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To live an unforgettable life, she would defy all expectations—including her own. Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late fourteenth-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry—until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though To live an unforgettable life, she would defy all expectations—including her own. Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late fourteenth-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry—until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though Maris was sent away, twenty-year-old Audrey is still suffering the scars of her sister's cruelty. When her father announces his plans to marry off his damaged daughter and bring Maris home, Audrey decides to flee in search of her true destiny. However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, sick, and in desperate need of help. She is taken in at Dericott Castle to be nursed back to health. While there, she decides to keep her identity a secret and work as a servant in the castle. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with the young and handsome Lord Dericott, who lost his arm several months earlier and bears scars of his own. Meanwhile, Edwin—Lord Dericott—is curious about the new, well-educated servant’s identity. All he knows is that he's quickly becoming smitten with her. When the man Audrey’s father wanted her to marry comes looking for her, she and Edwin must make life-changing decisions about what to believe and whether or not love is truly worth trusting. In this Ugly Duckling retelling, New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson brilliantly crafts a high stakes, encouraging tale about the power of love.


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To live an unforgettable life, she would defy all expectations—including her own. Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late fourteenth-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry—until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though To live an unforgettable life, she would defy all expectations—including her own. Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late fourteenth-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry—until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though Maris was sent away, twenty-year-old Audrey is still suffering the scars of her sister's cruelty. When her father announces his plans to marry off his damaged daughter and bring Maris home, Audrey decides to flee in search of her true destiny. However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, sick, and in desperate need of help. She is taken in at Dericott Castle to be nursed back to health. While there, she decides to keep her identity a secret and work as a servant in the castle. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with the young and handsome Lord Dericott, who lost his arm several months earlier and bears scars of his own. Meanwhile, Edwin—Lord Dericott—is curious about the new, well-educated servant’s identity. All he knows is that he's quickly becoming smitten with her. When the man Audrey’s father wanted her to marry comes looking for her, she and Edwin must make life-changing decisions about what to believe and whether or not love is truly worth trusting. In this Ugly Duckling retelling, New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson brilliantly crafts a high stakes, encouraging tale about the power of love.

30 review for Castle of Refuge

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey (Books for Christian Girls)

    About this book: <“Audrey is a viscount’s daughter who has suffered her sister Maris’s cruel, jealous behavior all her life. An act of malice led their father to send Maris to a convent, but Audrey was still left with scars. Three years later, Audrey’s father is determined to marry off his damaged daughter, and Maris is returning. Desperate, Audrey sneaks away. However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, injured, and in dire straits. She is taken in at Deric About this book: <“Audrey is a viscount’s daughter who has suffered her sister Maris’s cruel, jealous behavior all her life. An act of malice led their father to send Maris to a convent, but Audrey was still left with scars. Three years later, Audrey’s father is determined to marry off his damaged daughter, and Maris is returning. Desperate, Audrey sneaks away. However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, injured, and in dire straits. She is taken in at Dericott Castle to be nursed back to health. While there, she decides to keep her identity a secret and work as a servant in the castle. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with the young and handsome Lord Dericott, who lost his arm several months earlier. Meanwhile, Edwin—Lord Dericott—is curious about the new, well-educated servant’s identity. When the man Audrey’s father wanted her to marry comes looking for her, each must make a life-changing decision about what to believe and whether or not love is truly worth trusting. In this Ugly Duckling retelling, New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson brilliantly crafts a high-stakes, encouraging tale about the power of love.” Series: Book #2 in “The Dericott Tales”. Review of the first book, Here! Spiritual Content- Many Scriptures are quoted, mentioned, & remembered; Many Prayers & Thanking God; ‘H’s are capitalized when referring to God; Many mentions of God & faiths; Mentions of prayers, praying, blessings over food, & Thanking God; Mentions of Bibles (the Holy Writ and a Psalter) & Bible reading; Mentions of those & events in the Bible; Mentions of a convent, monastery, the activities there, churches, chapels, & priests/nuns; Mentions of blessings & being blessed; Mentions of Heaven; A few mentions of sins; A couple mentions of the book of Song of Solomon; A couple mentions of miracles; A mention of the Church of England; *Note: Mentions of evil; Mentions of people believing that scars are from the devil & that the person is cursed (Audrey says it’s true in her case because she’s cursed by having a sister like Maris); Mentions of a pagan grave mound (Audrey explores one with Edwin) & seeing a place they practiced their pagan religion; A few mentions of thinking someone is possessed by a demon; A mention of that if you kill a good man, God will allow Satan to control your mind. Negative Content- Thinking you’re about to die/be killed (semi-detailed); Fighting, being attacked, being held at knifepoint, & pain (semi-detailed); Falling/Being pushed into a fire, pain, burns, & injuries (up to semi-detailed); Being kidnapped (barely-above-not-detailed); Falling off a horse (barely-above-not-detailed); Being threatened harm & killing (Maris to Audrey); Audrey’s sister is very mean and abusive towards her (verbally and physically, but is also violent towards the servants); Being sick & passing out (up to semi-detailed); Nightmares (up to semi-detailed); Many mentions of jealousy/envy & hatred; Mentions of wanting to kill someone in hatred & how (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of wars/rebellions, fighting, & killing (barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of being accused of murder and treason, nearly being executed, & Edwin losing his arm (barely-above-not-detailed, Book #1); Mentions of being kidnapped, injuries, & blood/bleeding (barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of fires & smoke (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of a nanny that abused a child (slapping, pinching & beating the child, barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of being robbed, stolen items, & robbers/thieves; Mentions of nightmares (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of drinking & alcohol; Mentions of lies, lying, & liars; Mentions of wild animals, the possibility of being killed or harmed by them, & dead wild animals (barely-above-not-detailed); A few mentions of sicknesses & deaths; A couple mentions of slaves; A couple mentions of debts; A mention of a girl’s parents who fight & yell at home; A mention of wondering if a horse is being abused; *Note: (Killing a snake, barely-above-not-detailed); A few mentions of women running away from cruel husbands. Sexual Content- A hand kiss, two cheek kisses, a forehead (barely-above-not-detailed) kiss, a hair kiss, five barely-above-not-detailed kisses, two boarder-line barely-above-not-detailed // semi-detailed kisses, and three semi-detailed kisses; Smelling, Nearness, Touches, Embraces, & Dancing (barely-above-not-detailed); Laying next to each other (for warmth, boarder-line barely-above-not-detailed // semi-detailed); Noticing, Blushes, & Winks (including noticing muscles, barely-above-not-detailed); Mentions of kisses & kissing; A few mentions of men (not) touching a defenseless girl (Audrey); A couple mentions of Audrey’s sister offering for a young man to sneak out and meet her in the middle of the night; A couple mentions of flirting & flirts; A mention of a concubine; A mention of thinking a girl ran off with her lover; A mention of a book being profane and sacrilegious for anyone, but especially a young unmarried girl; Love, falling in love, & the emotions; *Note: Audrey’s father plans for her to marry a man that is around the age of her father; A few mentions of Audrey’s mother who died while giving birth to her (Maris says Audrey killed their mother multiple times). -Audrey, age 19 -Edwin, age 23 P.O.V. switches between them Set in 1382 (Chapter 1 in set in 1378) 328 pages ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Pre Teens- One Star New Teens- One Star Early High School Teens- Three Stars Older High School Teens- Four Stars My personal Rating- Four Stars While I thought the first book in this series was decent (definitely not my favorite by this author), this second book was much better in my opinion. I really liked Audrey, but also the faiths shown in this book reminded me of the second book in the “Hagenheim” series, which I’ve always said is probably my favorite in that series. I’m not sure I focused more on Audrey than Edwin, but he didn’t stand out too much to me for the majority of the book. Not sure if we didn’t see his thoughts enough or I was paying too much attention towards Audrey, though. It might be an odd thing to comment on, but I really liked the pacing of this book and how long it felt. (not long in a “oh my goodness, this is sooooo looooong!” way, but in a way where it didn’t feel like the book was rushing to and from new plot points. So this is a positive thing! ;) ) I think the romance was very sweet (and clean) and even though there were no mentions of men trying to take advantage of young women, I think this book might be best for those in high school because of said romance. Link to review: https://booksforchristiangirls.blogsp... *BFCG may (Read the review to see) recommend this book by this author. It does not mean I recommend all the books by this author.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Castle of Refuge was quite exciting. It did take me a little while to get into it but once the action began, it was hard to put down. It’s a story of two scarred people finding each other and loving each other, scars and all. I find that particular storyline so beautiful! I immediately felt so much sympathy for Audrey. I can’t imagine being so mistreated by someone who is suppose to be your role model and best friend. Throughout the book we see Audrey deal with the insecurities and scars her sist Castle of Refuge was quite exciting. It did take me a little while to get into it but once the action began, it was hard to put down. It’s a story of two scarred people finding each other and loving each other, scars and all. I find that particular storyline so beautiful! I immediately felt so much sympathy for Audrey. I can’t imagine being so mistreated by someone who is suppose to be your role model and best friend. Throughout the book we see Audrey deal with the insecurities and scars her sister has caused her. She was such a sweet girl and I wanted only a happy ending for her! I also felt sympathy for Edwin. We saw him lose his arm in the first book and in this book we watch him deal with the affects of only having one arm. While I felt for him, I also admired him. Watching these two come together was very sweet. I loved that it was slow-burn and clean. There were some pretty intense scenes and suspense towards the end that kept me flipping pages. Overall, I liked this second book in the series! While I’m not loving it as much as I did the Hagenheim series (insert heart eyes!), it’s still good. *I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    MJSH

