Harvest of Rubiesby 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's a woman in a man's court.
In her early childhood years, Sarah experienced the death of her mother and her father's subsequent emotional distance, and she came to two
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's a woman in a man's court.
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: God does not care about me, and my accomplishments are the measure of my worth.
Catapulted into the center of the Persian court, Sarah is 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, particularly the aristocrat Darius, whom she is given to in marriage.
Sarah and Darius' story continues in Harvest of Gold. Darius may be able to learn to love his wife, but can he ever learn to trust Sarah and her Lord?
"Sarah is a Jew in ancient Persia, cousin of Nehemiah, and the daughter of the scribe Simeon, whose attention she wins only when she proves to possess literary abilities of her own. In this latest by Afshar (Pearl in the Sand), the Bible's ancient Near Eastern context is the setting for an engaging story of pluck, friendship, and faith. Sarah becomes a professional scribe and wins the affections of the queen only to find herself bound to marry a man she doesn't know and forced to give up the job that she loves. When she botches her wedding, and is abandoned to a rural estate, it would seem that all is lost. But Sarah finds wisdom and strength in the texts and traditions of her people, and knits together an unconventional community of support. Afshar's story challenges misconceptions about harem life and the roles of ancient women while introducing readers to a lovable heroine whose good heart wins out over bumbling ways to prove a boon to others, too. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books and Such (May)" --Publishers Weekly, 5/14/12
"Almost two years ago, I reviewed a book titled Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar. I absolutely loved the story, and next week her brand new book "Harvest of Rubies" will be released. I was thrilled to have a sneak peak at this one!
Imagine a young woman struggling to make a way in a man's world. Education for women was almost unheard of in the ancient Persian society, yet Sarah found herself working as the chief scribe to the Queen. She did such an outstanding job that she was rewarded by the Queen. Only problem is, her reward was absolutely the last thing that Sarah wanted.
What impacted me the most in this book was Sarah's journey of faith. She started out feeling unworthy, unloved and forgotten by God and her family. As everything she cherished is torn from her life, she had to reach out to God as her anchor in the storm.
Harvest of Rubies is a tender, richly inspirational, beautifully passionate, and often humorous story that I highly recommend!" Reviewed by Janet Hovis, Net Galley 4/27/2012
"Iranian-born, Tessa Afshar weaves a lovely tapestry in this novel. It is rich in detail about the customs, clothing and culture of this time period. Her characters are fully-fleshed with both strengths and flaws. The storyline is quick-paced and believable and leaves readers thankful that she will pick up Sarah’s story in her next book."-- Paula Parker, BuddyHollywood.com, 5/12/12
"There is so much depth to HARVEST OF RUBIES that readers will happily drown in its message of God’s unfailing love and mercy, while diving headfirst into the captivating plot and precarious romance. Characters are realistically flawed, likable and earthy. Emotions run the gamut from insecurity and fear to passion, pain and the indescribable joy that can only come with the realization of God’s grace. This is a great read!" -- Susan Miura, BookReporter.com, 5/23/12
"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." --Carol Moncado, Net Galley 5/30/12
"Harvest of Rubies is the second book by Tessa Afshar her first book was Pearl in the Sand the story of Rahab. In Harvest of Rubies Tessa tells the story of Sarah Nehemiah’s cousin who unlike most women of the time can read and write and speak many languages. She becomes the main scribe to the queen. The story sort of reminded me of the Biblical story of Esther. That Sarah become the queen’s scribe when the queen needed her most, because Sarah discovered a plot against the queen.
What I love about Tessa Afshar is that when she writes novel she remains as close to the Biblical record as possible. Ms. Afshar makes her characters come alive and allows the reader to be drawn into the story. Harvest of Rubies is a fiction read that will entertain you, but it will also encourage you. Tessa Afshar books in my opinion will encourage you to pick up your Bible to confirm that she stays true to the Biblical account as much as possible." --Carissa Miller, Net Galley 6/1/2012
"I felt so similar to Sarah as I read through this book. Her fears, her insecurities, and her doubts have been similar to my own. I feel as though I am going through a spiritual journey along with her as we both learn of our importance in the eyes of God.
