Harvest of Rubies

Written by Tessa Afshar
Review by Ann Chamberlin

A generation after Esther made her own entry into the Persian court (couldn’t Esther be around somewhere as a grandmotherly role model?), Nehemiah’s niece, Sarah, becomes scribe to Artaxerxes’ wife, Damaspia. Just getting good at this, and solving a mystery for her mistress, she is given in marriage by the queen to a Persian nobleman with Jewish connections. The rest of the book is given over to our socially inept heroine trying to gain enough self-confidence to win her husband’s trust and the perfect faith-guided match.

Tessa Afshar is an Iranian-born convert to evangelical Christianity. I chose this book hoping to learn more about Persia; in this I was disappointed. The author admits that most of our information concerning Achaemenid Persia comes from their enemies the Greeks. This is no excuse to use the Greek term for courtesan, hetaera, nor to give this character the Greek name for Athens’ most famous woman of that calling – unless something were made of her Greek origins. I liked the recipes at the end, material that will be of use to book clubs – but not the heavy use of rice, which the author admits was probably an anachronism. Jewish life here is not believable, not well drawn, no yearning for the return to Jerusalem Nehemiah may be expected to lead in volumes to follow. And Zoroastrianism, which surely one could research, gets nothing. Was our author afraid to convert us to fire worship if she did so? Otherwise, the tropes of lesser romance novels used here sometimes border on the silly.