    In this second installment of Dericott Tale series, Melanie Dickerson brings us back to late 14th century England, a few months after the first book in the series left off. She creates a believable and touchable backdrop with knights, castles, and villagers in this tale of loyalty, kindness, and finding purpose. Edwin, Lord Dericott, is generous, kind and deeply committed to justice since he suffered at the hands of evil people and lost his arm. Audrey, the daughter of a viscount, is sweet and c In this second installment of Dericott Tale series, Melanie Dickerson brings us back to late 14th century England, a few months after the first book in the series left off. She creates a believable and touchable backdrop with knights, castles, and villagers in this tale of loyalty, kindness, and finding purpose. Edwin, Lord Dericott, is generous, kind and deeply committed to justice since he suffered at the hands of evil people and lost his arm. Audrey, the daughter of a viscount, is sweet and compassionate even though she was physically harmed and scarred by her own sister. Their struggle with their inflicted deformities is real and raw as is their faith as they grapple with their new realities. The plot is well-paced even though predictable. Edwin and Audrey are likable and the villain Maris is quite evil but they all felt a bit two-dimensional and cookie-cutter good or evil. Even so, those who enjoy fairy tale retellings, especially those geared for YA, will enjoy this book. It's better to have read Court of Swans first before this book to get the background story of Edwin and his family but it can still be read as a stand alone. I received the book from Thomas Nelson via JustRead Publicity Tours and was under no obligation to post a positive comment. All opinions are solely my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rose (Adventurous Bookworm)

    If I'm being honest, this one exceeded my expectations but still was not my favorite by any means. While I never go into these books expecting masterpieces, I expect that I'll get a quick and easy read that can just take me of whatever I'm worrying about at the moment. This book did just that. I was not overly fond of the plot with the sister being the villain. To me, it always screams weak and somewhat unbelievable. The only really big complaint that I have is the cover. If Aubrey is scarred, PLEA If I'm being honest, this one exceeded my expectations but still was not my favorite by any means. While I never go into these books expecting masterpieces, I expect that I'll get a quick and easy read that can just take me of whatever I'm worrying about at the moment. This book did just that. I was not overly fond of the plot with the sister being the villain. To me, it always screams weak and somewhat unbelievable. The only really big complaint that I have is the cover. If Aubrey is scarred, PLEASE for the love of cheese and crackers make the cover reflect what she looks like. All in all, fans of Melanie Dickerson will like this one. 3/5 *I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own and a positive review was not required.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    3.5* I still love how Melanie Dickerson still can make her characters have some realness to them. That's how I felt with this book for me. I liked both the main characters, Audrey and Edwin, but they're not the type to impose a big impression. I don't want to say that they had no depth... but it kind of felt that way. Audrey seemed to carry more character character in her, while Edwin wasn't very impressionable. But hey, I still relatively liked them! And the romance was so very sweet! But... it 3.5* I still love how Melanie Dickerson still can make her characters have some realness to them. That's how I felt with this book for me. I liked both the main characters, Audrey and Edwin, but they're not the type to impose a big impression. I don't want to say that they had no depth... but it kind of felt that way. Audrey seemed to carry more character character in her, while Edwin wasn't very impressionable. But hey, I still relatively liked them! And the romance was so very sweet! But... it also felt lacking. It felt lacking in romantic tension, with nothing much to get the reader excited for their romance. The progress wasn't too bad, just maybe a tad fast and "huh, they love each other already?"-type. It just felt lacking, so when it reached the ending, I didn't really care much for it (especially compared to how I LOVE that exciting rush of looking forward to couples getting together in other books, you get me?). Though, as a YA romance novel, it was still pretty sweet, and for some, I'm sure it'll be wholeheartedly satisfying! AH, and I also really REALLYYY wished there was a way we could see more of the Dericott brothers! Especially assuming that the third book would be based on one of them. With all these out of the way, I gotta mention that I really enjoyed this book even though I was a little disappointed and dissatisfied. I loved how fast-paced it was and how easy and not-so-brain-consuming it was to read! I enjoyed the characters, and the entire plot still kept me turning the pages. I never felt tired of reading it! So, I'm still looking forward to the third book in the series!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Bookworm Lisa)