Pearl of the Novel: It's a book that I must have a highlighter and pen on hand because there are so many amazing passages and I gain a lot of inspiration to jot down. It is full of so much insight and spiritual passages. It is insightful and helps me become a better person." --Kris Ellsworth, Net Galley 6/13/12
"I simply love Tessa Afshar's novels! When I read "Pearl in the Sand," I had to buy a paperback copy to add to my collection. After reading "A Harvest of Rubies" on ebook, I have to also buy a paperback copy. These are wonderful books that I would eagerly recommend everyone to have in their library. They are wonderful expressions of people's own self-doubts that can be dissolved into peace when they turn their lives over to God. I felt so similar to Sarah as I read through this book. Her fears, her insecurities, and her doubts have been similar to my own. I feel as though I am going through a spiritual journey along with her as we both learn of our importance in the eyes of God." -- Anonymous, PearlsofGreatWorth.com, 6/20/12
"The author transports us to an ancient time for a story that will touch any woman today who ever has struggled with defining herself through her work and accomplishments. I loved the unusual perspective of Nehemiah (the cupbearer) from a relative's (cousin) point of view. The writing is a cut above for the genre and Afshar incorporates well developed characters, history, humor, mystery and biblical truths to weave an interesting and encouraging tale with many lessons hidden just below the surface." -- Lauren Y., BookBargainsandPreviews.com
"I cracked open Tessa Afshar's book, Harvest of Rubies, after the kids were fast asleep, and I didn't put it down until I read the last page in the wee morning hours. It was well-written, gripping, and very inspirational.It even brought a few tears...I want to read it again with highlighter in hand. I don’t want to forget anytime soon the lesson of the grapevine. How often do I hold onto the pruned branch, wanting that life back? I might find an image of a grapevine and frame it for my home. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you’ll have to read it for yourself. One element that I really enjoyed was that the heroine wasn’t perfect. She struggles with things common to all of us. I’m sure that if I were to meet her today, she’d have uneven fingernails, a stain on her shirt, and she might have misplaced her glasses… a little like me. A little like all of us." -- BeckyE, 6/20/12
"Ms. Afshar has once again woven a vividly written, emotionally engaging story. Sarah's struggle to find acceptance through her accomplishments and her eventual realization that her worth doesn't depend on them is poignant. The main characters are all well developed and believable, with foibles and imperfections. Ms. Afshar has a talent for creating characters that you feel like you really know...down to even the loyal dog! The depiction of palace life in ancient Persia and the dynamics of various relationships: nobility, royalty, commoners, harems, and so forth, are well researched and realistic. The thread of intrigue is woven into the story seamlessly and doesn't at all feel like an added on plot device. It adds to the overall theme quite nicely. And even though the book delivers a serious message and delves into serious issues, there's plenty of humor too! There are scenes that are laugh out loud funny. Harvest of Rubies delivers romance, mystery, adventure, grace, and humor. It's endearing, entertaining, and funny while still delivering a worthy message. Highly recommended!" -- Kara, Home with Purpose, 6/28/12
"It's always fun to run across a new author. To borrow a sports analogy, sometimes, you just have to take a chance that an unknown author will "hit it out of the park" and provide you with something you can't stop reading.
I'm so thankful that I took a chance on Tessa Afshar.
Afshar is an amazing storyteller. Her first book made me really dive into an "old" Bible story in a new way. Her second, well, it really makes you take a second look at where a person finds value. In all, I'm thrilled to have discovered a new author. I highly recommend her work - and will probably put them on my "re-read" list. On the scale of one to five, I give her books a solid four. They are enjoyable and easy to read - but will definitely leave you thinking. All in all, a great showing for a new-to-me author!" -- Kaylea Hutson, MyScrappyLife.com, 7/9/12
"What I loved so much about Harvest of Rubies was Sarah's journey. Afshar seamlessly weaves Sarah's tale of personal growth into the setting of biblical times. I felt like I was learning something about history and about the Scriptures as I was reading, but without feeling "preached to." I loved watching Sarah grow and change. I especially loved how she quotes the psalms of David for strength and guidance.So many times while reading, I thought, "Yes, this is exactly how I feel!" I love that. I felt like Afshar was really speaking to me personally. I felt encouraged and lifted up after reading Harvest of Rubies.
