? Jorgen is attracted to her too, but he is not wealthy enough to compete with the other suitors who seek her hand, and he knows her uncle would never approve such a match. But their friendship continues to grow and soon they must decide who they can trust as secrets come to light that will change the way both of them think about each other and their separate, but increasingly intertwined, lives.
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A Medieval Fairy Tale Romance, Book #1, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is a beautiful story. The intrigue of a lovely maiden Robin Hooding around at night grabs your attention from the get-go. And then she goes and falls in love with the man whose job it is to catch her and punish her for her crimes, though of course he hasn’t the slightest suspicion that the poacher he seeks is actually a woman. All of that is enough to keep you reading, but then as you get deeper into the story we start to see that not everything is as it seems. I don’t want to give away any surprises, so all I’ll say is that there is a betrayal in store that shakes the foundation of Odette’s decision to intentionally and repetitively commit the crime of hunting the kings deer. That brings us to the first question that forms the foundation for this story: Is it ok to do the wrong thing for the right reason? Odette is poaching to feed the poor, but are there other ways that she can make a difference for these people without breaking the law? The second question ties in with the first: Is she being selfish to want to marry a poor man whom she loves instead of of a rich man whom she doesn’t love, but who would enable her to help the poor without poaching?
I thought this story was well put together, with lots of depth and surprises from all the characters. Odette and Jorgen have some tough choices to make and their struggles to choose rightly endear them to the reader. This story does have a happy ending, which is great because I love happy endings, but it is noteworthy in this case because, though I was confident there would be one here, I was struggling to figure out how it could happen with impossible predicament they had gotten themselves into. I was impressed with the way the author was able to tie things up in a neat little bow at the end. The other thing I liked about this story was the setting. Medieval Germany is not a time and place I personally have read much about, so it was a nice change of pace.
Beautiful story filled with depth and emotion. I loved The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and I can’t wait to read the next in the series, The Beautiful Pretender.