    Castle of Refuge was a great book that helped me forget about my own stresses and worries for a little bit. Audrey and Edwin have many more stressors than I have ever had! It was a fun book to escape into for a little while. Audrey's sister, Maris, suffers from mental health issues. Many called her crazy or mad, which would have been appropriate for the time period. Maris is jealous and seeks to make Audrey just as miserable as she is. In a moment Audrey's life is forever changed and her options Castle of Refuge was a great book that helped me forget about my own stresses and worries for a little bit. Audrey and Edwin have many more stressors than I have ever had! It was a fun book to escape into for a little while. Audrey's sister, Maris, suffers from mental health issues. Many called her crazy or mad, which would have been appropriate for the time period. Maris is jealous and seeks to make Audrey just as miserable as she is. In a moment Audrey's life is forever changed and her options limited. Edwin comes from a loving home, but things change when he and his brothers are charged with treason. His life is altered as well and his options also become limited. This is a story of two people who have been broken. Their friendship helps to mend both of them. The world is open to them as they heal together. Their life isn't perfect, there are many obstacles that they must overcome and danger is always near. Maris is still out for revenge and trying to destroy Audrey's life. This story is a loosely based retelling of the Ugly Duckling. It is a friend to more romance that is squeaky clean. The story contains Christian-based themes. It is entertaining and engaging. Source: I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Castle of Refuge is the second installment in The Dericott Tales. Just like the previous book, I completely devoured this one. Which is somewhat interesting since I'm not a big fan of Christian Fiction. Yet, somehow, these books are just so easy to get lost in. I could do with less 'thank god we are alive' though but I could see why they were said so many times as well. In it, you will meet Audrey and Edwin. Now Audrey has a I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Castle of Refuge is the second installment in The Dericott Tales. Just like the previous book, I completely devoured this one. Which is somewhat interesting since I'm not a big fan of Christian Fiction. Yet, somehow, these books are just so easy to get lost in. I could do with less 'thank god we are alive' though but I could see why they were said so many times as well. In it, you will meet Audrey and Edwin. Now Audrey has always been put down by her own sister. Someone who she should look up to but is constantly afraid of. I mean.. the girl was definitely something with a side of crazy. I hated how she constantly put Audrey down and tried to kill her. Then there's Edwin who was just all kinds of sweet. He's like my little cinnamon roll and I just loved him with all my heart. Together they were just really cute and I liked their little slow burn of a romance. Even though I definitely wanted more but I'm good with what I got since it's Christian Fiction. Other than that, I'm pretty intrigued by the third book becoming a possibility. I can't wait for it to become available - published or ARC just so I can continue with this retelling adventure.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: Audrey hid behind a tree and watched a knight and his squire riding down the lane. Melanie Dickerson's newest historical romance is a 'retelling' of The Ugly Duckling. Audrey, our heroine, has believed herself to be ugly--because of her sister's cruel words--most of her life. Even more so after her sister (totally on purpose) "accidentally" pushes her face first into a fire. (I'm assuming fire place). Fortunately, it was just her ear/neck that was burned/scarred. So she can 'hide First sentence: Audrey hid behind a tree and watched a knight and his squire riding down the lane. Melanie Dickerson's newest historical romance is a 'retelling' of The Ugly Duckling. Audrey, our heroine, has believed herself to be ugly--because of her sister's cruel words--most of her life. Even more so after her sister (totally on purpose) "accidentally" pushes her face first into a fire. (I'm assuming fire place). Fortunately, it was just her ear/neck that was burned/scarred. So she can 'hide' her damaged face relatively easily--especially if she remains pulled back--out of sight--from society. If up to Audrey, perhaps, she'd never have left her home. But Maris, her cruel older sister, is returning from the convent, and Audrey, well, she's afraid for her life, afraid that her father cannot--will not--protect her. So Audrey runs away...she finds refuge...in...you guessed it... a castle. But not just any castle, the castle of Lord (Edwin) Dericott. (The two had met oh-so-briefly in the prologue.) Readers first met Edwin in Court of Swans. Will she finally be safe at last? Looking just on the surface, you would think this book HAD to be a perfect match for me. Set in England in the Middle Ages (prologue 1378, rest of the novel 1382). A retelling of a fairy tale. Not just any fairy tale but The Ugly Duckling. A romance. How could it ever go wrong? But. I didn't like it. I really didn't like it. Long story short, the characterizations are weak, in my opinion, and the plot ridiculous. I'll do my best to explain why. But I'm going to throw out a spoiler warning so I can talk freely. S P O I L E R W A R N I N G You've been warned now. I can relax my guard a bit with details. I think the retelling is not set in the *right* time period. Dickerson's details on what life was like in the middle ages seems incredibly iffy at best. If it was say set anytime after 1611--or even after 1500--I would probably not worry about specifics. Two things stand out to me. One, Audrey (like Delia in book one) is a daughter of a noble man. She can read. She can write. She knows two to three foreign languages. (French, German, and presumably Latin?). Her education is not seen as out of the ordinary or uncommon. She starts a SCHOOL for girls--all backgrounds and classes including peasants. She stresses the importance of knowing how to read and write. All well and good. But I *don't* think education--public education--was that common, widespread, in particular when it comes to lower classes, in particular when it comes to girls and young women. I think education while not unheard of for some classes--the upper classes, the nobility, etc.--I don't think it was all that common for the rest of folks. Two, owning Scripture is taken for granted. Lord Dericott even has MULTIPLE COPIES of the Bible. IN 1382. Before the printing press. At a time when each copy would have been handwritten or copied out by a scribe. At a time when personal ownership of Scriptures would have been extremely expensive and probably not all that common. Perhaps the nobility did have enough money to have a copy of Scripture. Perhaps like Lord Dericott, they would have had a LARGE library with plenty of books--hundreds, thousands, etc. Then there's the fact that the Bible is in English. The first complete Bible--Old Testament and New Testament--had not been completed in English in 1382. From everything I've read--that's what I conclude. Psalms would have been translated into English earlier. Probably some of the gospels maybe even all the gospels. But the whole Bible had not yet been translated into English...another decade yes. But Dickerson is also not considering that AT THE TIME the English translations--by the Lollards--was seen as dangerous, illegal, frowned upon. Audrey wants to TEACH her students (all girls, all classes) to read using the Gospel of Luke. She wants Edwin to HIRE SCRIBES to copy out a copy for her students. You know, as you do. No biggie. Piece of cake, right. It couldn't possibly cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. But let's say I can forgive and forget all that. I would still find the lack of inner motivations and flat characterizations a bit annoying. I know it is asking a lot of any writer/creator to flesh out the villain and make them have motivations that make sense. Readers are given a simplistic--too simplistic--explanation for THE VILLAINY VILLAIN. She's very one-note. Maris, the villain, is SUPER EVIL AND DEMENTED because she was physically abused as a toddler (think before the age of 3) by a nurse maid. Decades worth of being with her family after the nursemaid was dismissed hasn't erased her trauma. She's been allowed to verbally, mentally, psychologically, physically abuse anyone in all those years just because. Because her father feels guilty and ashamed he didn't know it was happening. Because her sister pities her. She has a whole household living in FEAR for at least two decades. Everyone says, well, it must be okay because she was abused and there you have it. That's why it's okay for her to act like this. Nothing I can do to make this situation better. Not gonna try. Not gonna intervene. Not going to parent. One of my pet peeves in romance is KIDNAPPING. I usually find melodrama highly annoying and problematic. Audrey doesn't get kidnapped once or twice or even three times. She gets kidnapped by her evil sister and her GIANT COMPANION with the regularity that some people blow their noses. Okay, I exaggerate. Still. It happens way too frequently in this novel.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

    Melanie Dickerson has written another beautiful, inspiring, and adventure filled story with a twist on the tale of the Ugly Duckling where a broken Lord and a broken Viscount's daughter develop a strong bond of friendship and eventually fall in love. Readers will adore this story with strong and inspiring characters. It is a magnificent story that will capture the attention of readers so they will not want to put the book down. Genre: young adult, fairytale, romance Publisher: Thomas Nielsen Public Melanie Dickerson has written another beautiful, inspiring, and adventure filled story with a twist on the tale of the Ugly Duckling where a broken Lord and a broken Viscount's daughter develop a strong bond of friendship and eventually fall in love. Readers will adore this story with strong and inspiring characters. It is a magnificent story that will capture the attention of readers so they will not want to put the book down. Genre: young adult, fairytale, romance Publisher: Thomas Nielsen Publication date: June 1, 2021 Number of pages: Other books in the series: 1-Court of Swans Disclosure statement: A complimentary review copy of this book was provided from tour groups, publishers, publicists, authors, and others, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, Or borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR borrowed from Deseret Bookshelf, OR pre-ordered/purchased for review, including Audible. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are my own.