Until I realized there was going to be a sequel, I was not totally thrilled with the ending. There were certain things that were left unfinished, things I wanted to see finished. But, I will have to wait until the next book for Sarah and Darius' story to be completed. I can't wait to read more from Tessa Afshar. I highly recommend Harvest of Rubies." -- Kelli, Idsoratherbereading.com, 7/14/12
"This was my first book to read by Tessa Afshar--I was amazed at
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HARVEST of RUBIES
By TESSA AFSHAR
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2012 Tessa Afshar
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Eight Year of King Artaxerxes' Reign Persia
On my twelfth birthday, father discovered that I could read.
He came home long before the supper hour that night, an occurrence so rare that in my shock I forgot to greet him. Instead, I sat stupefied, clutching a forbidden clay tablet.
"What are you doing?" he asked, his gaze arrested by the sight of the tablet clasped to my chest.
My father, a royal scribe in the Persian court, treated his writing tools as if they were the holy objects from the Ark of the Covenant. Before I had learned to walk or speak, I had learned never to go near his scrolls and tablets for fear I might damage them.
"You know better than to touch this," he said, when I didn't respond right away.
I swallowed the ball of gathering dread in my throat, knowing myself caught. Truth seemed my only option. "I was reading," I said, as I replaced the tablet on the floor with extravagant care.
He studied me from beneath lowered brows. "Even if you could read—which you cannot—you should not be anywhere near my scribal supplies. It is very wrong of you to lie, Sarah."
"I am not lying, Father."
He heaved a sigh. Spreading his hand in mock invitation toward the tablet, he said, "Demonstrate."
The tablet was in Persian, one of the most complicated languages of the world. I could have chosen to teach myself Aramaic, a simpler language for a beginner and more appropriate for a Jew. But most Aramaic documents were recorded on parchment, and I had decided that there would be fewer chances of accidentally damaging clay or stone tablets than fragile parchment scrolls.
Licking my lips, I concentrated on the complex alphabet before me. The symbols looked like a series of delicate nails standing upright or lying sideways, an occasional incomplete triangle thrown in for confusion. With halting accuracy I began to read the first line from left to right. Then the second and the third.
My father sank to the carpet next to me, his movements slow. He was silent for a long moment. Then he asked, "Who taught you to read Persian?"
"Nobody. I learned by myself. I've been studying for five months."
He seemed speechless. Then, with jerky movements, he fetched three small clay cylinders and placed them before me.
"What's this word? And this? Can you make out this sentence?"
We must have sat there for hours as he tested my knowledge, corrected my pronunciation, and demonstrated grammatical rules. He forgot about my months-long transgression of secretly handling his scribal supplies. He forgot to remonstrate with me for having taught myself to read without his permission.
But then he also forgot to ask me why I had wanted to learn. Although I was surprised by his lack of anger at my behavior, his lack of interest was all too familiar. In the years since my mother's death when I was seven, my father had rarely spoken to me of anything save mundane household matters, and even that was rare. My desires, my motives, my hopes, held no appeal to him.
Late that night, after so many hours of his company, when I crawled onto my thin cotton-filled mattress, my mouth spread in a wide smile. I had finally found a way to hold my father's attention. He had spent more time with me on this one night than he was wont to do in a fortnight. Months of hard work had won me the desire of my heart; he had found something in me worth his while.
* * *
After we lost my mother, Aunt Leah, my mother's only sister, began coming once a week to our home to help us with the housework. She tried to show me how to sew and clean and cook. Our conversations around these topics tended toward frustration—for her—and pain for me.
"Weren't you paying attention when I showed you how to pluck the chicken?"
"No, Aunt Leah. I beg your pardon."
"You can't use a broom like that, Sarah. You only move the dust from one spot to another. That's not called cleaning. That's a migration of dirt."
"Yes, Aunt Leah. I beg your pardon."
"This pot won't clean itself just by you staring at it and sighing."
Silence seemed the best response at times like this. I could not offend my only aunt by telling her the truth: that I would rather hit my head with the pot and make myself lose consciousness than have to face the frustrating boredom of scrubbing its black bottom.
My one consolation was that our house was small—four rooms and a hallway with a tiny garden the size of a large carpet in the back, so there wasn't much to clean. The few rugs we had were woven rather than knotted, and I just beat them against the stone hedge outside. Our furniture, modest to start with, had served my family a good twenty years; even my impatient treatment of the pieces could not ruin them more than they already had been.
Aunt Leah came to visit the day after my twelfth birthday and discovered me practicing the Persian alphabet on a fresh clay tablet. The tablet fit comfortably in the palm of my hand; I held one blunt end with my thumb and used a stylus to carve new words on its wet surface. Since my father had uncovered my secret and seemed to sanction it, I felt no reason to keep it hidden any longer.
