Esther the Queen
Enjoying an evening walk without wearing their veils, young Esther and her friend come across an agreeable stranger having difficulty with a well. Having assisted him, Esther is so stunned when a royal guard appears, identifying the stranger as King Xerxes, that she calls the king by his given name. Smitten, the king soon renews his search for a queen and summons Esther to his harem as one of the candidates. She and the king quickly fall in love, but Esther keeps one secret from him – the fact that she is a Jew.
This is an engaging retelling of a well-known biblical story. Esther is an appealing heroine, intelligent, attractive, and good-hearted without being irritatingly perfect, and the king, too, is three-dimensional and likeable, making for good chemistry between the pair. The king’s courtiers are well drawn, as is the humbler circle of Esther’s family and friends, and there’s an interesting subplot involving Haman, the villain of the story, that adds some motivation for his actions. Readers of both religious fiction and general historical fiction should enjoy this novel.