  10. 5 out of 5

    V. Palmer

    Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson is the Ugly Duckling retelling your bookish heart has been longing to discover! In Castle of Refuge, the author pulls you into the setting and era, writing about it with such ease that one has to wonder if the author travels to the Medieval Era on a regular basis... Alas and alack, the only way I can travel to the Medieval Era is through wonderful books such as Castle of Refuge. Additionally, the writing style is smooth, flowing without a plethora of unfamil Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson is the Ugly Duckling retelling your bookish heart has been longing to discover! In Castle of Refuge, the author pulls you into the setting and era, writing about it with such ease that one has to wonder if the author travels to the Medieval Era on a regular basis... Alas and alack, the only way I can travel to the Medieval Era is through wonderful books such as Castle of Refuge. Additionally, the writing style is smooth, flowing without a plethora of unfamiliar phrases and words that have bemused my contemporary sensibilities from time to time. Through Edwin and Audrey's scars -- both literally and figuratively -- the author explores themes like being "ugly" on the outside versus on the inside, living an unforgettable life of value, and what it means to love and be loved. While Edwin and Audrey certainly experience a number of harrowing experiences, the gentle exploration of these spiritual themes is like a soothing balm -- beautifully portraying exactly what God's love and truths do for a battered heart! Four Stars ~ Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson is a lovely and romantic Ugly Duckling retelling that will soothe your heart! Castle of Refuge is the second book in the author's Dericott Tales, but it can be read as a standalone. Disclaimer ~ In accordance with FTC regulations, I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was not compensated, nor was a positive review required. All opinions expressed are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    Review originally posted on The Calico Books *I received a free e-copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A huge thank you to the author and publisher!* As always, Melanie Dickerson’s books are a delight! Castle of Refuge was so well done and I absolutely adored it. I didn’t realize it until after the fact, but this is the second book in the Dericott Tales series. That being said, I was able to fully enjoy this book as a standalone and did not feel like I missed out on anything. Review originally posted on The Calico Books *I received a free e-copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A huge thank you to the author and publisher!* As always, Melanie Dickerson’s books are a delight! Castle of Refuge was so well done and I absolutely adored it. I didn’t realize it until after the fact, but this is the second book in the Dericott Tales series. That being said, I was able to fully enjoy this book as a standalone and did not feel like I missed out on anything. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the characters. Audrey was such a great character! I loved her desire for freedom and love. I loved seeing her and Edwin’s relationship grow throughout the book. Yes, this is a love story, but she always knew there was more out there for her than to just be someone’s wife. This is something that is always important, but I love how this was especially emphasized in Christian fiction where it often feels like marriage is the end all be all. As the story progresses, this one gets filled with so much action and adventure. By the second half of the story, I could not put this book down! Castle of Refuge is a retelling of the children’s classic, The Ugly Duckling. That being said, this book never felt cheesy or cliché. This story is about finding your self worth and learning to embrace your individuality. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fairytale retellings, sweet romances, and lots of adventure!

  12. 5 out of 5

    (Jen) The Artist Librarian

    Castle of Refuge is quintessential Melanie Dickerson: a sweet romance with spiritual and fairytale elements in a medieval setting. This second title in The Dericott Tales is based on another classic Hans Christian Andersen story, The Ugly Duckling. While I read it like a stand alone, there are some plot spoilers from the previous novel, Court of Swans (though a few are mentioned in the book summary). It's been a while since I have had a book keep me up all night, but I was utterly engrossed and Castle of Refuge is quintessential Melanie Dickerson: a sweet romance with spiritual and fairytale elements in a medieval setting. This second title in The Dericott Tales is based on another classic Hans Christian Andersen story, The Ugly Duckling. While I read it like a stand alone, there are some plot spoilers from the previous novel, Court of Swans (though a few are mentioned in the book summary). It's been a while since I have had a book keep me up all night, but I was utterly engrossed and charmed by the fairytale world Dickerson always creates. A definite recommendation to all of Dickerson's fans or those looking for a wholesome historical romance novel. [Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance readers copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via JustRead Tours.]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michaela Bush

    Well, I have to say that this is the first fiction book in awhile that's held my attention long enough that I'm able to read it cover-to-cover in one day.  While the first couple of chapters felt extremely repetitive, I'm glad that I kept reading anyway, because the rest of the story had excellent pacing and was pretty great overall.  If you're a fan of Dickerson's works, you'll definitely enjoy this book; it follows her style very well.  I can honestly say that I've never read a fairytale retel Well, I have to say that this is the first fiction book in awhile that's held my attention long enough that I'm able to read it cover-to-cover in one day.  While the first couple of chapters felt extremely repetitive, I'm glad that I kept reading anyway, because the rest of the story had excellent pacing and was pretty great overall.  If you're a fan of Dickerson's works, you'll definitely enjoy this book; it follows her style very well.  I can honestly say that I've never read a fairytale retelling based on "The Ugly Duckling" (at least, one that uses humans) so it was a breath of fresh air for the retelling genre.  While I thought that the main villains could have been written better (they came off a bit shallow and their dialogue stiff; there was a LOT of potential there), the main plot line was definitely interesting, the characters were memorable, and I'm definitely hooked on the Dericott storyline now.  While I haven't read the first book in this series yet, I was able to pick up well enough, so it's good as a standalone as well.   * I was provided with a review copy of this book in order to provide my honest opinion. The views expressed here are my own.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan Snodgrass

    I always did love a good fairy tale. I still do. That’s why I love Melanie Dickerson’s retelling of fairy tales with an inspirational bent. This second book in her Dericott series brings us her retelling of The Ugly Duckling. Audrey’s face is marred and Edwin is missing an arm lost in battle. Both feel abnormal but discover that God has plans for them. Dickerson tells this in such an interesting way and I was mesmerized. Recommended. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelso I always did love a good fairy tale. I still do. That’s why I love Melanie Dickerson’s retelling of fairy tales with an inspirational bent. This second book in her Dericott series brings us her retelling of The Ugly Duckling. Audrey’s face is marred and Edwin is missing an arm lost in battle. Both feel abnormal but discover that God has plans for them. Dickerson tells this in such an interesting way and I was mesmerized. Recommended. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers via Net Galley. The opinion in this review is expressly my own.

  15. 5 out of 5

    alittlebitbookish

    GUYSSS!! ITS HERE!! CASTLE OF REFUGE IS HERE!!!❤️🏰 I CANT WAIT TO READ ABOUT EDWINS STORY!! *THROWS CONFETTI* 🎉 Original review I’M READY!!!! SO READDDYYYYY!!! AHHHH!!!😭😭❤️❤️❤️❤️ Just here to remind y’all that it’s under a month till Castle of Refudge comes out!!!!! **swoons over Edwin* *cries*