Aunt Leah slapped a hand against the crown of her head. "Are you writing now?"
"I am," I said with pride, stretching my cramping legs on the crude carpet.
"It's a scandal. What will your father say?"
"He is teaching me."
"It's a scandal," she repeated. She made me put the tablet and stylus away and help her with the laundry until my father arrived.
Although I was dismissed from the room so that they might hold a private discussion, I could hear snatches of their conversation through the drawn curtain that separated the rectangular room into two parts. My heart beat an uncomfortable rhythm as I considered the possibility that Aunt Leah might convince my father to stop teaching me. I waited with fuming resentment, barely able to keep myself from marching in and demanding that she stop interfering with the first good thing that had happened to me in years.
"The child just wants to learn to read and write, Leah. There's no shame in that. She even shows a glimmer of talent." I was surprised to hear my father defend me; I couldn't remember his ever doing so before. The simple words soothed my rising anger.
"The child is a girl."
"Literate women are not unknown. The queen reads as well as any scribe, they say."
"Sarah is not a royal Persian woman. She's a simple Jewish maiden."
I could not make out my father's answer. Aunt Leah's response came heated and fast, though. "No good will come of this, Simeon. You mark my words. Your stubborn refusal to listen to reason will cause that child nothing but harm."
She stormed out of the house, not taking the time to put her shoes on right. As soon as she left, I gathered my practice tablet and borrowed tools and walked into my father's room. He sat on the floor, his head bent, a hand covering his eyes.
With care I laid my bundle in front of him. "Would you like to see what I did today, Father? It's not much; Aunt Leah interrupted my practice."
This was new for me, this bold approach to my father. I had known for years that I was a bother to him. He found my conversation trying; my presence aggravated him. But my literary endeavor had given me a new confidence. I knew my father loved his work. I might be a nuisance, but the work wasn't. I thought he would bear with me as long as we had a clay tablet between us.
He lifted his head and focused on me for a long moment. One corner of his mouth lifted. I let out my breath when he made no protest. "Let's see what you have accomplished, then."
* * *
Aunt Leah came back with mighty reinforcements the following week. I had met my cousin Nehemiah years before during the time of my mother's sickness. But in recent times I only heard the stories of his great accomplishments at court. He had risen to the position of cupbearer to the king.
In Persia, rank was measured by proximity to the person of the king. Only those of consequence were given positions that placed them in constant contact with royalty. Nehemiah tasted the king's wine as a human shield against poison. But he also acted as one of his advisors, for it was common for the king to ask the opinion of those closest to him. Even I, a child of twelve, knew that Artaxerxes held him in high regard. This was enough to make him a frightening visitor. However, the fact that he came with his pomp and circumstance in the wake of my aunt petrified me. Had she persuaded him to intervene against my desire to become literate? If so, he was too great a man to be denied.
"Bring Lord Nehemiah some refreshments, Sarah," my aunt ordered as I stood gaping at them in the hallway.
"No, no, I need nothing. Let the child join us, Leah. It's been an age since I saw her. You have grown up into quite a young lady."
He was a tall man with startling dark red hair and flawless manners. Even his fingernails were trimmed and neat, so different from my father's stained, rough hands. I made an awkward bow, unused to palace protocol. "Welcome, my lord. This way, please," I said, my voice faint with anxiety. "I shall fetch my father for you," I added and slipped out, glad to escape his august presence.
My father rushed out of his cramped chamber. "You honor us," he said, addressing Nehemiah and sparing Aunt Leah a short nod. He motioned everyone to sit on our skinny cushions, which had been arranged along the floor.
"It's been too long, Simeon, since I came to your home. You know how the palace drains one's time. But that is no good excuse; forgive my long absence. I am glad to see you."
"And I you, my lord. Though I fear that my sister-in-law has bothered you needlessly with the small matters of my household."
"As a matter of fact, Leah did mention something about an urgent matter concerning Sarah."
I rolled my eyes. My father only said, "Indeed?"
My aunt bristled, sitting up straighter and raising her voice. "A Jewish maiden has no business reading and writing Persian. She needs to learn womanly graces, not stuff her head with knowledge that will be of no benefit to her."
