This is a wonderful story set in ancient Persia during the time of King Artaxerxes and after Queen Esther's time. This is my first novel by this author and it won't be the last! Another novel, Harvest of Gold, continues the story begun in this novel and will be reviewed here soon.
Sarah is a young woman who can do something most other women of her time can't_read and write. She began teaching herself Persian at the age of 9 to earn her father's love and attention as he is a scribe in the royal palace. Sarah makes this her goal in life too. She achieves her goal, but isn't fond of the politics that go on in the palace. She solves a mystery for the queen and as a reward gets a husband. At the age of 23, Sarah is doing what she wants in life and doesn't want a husband, aristocrat or not. Once married, she will have to give up her dream. She tries everything to get out of the marriage, but to no avail. She knows she will be miserable in this marriage as she doesn't know how to cook, take care of a household and she certainly isn't pretty. What is she going to do with her time now?
Darius has been forced to marry a commoner and isn't happy about it. He promised his Jewish mother that he would marry a Jewish woman and he has kept that promise, but he isn't giving his new wife any benefit of the doubt after the stunt she pulled at their wedding ceremony. He catches glimpses of her true character, but he is reluctant to trust her. What is she up to? Can Darius learn to fully trust his wife? He finally returns home to a mess, but solves it with Sarah's help. He slowly begins to spend more time with her and learns more about her. She seems trustworthy, funny, loyal and spirited. Is this just an act?
Readers see Sarah's insecurities and her efforts to banish those insecurities through finding her worth in what she does and what people think of her. I can certainly identify with that. Can you? The wonderful wise gardener, Bardia, whom Sarah comes to love like a father tells her that pruning the vine is for its' own good and done to enrich its' yield. Sarah suddenly sees the parallel of the vine with her own life. It is at this point that she begins to see how God is using the difficulties in her life not to punish her, but to make her life better. She learns to pray to Him regularly and often and be content in her circumstance. I just loved Sarah, her witty sarcasm and the snappy dialogue between characters. Sarah's growth in faith is inspiring and at the same time challenging. I can definitely recommend this book without reservation. It is entertaining from beginning to end. Readers won't be disappointed.
The cousin of Nehemiah is a brilliant individual. A self taught scribe to the queen in the Persian court, working long hours with little personal time, and forming close associations with the royal family, one major problem existed. Sarah is a woman. She is in a man's world where her intellect means little outside of the palace.
When the queen presents the prospect of an arranged marriage to her nephew, a man she does not love, looses her achievements, her self worth, in exchange for humiliation. Sarah must find a way to connect to this man, to be a blessing to him....but how?
The mysterious cover of this book intrigued me, and the contents of its pages equaled this image. As a lover of history, I was captivated with the knowledge presented of the setting at 460 BC.
The author's descriptions of each scene beautifully portrayed this culture. I was interested in the dynamics of an arranged marriage, a concept that is so very foreign to me. The relationship between Sarah and her husband growing from stranger to lover was complex, and showed the effort needed to make an arranged marriage work.
The author has included a timeline, cast of character descriptions, and even typical recipes from this period. As with Pearl In The Sand, Harvest of Rubies will not disappoint the reader. You will want a copy and an afternoon or evening to devour this fascinating novel!
This was such a spiritually moving book. Plus, I enjoyed the deep love story developing between the husband and wife. In fact, I enjoyed everything about this story. I loved how the author took what is common to mankind and made it relevant to a spiritual journey today. It really made me think about things in my life. Plus, it was very well written and I became lost in the story. Since a lot of books seem to lose my attention lately, this story was especially delightful because I wanted to keep reading it.
The heroine was a people-pleaser from childhood following the death of her mother; at least, she was that way at first. I could see how Sarah really believed she had to do important things to be loved. I appreciated how the author brought that full circle and how Sarah learned that she was loved for who she was, not what she did. The illustration from the pruning of the grapevine was poignant as well. I could see a spiritual harvest of rubies in her life, so the title was perfect. Had she received less pruning from the Lord, her life may not have blossomed into a beautiful thing to behold by book's end. Great story for lovers of Biblical fiction. I highly recommend it.
Harvest of Rubies. Given to me free for a review by Moody Publishing.
Harvest of Rubies was a book I was waiting for. I have heard wonderful interviews with Tessa, and I think her story was a wonderful idea- a young female scribe raised by a distant father and doing a man's job. Sarah does not know how to be a woman and at 23 is an unmarried scribe for the Persian empire. She lost her mother at a very young age and the person who watches out for her is Nehemiah, her cousin, who is cupbearer to the King. I admire the story, the writing, and the idea of a girl who comes to know that she is not worthy of Love based on her performance- but because she is God's child.
I love the Biblical metaphor of the Grape vine and the Husbandman who tends it that Tessa incorporates in her story. The gardener who tends the grapes seems to cut them so that they will die- pruning them until Sarah is sure they will never live and bear fruit again. Her life has been pruned and she too fears she will never live again. She lost her mother at seven and although the words of the Hebrew Psalms remain in her mind, this Jewish Maiden does not trust God's pruning. It is only when her own life begins to bloom again that she understands that the grapevines pruned the most by the gardener are the ones who bear the harvest- a harvest of rubies.
"How like the vine I had felt that day, stripped almost to the point of death, everything I held precious taken from me.
How I had longed for my old life back. And yet... God had intended to do me good by dismantling my world.
I had thought that my work was the measure of of my worth. I had made my accomplishments more important than friendships, more important than my heart, more important even than God. The more I clutched at my achievements, the sicker my soul had grown.
And God in His mercy, in His uncompromising Love, had torn the sickness out of my chest.
I remembered suddenly the Words of the LORD through the prophet Hosea.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt."
I think the premise is fascinating. I wish this book had been written without any of the "romance" though. I had to skip chunks of this story to get around the "love story." Novels- no matter how well written that contain romance do not foster thoughts of men as "brothers in all purity." And so, very reluctantly because of the goodness of the story idea, I give this novel two stars.
Sarah is proficient in many areas - she can read and write in multiple languages, she can keep complicated ans lengthy accounts, and has a quick and sharp mind. The only thing stopping her from great success is that she is a woman. But when her cousin Nehemiah recommends her to the position of head scribe to the queen, she is completely unprepared for the events that follow.
Sarah has always measured her worth based on her accomplishments; if she fails in any aspect of her work, she sees herself as a failure as well. So when her position as senior scribe is threatened because of her success as the queen's trusted account holder, she is, for the first time in her life, being measured for who she is as a person. With no complicated rolls of parchment and clay tablets to hide behind, will she attain her own measure of worthiness? Or does God has other plans for His child?
This was a wonderful re-imagining of a fictional character set in Biblical times. Afshar deals with something that we all struggle with at some point in our life; the measure of our worth. Despite the lack of history Afshar had to work with as a background for her story, she does a marvelous job of re-creating the setting and bringing it to life. It was a story I could believe in and learn from, and an author that understands the very heart that beats in every one of us. Not only a recommended read, but one I will revisit again and again.
A copy of this book was provided by Moody Press for free in exchange for an honest review.