  16. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    I discovered the fairytale retellings from Melanie Dickerson a couple of years ago and since then I really make sure to keep up with them. Those stories are a calm in the storm for me. I read a lot of books, in a lot of different genres and with a lot of different themes, but the book by Melanie Dickerson have these soothing storylines and inspiring characters. I'm therefore very thankful that I got an ARC from the publisher for this one via Netgalley. This story really touched a part of me that I discovered the fairytale retellings from Melanie Dickerson a couple of years ago and since then I really make sure to keep up with them. Those stories are a calm in the storm for me. I read a lot of books, in a lot of different genres and with a lot of different themes, but the book by Melanie Dickerson have these soothing storylines and inspiring characters. I'm therefore very thankful that I got an ARC from the publisher for this one via Netgalley. This story really touched a part of me that needed the soothing Dickerson's books give me. In every way possible this story is about self worth, about being whole and complete when scarred, wounded, hurt and broken. Audrey has been scarred by her older sister and is convinced she is no longer interesting enough to marry someone her rank. Edwin lost an arm while escaping the Tower of London and feels he can no longer be the man he used to be so proud of. In every possible way we follow these two people discovering that they are still amazing people and they still have something to offer. It's a touching journey and also a journey they really had to go together. I'm usually not a big fan of love healing all wounds and needing love to grow, but in this case it works, because it's not just their love for each other helping them grow, but also the other giving them chances and challenging them to do things they never thought possible. Dickerson has a certain writing style that you either love or hate, but her plots are always quite nice and heartwarming. Of course, there are moments of conflict and just like in true fairytales there is danger and there are some people hurting others. However, just like in all her books our characters have faith that God is guiding them and rightly so. Because isn't it God who makes sure the right people are at the right time at the right place? I'm already looking forward to the next tale in this series!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Bridgewater

    astle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson is exactly what the title suggests. The heroine, Audrey, runs away from home afraid for her life and ends up at the Dericott's castle. I loved Dickerson's fairy tale remakes, and this story is no different. I love the fourteenth-century England setting. I love the castle. I love the way majority of Dickerson's heroes show their love for the heroine. They are slow at showcasing their love and willing to do things they normally would not do to please the heroin astle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson is exactly what the title suggests. The heroine, Audrey, runs away from home afraid for her life and ends up at the Dericott's castle. I loved Dickerson's fairy tale remakes, and this story is no different. I love the fourteenth-century England setting. I love the castle. I love the way majority of Dickerson's heroes show their love for the heroine. They are slow at showcasing their love and willing to do things they normally would not do to please the heroine. Edwin, the hero, in this story, is no different. He even seeks out the advice of one of his staff members on how to capture Audrey's interest. Then later, readers are invited to watch them interact this way. While the plot has some conflict, it felt right in the story. Overall, Castle of Refuge is a masterfully, written story for fans of medieval literature and romance stories. I received a complimentary copy of Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson from Thomas Nelson Publishing, but the opinions stated are all my own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nay Denise

    Received a copy from the publisher for review. Melanie's writing is always lovely and easy to read. Her retellings are always so beautifully done. I did get the chance to read Court of Swans, book one, of the series and I knew I wanted to continue reading the series. Book one got a 3.75 star rating from me, so I had high expectations for this book and it did get better to me. Edwin was one of my favorites from book one so I was excited to see how he would fair in his own book after such a tragic Received a copy from the publisher for review. Melanie's writing is always lovely and easy to read. Her retellings are always so beautifully done. I did get the chance to read Court of Swans, book one, of the series and I knew I wanted to continue reading the series. Book one got a 3.75 star rating from me, so I had high expectations for this book and it did get better to me. Edwin was one of my favorites from book one so I was excited to see how he would fair in his own book after such a tragic mishap with his arm. I loved seeing him really want to fight for justice after his own horrible battle at the hands of twisted men and women. Audrey is the daughter of a viscount. She is sweet and compassionate. She was physically harmed and scarred by her own sister. At some points I did find her a bit whiny, but she was more interesting to me than Delia, Edwin's sister. Maris, the villain of the story, was by far annoying. I don't want to waste my words on her character. I liked seeing the two of them bond and learn more about themselves and one another. Seeing them want to help others and do better for themselves was inspiring. Their friendship was beautiful. They didn't allow tragedy and misfortune to ruin their lives. Rather, they allowed the ashes to turn to beauty. I enjoyed the story and can't wait for more books in this series!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    I enjoyed this book more than the first one in the series. The characters had a little more depth and growth. Overall a nice easy fun read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Review to come

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Audrey longs for a chance to make a shining difference in the world. Just when it appears that might be happening, her cruel sister causes an injury which disfigures Audrey and tears down her hopes and dreams for the future. Edwin knows a thing or two about disfigurement. In Court of Swans, the first book in this series, he lost his arm trying to save himself and his brothers from execution after being falsely accused of murder. Adjusting to life with one arm, when before he had been an able-bodi Audrey longs for a chance to make a shining difference in the world. Just when it appears that might be happening, her cruel sister causes an injury which disfigures Audrey and tears down her hopes and dreams for the future. Edwin knows a thing or two about disfigurement. In Court of Swans, the first book in this series, he lost his arm trying to save himself and his brothers from execution after being falsely accused of murder. Adjusting to life with one arm, when before he had been an able-bodied knight, has proved a challenge. When Audrey runs away from home to save herself from an unwanted marriage, she collapses, sick and weary, on Edwin's property. The two of them see a spark of familiar pain in the eyes of the other, and together seek to protect themselves and those they love from the machinations of Audrey's evil sister Maris. I really enjoyed the first half this book. Audrey was a bright light, even with all that she'd gone through. I noted down a few quotes from the book, including this one from Chapter 8: "God must have a reason for allowing her scars." I think many of us, whether our scars are external or internal, can relate to wondering how God can choose to work through the pain we've gone through and the scars we've collected. In the second half of this book, the emotions got a little overwrought for my taste, with a lot of crying as dangerous events unfolded. Overall, I do think this is a valuable book for a young adult audience, as it teaches that our woundings and limitations do not define who we are, and that God still has a wonderful plan for our lives even when we might think we've lost our chance for it. I received my copy of the book from JustReads Publicity. All thoughts in this review are my own. This review originated at http://reviewsbyerin.dreamwidth.org

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol R.

    Castle of Refuge / Melanie Dickerson (A Dericott Tale, 2) Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780785234043 YA Rating: 4 Award-winning author Melanie Dickerson continues her new medieval series set in 14th century England. In Castle of Refuge, Audrey, the youngest daughter of Viscount Engleford, has facial scars from her sister’s malicious act. This resulted in her sister Maris being sent to a convent for several years. When she hears Maris is returning home, Audrey runs away and encounters danger and illness. Audrey Castle of Refuge / Melanie Dickerson (A Dericott Tale, 2) Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780785234043 YA Rating: 4 Award-winning author Melanie Dickerson continues her new medieval series set in 14th century England. In Castle of Refuge, Audrey, the youngest daughter of Viscount Engleford, has facial scars from her sister’s malicious act. This resulted in her sister Maris being sent to a convent for several years. When she hears Maris is returning home, Audrey runs away and encounters danger and illness. Audrey is nursed back to health at Dericott Castle where she keeps her identity a secret and begins work as a servant. Maris eventually finds her and causes more problems, especially now Lord Edward Dericott has given Audrey his protection. Known for her medieval young adult retellings, Dickerson pens this Ugly Duckling retelling, with likeable characters and detailed narrative. Audrey is sweet and compassionate, even towards her sister. Edward is generous and kind, caring for those who labor under him. Edward struggles with balance, walking, and mounting his horse. He shows vulnerability, resilience, and bravery as he adapts to the loss of his arm. Audrey not only suffers the scars from the injuries her sister causes, but emotional scars from a father who ignores her abusive sister’s actions. The plot starts slowly, but there is more action once Audrey leaves Engleford Castle. The theme is finding love that looks beyond the surface to see the beauty in one’s character; there are two scarred people who find love, despite their physical and emotional scars. Both Audrey and Edward struggle in their faith as a result of their life-changing afflictions (caused by others’ actions). Recommended especially for teens, young adults, and those who are young at heart. Book 3, Veil of Winter, is expected in 2022. Disclaimer: Book reviews are my honest opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publishers, publicists, and/or authors.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ochegba