I grew hot at her words. "How can it be of no benefit if I can help Father with his work? Or keep the household accounts and relieve him of one more duty?"
"Keep your tongue, Sarah," my father ordered, his voice sounding tired.
"Let us hear from the child. This concerns her most, it seems to me." The sharp brown gaze of my cousin landed on me, making me squirm. "Tell me, Sarah, do you want to learn?"
"Oh yes, my lord. More than anything. And I am very good at it. Ask my father. I taught myself how to read Persian."
"You see?" Aunt Leah struck her hand palm-up into the air for emphasis. "She has already forgotten the value of humility."
"It's only the truth," I said, my voice trailing.
Nehemiah covered his mouth with his elegant hand for a moment. The faint lines around his eyes deepened. I wondered if he might be smiling beneath the cover of his fingers, but when he lowered his hand, his expression was serious. "If the Lord has gifted the child, then perhaps it's because He has a plan for her life that requires such skills. And who are we to stand in the way of the Lord?"
"The Lord?" My aunt's voice sounded like a broken shepherd's pipe.
Nehemiah ignored the interjection. "Leah, do you remember Queen Esther?"
Every Jew in Persia knew about Esther. Only one generation ago the entire Jewish population of Persia would have been wiped out if not for her courage and ingenuity. We celebrated Purim in honor of her victory.
"Of course I remember Queen Esther."
"She had the gift of extraordinary beauty. Yet what struck one most about her was her sweetness. I met her once when I was a boy, you know. An unforgettable woman." Nehemiah's face became inscrutable for a moment and I wondered if his memories had become more real than our company. When he spoke again, his voice seemed softer.
"Her intelligence and grace made her queen of the greatest empire the world has known. But it was God who placed her on that throne. The Lord who knew the danger to His people, groomed her for that very position."
"I don't understand," my aunt interjected, looking as though she had been sucking on sour cherries. "What has Esther to do with this situation?"
"My point is that we must be ready to follow the Lord wherever He leads us. Esther came into royal position not knowing that one day her gifts and influence would be needed for God's great plan of salvation for His people. We must walk through the small doors that the Lord opens for us, in case they lead to a greater path. I say again: who are we to stand in the way of the Lord's plans for Sarah? If her gifts prove a useful tool in His hand, then we must build them up, not crush them."
I brightened as it sank into my brain that Nehemiah was championing me. I tried to wipe the smile from my face, knowing my aunt would take exception to my smug victory. Inside I felt like jumping up and dancing. Outwardly I schooled my features to reflect a modicum of the humility I had lacked earlier.
"Lord Nehemiah, you want a Jewish girl to learn to be a scribe?" Aunt Leah finally burst out.
"I want a Jewish girl to fulfill her destiny. I don't know what that is. But I want her to be prepared for whatever God may send her way."
At that pronouncement we all fell silent. I felt the weight of his words with a new insight. Nehemiah's interpretation of my childish desires was concerned much more with the will of God than the will of Sarah. This was too disturbing a concept to grasp; with the ease of youth, I buried it somewhere in the recesses of my heart. It was more pleasant to focus on the fact that I was about to receive my dearest dream.
"So then, Sarah, you must promise to study hard and hone your talent," Nehemiah said to me.
He might as well be making a child promise to eat rich honey cakes. Unable to stop the grin from spreading across my face, I said, "I promise, my lord."
* * *
My father began to teach me in earnest after that. By the time I was sixteen, in addition to Persian I knew how to read and write Akkadian, another complicated language practiced only by royal scribes for the keeping of important administrative records.
Ironically, the most popular tongue in the Persian Empire was not Persian—a language too complex for the common folk of foreign nations to learn. Aramaic, simpler to understand and record, and already practiced by the many peoples displaced through the Assyrian and Babylonian wars for the past two hundred years, grew more popular than other tongues in the Eastern empire. So I became proficient in Aramaic also.
I learned how to write on tablets of clay using a sharp reed to carve into their wet, unfired surface. Father would also bring me parchment made of calf or sheepskin, alkalined and stretched on a wooden frame to render its surface smooth for easy writing. Sometimes, he would even give me a large roll of papyrus, which was the most fragile of the writing materials, susceptible to both moisture and heat.
Becoming a proficient keeper of records in an empire that relied on its administrative skill to prosper made me a valuable commodity to my father. I developed the ability to speak and interpret several languages in a kingdom that faced multitudes of linguistic barriers, and daily needed to overcome them in order to function. I also learned to practice the art of accounts keeping. I could now help my father increase his commissions.
