Hadassah: One Night with the King
When King Xerxes of Persia orders his beautiful queen, Vashti, to appear before his guests, she refuses to display herself, and the king divorces her. But the king needs a queen, and thus begins an empire-wide search for a new queen – a search that brings the wise and beautiful Hadassah into the harem as contender for the crown. Her wit, charm, and loving heart gain her Xerxes’s favor during her night with the king, and she becomes the new Queen of Persia.
But the new queen holds a secret that could bring her down: she is a Jew. Xerxes’s favored councilor, Haman, hates Jews and has tricked the king into signing the death warrant for all Jews dwelling in the Persian Empire. It will take all Hadassah’s courage and faith to win life and freedom for both herself and her doomed people.
While an awkward modern framing device is distracting, and the equating of Haman with Hitler (complete with swastikas) isn’t either original or necessary, Tenney’s retelling of the story of Esther is strong and compelling, with some interesting psychological interpretations of the characters. Unfortunately, there are also some real historical clankers, such as Esther serving potatoes at a banquet, and some jarringly modern language. However, the novel’s strengths outweigh its minor weaknesses, and readers looking for Bible stories from a woman’s point of view should enjoy Hadassah.