    This was a beautiful tale. A rendition of the ugly duckling. From the start of the story we get to know Audrey's struggles with feeling left out by her family. From her sisters bullying and her father's indifference. It was nice to see her spirit shine in the midst of all this and when disaster strikes and her father tries to later marry her off, she runs away and finds herself being taken care of at the Dericott Castle. I loved her spirit and how she didn't let her circumstances turn her into s This was a beautiful tale. A rendition of the ugly duckling. From the start of the story we get to know Audrey's struggles with feeling left out by her family. From her sisters bullying and her father's indifference. It was nice to see her spirit shine in the midst of all this and when disaster strikes and her father tries to later marry her off, she runs away and finds herself being taken care of at the Dericott Castle. I loved her spirit and how she didn't let her circumstances turn her into someone else. She learned to rest in God through all her struggles. Edwin has also been through a lot and had to learn to deal with his deformity. He finds Audrey different and they gradually fall in love and even have to make hard decisions concerning Maris. This was a wonderful story with themes of honour. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This series just gets better and better! I read A Court of Swans before picking this one up and I would recommend that one be read before this one. The author does a good job in explaining what happened before this book but it’s nice to see it all unfold. This story was my favorite of the Dickerson books that I’ve read. I loved that there was a villainous character in the story and several nail biting moments of suspense. The atmosphere is rich and the time period is one that I always find fasci This series just gets better and better! I read A Court of Swans before picking this one up and I would recommend that one be read before this one. The author does a good job in explaining what happened before this book but it’s nice to see it all unfold. This story was my favorite of the Dickerson books that I’ve read. I loved that there was a villainous character in the story and several nail biting moments of suspense. The atmosphere is rich and the time period is one that I always find fascinating to read about...living in a time of earls, dukes, knights, and kings...so different from what we experience now. The pacing was steady and I found myself flying through the pages. I definitely recommend this series! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Melanie Dickerson remains my favorite fairy telling medieval author. Audrey and Edwin are simple characters who both struggle with their deformities. While at first to a modern reader this might seem like not a big deal, it would’ve been a huge disadvantage then. I thought it was interesting to see how some of the characters reacted to the scars and missing arm. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but the author gives enough background to understand the current circumstances. That said, Melanie Dickerson remains my favorite fairy telling medieval author. Audrey and Edwin are simple characters who both struggle with their deformities. While at first to a modern reader this might seem like not a big deal, it would’ve been a huge disadvantage then. I thought it was interesting to see how some of the characters reacted to the scars and missing arm. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but the author gives enough background to understand the current circumstances. That said, I think I will go read the first book to understand better the background. The level of character development and lot devices are what I would expect from a YA level read. It is a pretty easy read, not a lot of depth, but paced well once you get into it. I didn’t like this as much as Hagemhiem, but it was an enjoyable way to spend the day. I received a copy of this story but was not required to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Quick Look (out of five): Plot Rating: 0 Character Rating: - Romance Rating: 1 World-Building Rating: 1 Writing Style Rating: 2 Recommended?: Only if you want to read something with dangerously ableist (discriminatory or prejudiced attitudes towards people with disabilities) depictions that feed into the ways people with disabilities are treated as inferior and undeserving and violent. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me vibr Quick Look (out of five): Plot Rating: 0 Character Rating: - Romance Rating: 1 World-Building Rating: 1 Writing Style Rating: 2 Recommended?: Only if you want to read something with dangerously ableist (discriminatory or prejudiced attitudes towards people with disabilities) depictions that feed into the ways people with disabilities are treated as inferior and undeserving and violent. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me vibrate with anger. If I did not feel it was my duty to finish this book for you guys so that I could more fully discuss why it is awful, I would have stopped within the first 20 pages. This novel revolves around an extremely dangerous depiction of disability. The two main characters have some kind of physical disability or disfigurement, and their love story is disability inspiration porn at its finest. The villain is described constantly as having a mental disability which causes her to be violent and cruel. At its core, this novel is about an ableist depiction of ‘good’ disability versus ‘bad’ disability. The novel also works extremely hard to cash in on the emotions of a storyline around two disfigured people finding love, without making either character less than traditionally beautiful and functional. All of this is tied up in overarching Christianity that I am not religious enough to untangle. There is so much to unpack, that I will not be doing a traditional “Spoilers” section. Instead, after the analysis of the overall novel, I will delve into the common disability stereotypes in media, the way this novel uses them, and why they are very, very dangerous. Set in the late Middle Ages, Castle of Refuge follows Audrey, our perfectly beautiful and good heroine. At the start of the novel, Audrey is 15-years-old and her father wants to begin talks to marry her off to Lord Dericott’s son Edwin. However, her older sister Maris, in a fit of jealousy, trips Audrey into a fire. Though left with mild burns, her father decides her marriage prospects are significantly lowered and stops pursuing a match for her. Maris is sent to a convent and four years pass. Audrey, now 19, discovers her father intends to marry her to a knight more than twice her age and that her sister is returning home. Desperate to escape a loveless match and her older sister’s cruelty, Audrey flees. She ends up at Dericott castle, working as a maid to the man she was supposed to marry four years ago. Audrey does not feel 19-years-old to me, often acting childlike and impulsive. Audrey develops more of a personality as the novel progresses, but in the beginning she is a caricature of the perfect woman. Her ‘personality’ is good, pious, patient, forgiving, unfailingly kind, cheerful, and beautiful – she is the archetype of the patriarchal ‘perfect’ woman in every way. Audrey dreams of doing something to leave a mark on the world, something important and grand, such as teaching girls to read. The longer Audrey is away from the constant fear she experiences around Maris, the more she gains confidence and a personality. Never enough to make her anything less than the ideal woman, though. Audrey’s scars are described as marring one ear and extending the width of two fingers onto her face and are easily hidden with her hair. Audrey’s storyline is clearly supposed to be about someone scarred and considered ugly finding someone who loves her anyways. However, it feels cheapened in too many ways. Audrey’s scars are never described as enough to mar her perfect beauty. Edwin, our romantic interest, thinks to himself how unfair it is that such a beautiful, kind woman has scars, as though scars are only meant for ugly, mean women. That her beauty overcomes them. Not that he does not see them or does not find them ugly, but that she is beautiful enough to compensate for them. It creates the sense that this is the amount of disfiguration that can be overlooked on a woman, that any increased disfigurement being ‘overlooked’ would be too unbelievable. The aim is to craft a character storyline that shows a man who finds a scarred woman beautiful despite her being considered ugly, and falling in love with her personality and scars. What we get is a woman who is conventionally beautiful having a slight ‘issue’ with her appearance overlooked, presented as some kind of inspirational story about broken people falling in love. Edwin has even less personality than Audrey, somehow. He is 19 at the beginning of the novel, and 23 when Audrey works for him incognito. He recently lost his arm protecting his brothers during their time in the Tower of London after falsely being accused of treason. I was hopeful that the novel would delve into the feelings of loss and the struggle to adapt to a new way of life in a nuanced and realistic way. At first, there are moments that show Edwin struggling with balance and walking much slower than others while he adjusts to having only one arm. However, by the middle of the novel, these moment of Edwin actually experiencing the disability that comes from having one arm in a world designed for people with two vanish. He is suddenly riding his horse at a gallop, when a week ago balancing on a horse walking was difficult. Edwin is wielding his sword with perfect skill, despite the fact that he would need to retrain his body to perform these motions with a different center of balance. We never see Edwin doing the hard work of relearning things he used to take for granted. The only depictions of Edwin’s struggle that remain are his emotional struggles. Edwin regularly thinks of himself as “half a man” who must conquer his weakness and refuses to use a walking stick. This is fine as a starting point during a journey of adaptation, but it only changes when the disabilities that come with one arm vanish from the narrative. Maris is a disgusting, ableist caricature of mental disability. To start with, the only evidence given by the narrative and the other characters for why Maris is “touched in the head” (one of many terrible euphemisms used in the novel) is that she is violent and cruel. This pulls from the damaging stereotype of those with mental disabilities as inherently dangerous and violent. Maris is presented as evil incarnate. She has no good qualities and is motivated only by hatred and jealousy, the stereotypical cartoon villain. The most disgusting part of Maris’s character is her backstory, which is used to explain away and justify her actions. When Audrey was born, a nursemaid was hired to take care of the children. The nursemaid doted on Audrey and physically abused Maris for three years before her actions were discovered and she was fired. Audrey describes how this experience clearly “altered [Maris’s] mind” and is the root cause of her hatred and anger issues. Physical abuse as a child can cause lasting trauma, but painting this as the reason for Maris’s villainy is awful. It is supposed to make the reader pity Maris, as Audrey does, and create a sense of empathy that dulls the edge of Maris’s cruelty. This depiction of abuse leading