Aunt Leah visited less and less often once I began to apply myself to learning. I suspect she never fully reconciled herself to Cousin Nehemiah's pronouncement. Yet it was more than that. As I gained free access to the scribe's world, I grew less tolerant of hers. I spent fewer hours in her company. My intense work schedule gave me a reasonable excuse to escape her attempts at drawing me into her woman's world. My father hired a servant to help with housekeeping once a week, and I did my best to care for our daily needs.
Once my aunt would have fought me and brought me under some form of discipline. But I think the combination of my father, Nehemiah, and me was too much for her.
I doubt my cousin had intended that I should grow into womanhood with no feminine influences. Yet that is what I managed to accomplish by my stubborn refusal to give my aunt room in my life. By the time I was twenty, I was more scribe than woman. My aunt, tired out by my constant rejections, finally gave up.
* * *
Cousin Nehemiah would visit us on occasion to check on my progress. Once he brought his own parchment and asked me to read. I unrolled the fragile papyrus on my father's small desk to find a beautifully crafted Hebrew text.
"I cannot read this, my lord."
"You do not read Hebrew?" He raised one eyebrow. "The language of your own people?"
I shrugged. "It's of little use in court documents."
Excerpted from HARVEST of RUBIES by TESSA AFSHAR Copyright © 2012 by Tessa Afshar. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Tessa Afshar was voted New Author of the Year by the Family Fiction-sponsored Reader’s Choice Award 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. She was born in Iran, lived there for fourteen years and attended an English boarding school before moving to the United States. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has served in Christian work ever since.
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The only thing bad about this book is that we have to wait fot the next one! Well thouht out and written. The author is a word-smith, her style is intellegent & compelling. As a guy who typically leans toward the sci-fi, adventure, military novels, etc., I found this book (& her other book) just as fulfilling a read, actually moreso. You won't be disappointed.
Tessa Afshar transports us to an ancient time for a story that will touch any woman today who ever has struggled with defining herself through her work and accomplishments. The writing is a cut above for the genre and Afshar incorporates well developed characters, history, humor, mystery and biblical truths to weave an interesting and encouraging tale that will have you tapping your foot in impatience for her next book.
What an incredible book! I tend to devour books; I can go through one or two a day. Rarely have I read a book that I immediately wanted to reread. This book was full of spiritual insight, had plenty of historical detail, and was also really excellent fiction. I don't find that combination often! It really helped change my perspective on a few things and has actually helped both my marriage and my relationship with God. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed the book!! The time period was fascinating; I haven't read many books set in this part of history, and the author described it with such detail (while somehow avoiding seeming tedious) I felt like I was actually there! I don't know if I have ever fallen in love with characters the way I did with Sarah and Darius. Sarah was just so beautifully normal, so incredibly relatable, so flawed and yet so likeable. Even now, I almost think of her as a fond friend. Darius was - sigh, such a hearthrob! I almost fell in love with him right along with Sarah! Their dialogue and chemistry was wonderfully written. And oh, the spiritual truths buried in this book! I feel like it has permanently changed my life! For one thing, the author illustrates so beautifully and poignantly how our true worth is not in what we look like or what we do, how smart or brilliant we are, or any of the other things we try to turn to to find our value, it's completely in how we are loved and treasured by God. She also pointed out something I had never heard before - that in Scripture, David's "why?" of God was different than our typical "why?" (I'll let you read it to find out the specifics) This was sooo convicting and has settled my relationship with God in a lot of ways - I was letting my questions make me doubt his goodness. Her depiction of us as the vine and God as the vinedresser was the best I've ever heard, probably because she told it from the point of view of an actual gardener - I feel like I grasp this illustration so much better now. And lastly, it might be a little shallow, but I have really struggled with the idea of beauty - what is our culture's idea of beauty, what is God's idea of beauty, and what the truth actually is. Through Sarah's experiences, I feel like I understand it so much better in a way I haven't before! I can't wait for Tessa's next book! Already pre-ordered!
