Book Review: Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

The prophet Nehemiah’s cousin can speak numerous languages, keep complex accounts, write on rolls of parchment and tablets of clay, and solve great mysteries. There is only one problem: she is a woman.

In her early childhood years, Sarah experienced the death of her mother and her father’s subsequent emotional distance and she came to two conclusions: that God does not care about her, and that her accomplishments are the measure of her worth – the measure of her self.

Sarah, the talented scribe and cousin to Nehemiah, is catapulted into the center of the Persian court, working too many hours, rubbing elbows with royalty, and solving intrigues for the Queen. Ironically, it isn’t failure but success that causes Sarah to lose her only source of external validation.

Sarah soon learns that she has something of worth to offer beyond her ability with languages and sums – her very being proves to be a blessing to others.

I read Ms. Afshar’s debut novel, Pearl in the Sand, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was recently offered free on Kindle and, of course, I snagged it. In the course of a conversation on Facebook about it, I learned she had a new release. When I saw it on NetGalley, I grabbed the new one, excited to see if her sophomore offering was as good.

If anything, it was better!

The story revolves around Sarah, a fictional cousin of the prophet Nehemiah. She’s forced into an arranged marriage where her lack of social graces [think Mulan at the beginning of the movie – only worse] cause no end to problems. But, at the same time, the talents God has given her will prove to be most valuable to her husband and others.

This is a romance, so it’s little shock to find out that Sarah and her new husband, Darius, will grow to love each other.

That part of the ending was immensely satisfying. However, as a literary voyeur, I always want just a bit more. This book was no exception and I wanted to know if they had children. Did Darius take more wives or concubines [as was the custom in the day – he was half Persian and half Jewish, after all]? And a few other unanswered questions. That annoyed me a bit, until I read a bit further on my Kindle – I’m so glad I did! Included is an excerpt of Ms. Afshar’s next release [the title of which is escaping me at the moment]. It appears to pick up not long after Harvest of Rubies ends so the annoyance left me and upped the star count a bit ;).

If there’s a book I truly love that I have on Kindle – either as a free book or a reviewer copy – I’ll sometimes order a hard copy so I can share it more easily. I haven’t purchased this one yet, but I will be. I enjoyed it that much.

Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.