“My wife’s likings are not of the least interest to me, cupbearer. And neither are you, being her cousin, and party to this insult of a marriage,” Darius scolds Nehemiah in Tessa Afshar’s novel, Harvest of Rubies.
~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-eighty-four-page paperback targets those who enjoy romantic historical fiction based on the Bible. With this one focusing on the book of Nehemiah, its love story that contains abuse and a murder plot along with references to sexual relations may not be appropriate to immature readers. The ending includes the author’s notes, five food recipes, acknowledgments, and an excerpt of the next book in the series.
Written in first person during the 400s B.C., twenty-year-old Sarah may feel like she has it all being the queen of Persia’s senior scribe and Nehemiah’s cousin, but the awkwardly-social girl feels unloved and unwanted by her father. Able to read and translate in several languages, she is an asset to the queen, especially when she uncovers a problem dealing with the king’s mother.
To repay her for her astuteness, the queen arranges a marriage to Darius that Sarah does not want. On her wedding day, the young woman makes it uncomfortable for all involved in the ceremony; she is sent to Darius’s neglected palace to begin a barren marriage.
As the heroine uncovers many discrepancies at the estate, she feels like a disappointment, wondering if she will ever be worthy of God or her husband. Meanwhile, the harsh, unreasonable Darius fights his feelings regarding his newly acquired wife.
~ Why ~
Using the backdrop of the Jews being under Persian rule, the scenes and conversations reiterate the culture, politics, and viewpoints during the period that I found interesting.
~ Why Not ~
Although the book is loosely based on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, Sarah is not a Biblical character. As a predictable read, it had the protagonist solving every issue, sometimes asking God for help.
~ Who ~
Author Afshar was born in Iran and moved to the United States as a teenager. Having written one other novel, this is the first in a series.
~ Wish ~
Including a timeline and list of characters was helpful; a map of the area during its Biblical era would be thoughtful.
~ Want ~
If you are looking for a romantic fictional story with undertones of the Persian Empire during the time Nehemiah is a cupbearer, this one contains historical aspects. However, do keep in mind the rare position of a woman senior scribe is not portrayed in the Scriptures.
Thanks to Moody Publishers for offering this book to read and review for my honest opinion.
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Grammarly was used to check for errors in this review.