Set in 457 BC in the Kingdom of Persia, Harvest of Rubies follows the story of the prophet Nehemiah's cousin, Sarah. Seeking to win the attention and approval of her father, Sarah teaches herself to read and write, a normally unacceptable occupation for a woman in her society. When cousin Nehemiah learns of this, he encourages Sarah in her pursuits, and soon she has learned multiple languages and becomes a gifted scribe. Her gifts lead her to the Persian court, where she becomes the queen's favorite scribe. Just when Sarah has found a measure of worth in her achievements, she foils a plot to cause a rift between the Queen and the King's mother. The Queen seeks to reward her - with an unwanted marriage to a wealthy aristocrat, Darius. Their marriage begins in scandal and scorn, sending Sarah on a path to discover that her real worth lies in unexpected places. Harvest of Rubies is truly a stunning accomplishment, a carefully crafted historical novel featuring a fast moving plot and one of the best heroines I've come across this year. Sarah is completely compelling, a character who doesn't fit into proper society, finding herself in situations that made me laugh out loud and tugged on my heart-strings at the same time. Only pages into the story, I was completely absorbed both by Sarah as a character and by the plot unfolding at a swfit pace. The time period that the story is set in is simply fascinating, from the royal courts to the Persian culture that is so different than my own. I loved the little details the author throws into the story, such as the cook with the marble eye, or the fact that Persian noble woman (at least in that time period) were expected to be proficient in horseback riding and hunting. The story is filled with colourful descriptions, excitement and intrigue, and I guarantee that readers who love historical fiction are absolutely going to love this book. Not only will they be entertained, but their faith will be stirred by the wisdom contained in this book, as Sarah encounters a living God who measures her worth simply by the fact he made her good, and not based on what she may or may not accomplish. I leave you with a quote from early on in the story, where Sarah is told "You may fail; I cannot deny it. But if you go through life making every decision based on what is safest, you will look back one day and discover that you have missed out on the best". These are indeed powerful words to live by. I highly recommend this story and award it 5 out of 5 stars. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
If you like "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers you'll love "Harvest of Rubies".
I really enjoyed this book. Not many authors tackle this time period (ancient Persian empires and early kings) but this author did so Awesomely! It was like being right there. It was a beautiful story of love and how we often define ourselves by how we "think" others see us. Sarah, the main female character, finally found value in herself, by looking to God and finding her true worth. The love story was about several defining relationships in her life. Can't wait for the sequel.
I enjoyed the book and the author. Looking forward to reading more from her in the future. Her books always make me want to have a deeper walk with the Lord.
The author's opening line pulled me into the story and didn't let go of me until the end. I normally don't read first person novels because of their shallowness, but Tessa Afshar is a champion of writing deep, riveting point of view. I related to Sarah's feelings of low self worth and rejoiced at her growth and maturity as the story progressed. Buy Harvest of Rubies today!
I loved the unusual perspective of Nehemiah (the cupbearer) from a relative's (cousin) point of view. I selected this book because of the author. I read "Pearl in the Sand" which was probably the most gripping rendition of Rahab that I have ever read. I was amazed and delighted buying this book strictly on the author's previous ability to tell a tale. I am tremendously disappointed with the ending and feel it is just a tool to lure one to the next in the series. Lure the reader by an intriguing plot and imaginative story-telling, not just to get money out of the audience. I for one do not like manipulation. I am willing to spend dollars for good material, not because public relations says that tricking the reader will induce the reader to buy. The B & N audience is not unintelligent. You have lost my support.
Powerful Biblical fiction! For the first time in my 20+ years of reading a book did what I thought was the impossible. I have gone through the gamut of emotions with the characters in literally hundreds of novels. Some of them tugged at the heartstrings and some were sad, but until Harvest Of Rubies not one book had brought me to tears. In those pages Nehemiah tells Sarah that her worth isn't defined by her abilities and that she has been hiding behind the gifts God gave her. Those words struck like one of Darius's arrows. I don't have a Nehemiah to tell me the truth and I don't yet have the hope of a Darius. But what I do have is that same God using the pages of a novel, penned by a woman who's life has been far removed from mine, to tell me that it is His opinion alone that matters and that His view of me is much different than how others, and even I, see myself. Honestly, it is how IT made me feel and even think, that makes Harvest Of Rubies such a good book in my opinion. Yes, the book is well-written; the research and rich detail that Tessa Afshar put into it are wonderful. But is the way she caught my attention and made me feel as if Nehemiah and the others were speaking directly to me, not preaching at me, but telling the honest-to-goodness truth. I started reading the book and thanks to the internet being down I had few distractions, I actually finished it over the course of the afternoon. Even now after I have finished it I still find my mind going back to what I read. A truly good book is one that long after you might forget the character's names you still remember what it contained. I am usually fairly skeptical of Biblical fiction, questioning how accurate to the Bible and history the book is, but Tessa Afshar has won me over as a new fan with Harvest Of Rubies. (I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers/River North in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.
