Beauty and the Beast… re-imagined
Marta knows she shouldn’t feel this way toward Mr. Wendell. She needs to keep her job as his servant, especially because her family back in Germany depends on the money she and her brother Jakob send home. Marta’s new feelings can’t be as important as helping her family save their bakery, can they?
Marta doesn’t want to believe the rumors that Mr. Wendell profited from another’s tragedy to gain his wealth. Although his face bears terrible scars, she sees past them to his kind and generous heart. Still, she wonders why he never leaves his big house high in the Colorado mountains. Does he hide himself away because of his disfigured face, or because he has a guilty conscience?
While Marta tries to push away her questions, others are determined to find answers. Their efforts lead to a fresh tragedy that threatens Marta’s hope of finding happiness with Mr. Wendell. Will Marta fail her family and her new friends, or will God bless her efforts to build a happy future for them all?
I remember reading an early draft of My Rock and My Refuge in the summer of 2021 (before it even had a proper title). I read the whole thing in one day and when I was finished, I told my mom “All of the Once Upon a Western books have had heart. But this book has a soul.” Now, over a year later, I’m thrilled to celebrate the release of such a special book—first with this review and, in a couple days, an interview with Rachel herself.
My Rock and My Refuge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it was a lot of fun seeing all the different ways Rachel incorporated aspects of the fairytale. The stolen rose, the magical mirror, [Disney] Belle’s love of reading (which is uniquely subverted in this retelling), a painting of the Beast, helpful servants, a curse (of sorts), and so on.
Additionally, My Rock and My Refuge contains elements of Jane Eyre. What those elements might be, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. (But there are no wives locked in attics, manipulative heroes, or St. Johns. So…not to worry! XD)
On that note, Marta Beckmann, the main character of My Rock and My Refuge, reminds me of an older Jane Eyre. But she’s also her own forthright person. Although Marta is usually right in her observations of people and situations, she’s not perfect—I absolutely loved how she realizes that she needs to depend on God at all times (instead of herself).
…too often, I relied on myself and my abilities for help, and only asked our Lord for guidance or assistance if I could not solve something myself. That was the wrong order.
When I’m feeling discouraged or downhearted, I gravitate toward movies, shows, and books that have a more overt Christian message. My Rock and My Refuge contains a few theology-heavy conversations (and Marta’s internal monologue is filled with references to her faith and her Lord). I can see why all of that would come across as preachy to some people, but sometimes that kind of thing is just what I need, personally. So I don’t mind the focus on morals and attending church and correcting one’s behavior and thoughts to match up with God’s will.
But anyway! Back to the characters…
Arthur Wendell is the ‘Beast’ in this retelling, but he’s far from beastly. A little gruff at first, even rude. But he’s a good man at heart, something that quickly becomes clear. No, he doesn’t give Marta his library. But he gives her something even better—the means of learning how to read the books in his library. Wendell is deeply loyal to the people he cares for, and that soon includes Marta. Their romance is straightforward and sensible…but also swoon-worthy.
Speaking of swoon-worthy, Marta’s brother Jakob is a sweetheart. Stubborn, but a sweetheart. I agree with another reviewer who said that Jakob should get his own spin-off. I also liked Dan McLeod (Arthur’s friend), Mrs. Craig (Arthur’s housekeeper), Peter Craig (Chip? XD), the miners who buy Marta’s bread, the Lings (friends of Marta’s), and so on. One thing I appreciate about My Rock and My Refuge is that there’s plenty of conflict without anyone being nasty. (Well, with the exception of a few very minor, very racist characters.)
And last but not least, there’s Alex McLeod. He’s the ‘Gaston’ of My Rock and My Refuge (but not a villain). I have the biggest soft spot for Alex. He’s not-so-secretly my favorite character, bringing good days to his mother and buying Marta’s bread and going through the pain of suddenly being an only child instead of the youngest child. I think I’m probably in the minority when it comes to liking Alex, but that’s okay. 😉
My Rock and My Refuge is a Western, a romance, and a fairytale, all wrapped into one beautiful story. It’s like a loaf of good bread: warm, wholesome, and strengthening to the heart (see Psalm 104:15b). I think you’ll love it! I know I do. ❤
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Have you read My Rock and My Refuge yet? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!