June 5, 2011

Book Review - A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf

Time to catch up on the book reviews.  It's hot outside, so what better time to curl up with a good book in the afternoon as the thermometer rises?  For those of you who devour historical fiction, I think you will really enjoy this novel based on the Biblical story of Esther.

What happens when a beautiful Jewish girl named Esther is chosen to be queen to the Persian, King Ahaseurus?  Based loosely on the Book of Esther from the Bible, Joan Wolf creates an intriguing story of jealousy, fear, love and betrayal. 

When her Uncle Mordecai has a fearful dream about the annihilation of the Jews and sees Esther in the dream as the savior of her people, he convinces her to join other women who are being interviewed by the King as he searches for his next queen.  The king already has a large harem and has just put away a previous wife for disobedience, so it is no wonder that Esther balks at the idea of becoming queen or that she could have any part in saving her people.  And, Mordecai insists that Esther not reveal she is Jewish on her mother’s side because that would be unacceptable to a Persian king. 

When Esther is chosen as the reluctant queen, she finds  King Ahaseurus a most compassionate, loving husband to her, but she also finds that he has enemies in his court – some who have too much power and one who especially hates the Jews – Haman, the Edomite.  Esther’s interventions and the king’s own wisdom help to keep the kingdom strong, but all along Esther must struggle with the lie she is living.  Her husband thinks she is Babylonian, not Jewish.  Will he turn her away if he finds out?  How can she forsake her religious beliefs?  Will God hear her cries when she feels she is betraying Him?  Can she really save her people from a decree that has gone out to have all Jews killed?

Although Wolf acknowledges that she has taken liberties with the Biblical story for the purposes of character and pacing of the novel, it all adds to the book’s interest.  Esther’s struggles seem real to the reader, and the conflicts within the kingdom give us insight into the times.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend for readers interested in historical romance.

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