to mental disability pulls from multiple dangerous stereotypes about both groups and paints them as deserving of pity and less capable. Further, the novel creates a dichotomy of good and evil with different types of disability depicted as naturally falling to one side or the other. It is the ‘good’ disability of physical disability/disfigurement (Edwin’s lost arm and Audrey’s burns) versus the ‘bad’ disability of mental disability. Despite being a romance novel, the romantic plotline feels bland. There is never any sense of the characters falling in love. The narrative observes moments where the characters have growing feelings, but in a way that does not feel believable. Audrey is already in love with Edwin by the time she meets him, simply because she saw him once four years ago and was supposed to marry him. There is never any sense of romantic tension when they are together. Other characters comment upon this ‘tension’ but the reader never sees it. We do not see Audrey and Edwin engage in very many serious conversations that bring them closer together. Some of the blandness of the romance comes from the fact that these characters are boring, and some of it comes from a lack of romantic moments between Audrey and Edwin. This novel is very loosely set in the late Middle Ages. The main elements are there, such as lords with field workers beholden to them and fewer options for women. However, the setting offers no true constraints or color to the novel. It feels like a prettified vision of how the Middle Ages were, with anything that does not fit with what the author wants tossed aside. It does not feel like the author did very much research about the Middle Ages. Scars were not uncommon during this time period. There were wars, not great medicine, and a lack of understanding of how disease spread, making it difficult to stop. Peasants engaged in hard labor and had poor nutrition. Disfigurement and scars would not have stood out in the way the author presents them, nor were people so superstitious that they would think scars the sign of the Devil. The time period setting is not well-crafted or accurate. This means that all of the disability representation cannot be written off as a product of the time period (nor would that be an acceptable excuse no matter what). For example, Audrey is able to travel quite far on her own. She is robbed, but none of the robbers with “evil in their eyes” touch her. She is allowed to run wild through flower fields and befriend people in the village nearby, something no women of good birth over 12 would be allowed to do. The fashion and social customs are vaguely accurate, but again they bend into whatever the author wants them to be. The writing style is fine. It feels like the author is attempting to recreate how they believe people spoke during the Middle Ages. However, it just makes the dialogue feel clunky, like puppets talking without emotion behind them. It also is not accurate in any way. The actual words used in the late Middle Ages might be different than those used by modern speakers, but they did not speak in formal and unnatural tones. The plot, like the dialogue, is stilted. The narrative tension is poorly held, and most of the struggles the characters face are overcome too easily. Maris causes problems throughout the novel, in a way that begins to feel boring and repetitive in nature. Her actions do not feel like they come from personal feelings and wants. Maris’s actions and desires are designed to move Audrey’s plot forward, making Maris’s actions feel heavy-handed and flat. Further, the author does too much telling and not enough showing. We are told that Audrey loves learning and is smart. We are also told that this woman who loves to read histories has named her horse Blackie. Considering the lifespan of horses, Audrey named him when she was old enough to have a favorite figure in history that she named him after. Blackie is the name a child gives an animal, not a woman who is presented as intelligent and interested in history. I do not say this lightly, I feel this novel should be boycotted. It somehow manages to present every single negative stereotype of mental disability. The attitude of the narrative conveys a sense of judgement and dehumanization toward people with mental conditions. The novel has terrible representation of physical and mental disabilities and exists solely for the enjoyment of an able-bodied audience. I have read books I dislike for various reasons, but I have never read a book I hated the way I hate this one. As someone with a disability, reading this novel made my skin crawl. Castle of Refuge is a disgusting and dangerous depiction of disability that should never have been published. DISCUSSION Ableism is defined as discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities. Disability is the experience of decreased ability level due to a person functioning in a way that society is not set up to accommodate. This novel presents a façade of disability representation that falls apart very quickly. The author crafts a story that hinges around the inherent evil of people with mental disabilities. Instead of simply having an ‘evil stepsister’ type villain, the author tries to have her cake and eat it too. Maris is vicious and cruel, but it is not her fault because she is “touched in the head”. This is damaging disability representation in two ways. First, the only evidence presented to prove Maris is “mad” is her violent behavior. There is not a single mental disability that can be diagnosed by the presence of cruelty. Rather than pulling from accurate information about mental disabilities, the author instead presents a character based solely on dangerous and inaccurate stereotypes. Second, it leans into this idea that people with mental disabilities are less capable and deserving of pity. It dehumanizes those who are different, showing their differences as something sad. In this novel, this attitude intertwines with religious ideas of everything being the work of God. However, it is Audrey who experiences this. She thinks of Maris’s cruelty and mental instability as something done to her as a test or something to overcome. It does not center Maris in her own life and instead makes her an ornament in Audrey’s. Her personhood is stolen by the narrative in the ways Maris’s “madness” is discussed and presented, and the ways in which Maris’s actions always revolve around Audrey’s storyline. These stereotypes have real-world consequences. They are the reason people get scared and call the cops if homeless people are ‘acting strange’. They are why interactions between those with mental disabilities and the cops so often end in tragedy, especially if that person is also a person of color. They are the reason that people with mental disabilities are fired from jobs and discriminated against. I had a teacher who had revealed that they had bipolar during a class discussion beg our class not to say anything, for fear that they would be fired. I myself have faced discrimination due to my disability. Teachers have made me cry in the ways they belittle me or refuse to believe that I need certain accommodations in order to survive. The world is incredibly dangerous for people with disabilities, and this book pushes forward the exact kind of attitude that makes everything more unsafe. The lack of disability representation and the presence of many harmful depictions of those with disabilities is extremely prevalent in literature. Disabled activists and authors often comment on the ways in which their experience is erased. The few instances depicting disability that are found in pop culture are designed to appeal to able-bodied audiences. They are disability inspiration porn stories. For example, many, many people have written about the ways in which the highly popular film and book Me Before You, encapsulates this genre perfectly. The story is about an able-bodied woman finding herself through working with someone with a disability. The disabled character is robbed of his voice at every turn – the novel does not feature a single chapter from his point of view. Everything is about the able-bodied protagonist, with the disabled character merely a tool and place where she works through a process of self-discovery. Maris fulfills a very similar role in this novel. All of Maris’s actions are for the purpose of driving Audrey’s story. Any information we learn about Maris comes from outside of her and is the product of people speculating and assuming. The author uses Maris as a tool in Audrey’s story, one that is immediately removed from the narrative once her usefulness is over. Edwin, our other disabled character, is presented very differently from Maris. Yet his representation also falls into the category of ‘bad representation’. His disability is represented haphazardly at best. He only experiences physical impairment when the narrative wants to create sympathy for him. However, it vanishes when the narrative needs Edwin to fulfill the role of male rescuer for Audrey. For example, at one point they have to crawl deeper into a small cave behind a waterfall. This is simply accomplished; there is no discussion of how Edwin crawls into a cave with one arm. It would be more difficult and would require movements that would not read as befitting a ‘dashing masculine hero’ – so it is simply excluded. Edwin’s representation falls into the category of white male protagonist who ‘overcomes’ a disability through great struggle and endurance and goes back to how life was before. This paints disability as something negative that must be overcome and as something unheroic and unmanly. Edwin serves to allow able-bodied people to pity and sympathize with someone with a disability, and then to experience joy at their ‘great triumph’. It is not about crafting a story that feels authentic to a disabled audience or to create an ending triumph that does not minimize their experience. It is disabled achievement written exclusively for able-bodied enjoyment – what is often referred to as disability inspiration porn. In this novel, Audrey is supposed to elicit pity due to her burns. However, Audrey is still conventionally beautiful – the author makes sure not to scar her enough to be always noticeable or actually disfiguring. The novel is trying to capitalize on this sense of instant pity for those who are disfigured without making its heroine less conventionally perfect. At the same time, it is pitting Audrey against Maris, physical disfigurement that should be pitied versus inherently evil mental disability. The narrative is using the two stereotypes of disability/disfigurement against one another, creating the sense that one is better. In Audrey and Edwin, the novel is trying to have an inspirational story of two ‘ugly’ people finding love while also demonizing neurodivergence, all without actually having to feature depictions of the protagonists as different from the able-bodied audience. The author must feel the need to get their hands into all the ableist pies, because there is also representation of people with mental disabilities as childlike. Joan, a servant girl, is described as childlike by Audrey, although there is absolutely no evidence of this presented to the reader. Audrey thinks that Joan is so childlike that she must be “a little addled”. Again, like with Maris, the only evidence given that Joan must be mentally disabled is this childlike behavior. This stereotype dehumanizes people with mental disabilities and presents them as naturally underdeveloped and in n