Enjoyable read! The author writes very well and the main character was different from most main characters. Enjoy!
I could not put this book down. Very good story. I love this author.
The best book ever!!!!!!!!!
Loved it. Well written. Could not put it down.
Wonderful historical novel! Harvest of Rubies has quickly become a favorite of mine. I'm writing this review after reading it for the second time, and I believe I may have enjoyed it more this time than the previous, if that's even possible! This book is written in the first person, from the point of view of Sarah, the main character. I loved the voice Ms. Afshar gives her. She speaks occasionally as though remembering a past event, or as if she is telling this story to someone. She is sarcastic, sassy, and has a rather droll sense of humor, something with which I relate. I can just hear her saying certain things with that dry humor and it cracks me up! Sarah is awkward and speaks without thinking, which endeared her to me even more. She is so real. I loved that! She has spent most of her life finding her self worth in how well she performs a task. She doesn't see herself as worthy of attention and believes she must earn the love and approval of others. Seeing her learn and grow in faith was my favorite part of the book! While there are several conversations throughout the book that I enjoyed immensely - I liked the metaphors used and how Sarah links things to what she knows of God's character - I think my favorite was the discussion between her and Nehemiah, her cousin, when he tries to show her where she should find her worth - in God. That particular discourse sticks out in my mind. "But do you think the Lord counted them [Adam and Eve] worthy because of their abilities?" . . . "They hadn't even begun their work yet when He made His first pronouncement over them. He called them very good when they hadn't achieved a single thing." - Nehemiah, page 266 Her husband, Darius, is an interesting character. We see him through her eyes, which means we don't often know what he is thinking, but surprisingly, this didn't bother me like it normally would. Ms. Afshar does such a great job of letting us know what is going on with him and showing us who he is, that even without the story coming from his point of view, we come to know him quite well. He seems hard and arrogant at first, but as we get to know him, we see another side of him. I enjoyed his and Sarah's conversations, their sparring and comebacks making me laugh and smile. As much as I didn't want the book to end, I'm happy to know that it isn't the end of their story. We see them again in Harvest of Gold! I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Biblical historical fiction!
Storyline? Perfectly excuted . Style of writing? Different, it was the kind i'm not paticularly used to reading ,but i read this... quite well. Story? Nice the christian background was realistic. But, it still needed work. Characters ... they didn't hit it off for me. There was some i liked, then there were some i didn't
Very realistic characters and scenes. I was transported to another life in this book. Highly recommend
This is only 3 Chapters . It IS ONLY A SAMPLE. A good story that I will more than likely purchase. I give this three CHAPTER SAMPLE FIVE STARS, AS IT DOES SUCK YOU IN FROM THE START . BUT AGAIN ONLY 3 CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK YOU WILL NEED TO BUY.
A riveting story, a relatable heroine, and a solid spiritual backing - this book quickly became a new favourite of mine. The story follows Sarah, newly occupied as the queen's scribe. The story quickly escalates to her arranged marriage to Persian aristocrat and all the excitement that follows. One thing about this book was that I could NOT put it down. Even from the beginning, I was intrigued by Sarah's character and rooted in the Persian culture. As the story progressed, it was painful to have to close it and wait for the chance to read again. This is the kind of book I looked forward to reading after coming home for the day (a testament to the story). I enjoyed the exciting story, but I also felt a very close bond with Sarah, the main character. Not only was I wholly engaged in the plot and the character development. Afshar surprised me with her threads of spirituality woven into the story. Sarah's walk with God was most important, and it contributed to who she was and how she behaved as a character. I think it's easy to come across as preachy or repetitive when incorporating a message of faith, but this book managed to convict me and have me praying as I was reading; I found Sarah's journey in faith to be incredibly illuminating to my own. I had read Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar previously, so I figured I would enjoy this book. What I didn't expect was my insatiable desire to continue reading this story after it was over - needless to say, I will be picking up her next book, Harvest of Gold, in a hurry. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Well written. Interesting time period and story. A most enjoyable read!