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lana Spelliscy

    Castle of Refuge continues the story of Edwin, Lord Dericott. With great attention to 14th century detail, Melanie Dickerson weaves a tale of service, dedication, love and the willingness to sacrifice for others. By looking to the care and comfort of others, 2 scarred individuals will find a level love they never expected. Months after he and his family fight their way from execution and prove their innocence, Edwin is working on adjusting to life with only 1 arm as he as learns to be the new Ea Castle of Refuge continues the story of Edwin, Lord Dericott. With great attention to 14th century detail, Melanie Dickerson weaves a tale of service, dedication, love and the willingness to sacrifice for others. By looking to the care and comfort of others, 2 scarred individuals will find a level love they never expected. Months after he and his family fight their way from execution and prove their innocence, Edwin is working on adjusting to life with only 1 arm as he as learns to be the new Earl. Audrey is also working through a difficult situation, how to deal with God's directive to obey and love while living in fear of those who should love and protect her. Her older sister has always loathed her and her father has never protected her. But things have gone too far and now Audrey bares the scars of her sister's hate. When she returns home Audrey sees no hope but to flee. When her path crosses with Edwin, they both start to learn how scars do not have to define a person. But Audrey's sister has not given up her need to punish and hurt Audrey. When put to the test, they will both realize that the outward appearance matters little when their inner strength is what defines them. A great story of how to look past the outer to the most important inner traits. I love Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings, they have great detail that pulls the reader into the story. She brings the past to life with vivid descriptions and captivating characters. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nichi Perez

    I think a 4.3- 4.4 is in order for this book. Even though I really liked it, I found that there were some situations that were repetitive. I, personally, didn't mind them much, but I know some people might. 🤷🏻‍♀️ In Castle of Refuge we read about Audrey, a girl who ended up finding refuge and love in an unexpected place. 🏰 Since the beginning, the story looked promising and the introduction is quite catchy so, I was reading nonstop. Things I loved about the book: I loved that I could relate or i I think a 4.3- 4.4 is in order for this book. Even though I really liked it, I found that there were some situations that were repetitive. I, personally, didn't mind them much, but I know some people might. 🤷🏻‍♀️ In Castle of Refuge we read about Audrey, a girl who ended up finding refuge and love in an unexpected place. 🏰 Since the beginning, the story looked promising and the introduction is quite catchy so, I was reading nonstop. Things I loved about the book: I loved that I could relate or identify myself with Audrey on her way of viewing marriage. Also, I love that physically speaking the characters are not perfect (like Edwin, who's missing an arm) because, it is a lot more similar to reality to have someone whose limbs maybe be missing and it keeps the story more open to people who might identify with similar situations. I love when it emphasized that sometimes our thoughts are too loud for us to hear God's voice inside of us. Sometimes, we just have to be silent so that we may listen to His plan for us. Lastly, I liked this one more than the first book just because, we don't have that kind of twisted love triangle. Since the beginning, it is clear that her interest is towards Lord Dericott and that he starts to feel the same way. There was no third party involved in the relationship. [Ps.   Regarding Maris, all I could think of was, "With a sister like that, who needs enemies?" 🙁] Definitely enjoyed this book so much. Loving most of MD's books so far ⚘

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. “Castle of Refuge”, by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson - FICTION), is a very sweet, slow burn inspirational historical novel, with lovable, complex characters and entertaining and well written interactions and dialogue. The writing is smooth, fluid, articulate and flawless, with well crafted digressions into the protagonists’ thoughts and feelings as well as beautiful descriptions of the setting I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. “Castle of Refuge”, by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson - FICTION), is a very sweet, slow burn inspirational historical novel, with lovable, complex characters and entertaining and well written interactions and dialogue. The writing is smooth, fluid, articulate and flawless, with well crafted digressions into the protagonists’ thoughts and feelings as well as beautiful descriptions of the setting and Nature in general. I was completely absorbed by Edwin and Audrey, characters who were both beautiful and perfect in the beginning and then… they’re not. I really liked the disability representation: the author shows Edwin’s problems and struggles with balance, walking and mounting and riding a horse, and also the grieving and psychological aspects of gradually adapting to a new body. Audrey is scarred, too, and such a sweet person. I felt they were perfect for each other. They both show vulnerability in face of adversity, feel weak and damaged, yet they’re resilient and brave. I liked the beautiful messages of kindness, grace and tolerance and how the story is full of spirituality without falling into preaching. I also appreciated how the author handled the issues of domestic violence and bullying between siblings.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    4.5 stars This is the second book in the Dericott Tales series by Melanie Dickerson. This is one of those slow burn types of stories. We follow along with Audrey and how she is mistreated by her sister and causes her to lose her chance to marry Edwin/Lord Dericott when she is facially burned by falling into the fire after being tripped by her jealous sister. I really felt for this character and all her struggles. And even though she had these struggles, she maintained her happy disposition and need 4.5 stars This is the second book in the Dericott Tales series by Melanie Dickerson. This is one of those slow burn types of stories. We follow along with Audrey and how she is mistreated by her sister and causes her to lose her chance to marry Edwin/Lord Dericott when she is facially burned by falling into the fire after being tripped by her jealous sister. I really felt for this character and all her struggles. And even though she had these struggles, she maintained her happy disposition and need to want to help others learn how to read which was her true calling. I totally fell in love with this unique fairytale-like love story which is what Melanie Dickerson does best. I totally recommend any book from this author. Each one is unique, compelling and gives you hope in a possible wonderful future for all of us. Highly recommended. If you love a fairytale-like or just a true love happily ever after story, definitely check this out. I received this as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in return for an honest review. I thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this title. Opinions are completely my own.

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