A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther
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A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther

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by Joan Wolf, Brooke Sanford, Brooke Heldman

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You've read it as a biblical tale of courage. Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story. She was a simple girl faced with an impossible choice. He was a magnificent king with a lonely heart. Their love was the divine surprise that changed the course of history. The beloved story of Esther springs to fresh life in this inspired novel that vibrates with mystery,


You've read it as a biblical tale of courage. Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story. She was a simple girl faced with an impossible choice. He was a magnificent king with a lonely heart. Their love was the divine surprise that changed the course of history. The beloved story of Esther springs to fresh life in this inspired novel that vibrates with mystery, intrigue and romance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Historical fiction writer Wolf (The Road to Avalon) has turned the biblical Book of Esther, read in synagogues on the merrymaking festival of Purim, into a novel. She maintains most of the story's primary elements but rearranges them, invents a bit, and changes several attributes of the characters. The hero, Mordecai, appears as Esther's uncle rather than her cousin, as he was in the original biblical tale. More importantly, she reimagines King Ahasuerus, who was originally based on the historical Xerxes, son of Darius and grandson of Cyrus the Great, and makes him the fictional praiseworthy character. The real Xerxes was actually arbitrary and brutal. In Wolf's novel, he plays a minor role as Ahasuerus's brother. Some things don't change. The villain, Haman, who is booed and jeered when his name is mentioned in synagogue readings, is just as nasty a person in the novel as he is in the biblical story. In both, he receives his just desserts. Wolf has succeeded in tidying up the biblical account, reconstructing its people and events while preserving its essential elements and producing an attractive love story. Readers can decide for themselves which version they prefer. (June)
From the Publisher
“Joan Wolf never fails to deliver the best!” —Nora Roberts

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A Reluctant Queen

The Love Story of Esther
By Joan Wolf

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2011 Joan Wolf
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59554-983-9

Chapter One

485 BC

Esther rose early as usual. She dressed in her brown robe and overtunic, fitted her veil over her long black hair, and went out to the courtyard behind her uncle's house to begin making the day's bread—more than she and her uncle needed because she gave some to the old women in their community every day. By the time Mordecai came into the courtyard, she had kneaded the dough and set the loaves out to rise.

"Tired, Uncle?" Esther asked in a teasing tone as she saw Mordecai yawn. "The Great King's feast kept you up late last night."

Mordecai smiled ruefully. "Far later than I care to be out, chicken. But I had no choice. All of the palace staff was invited and the Head Treasurer would have noticed if I did not appear for the king's birthday."

He took a seat on the bench at the small table in the courtyard and Esther began to assemble their breakfast. The plates contained dates and figs and slices of yesterday's bread, which Esther had warmed in the outdoor oven. She fetched cups of water from inside the house, Mordecai said the blessing over the food, and silence fell as they ate.

Esther waited until her uncle had finished before she spoke again. She and her friends were all curious about the new king, Ahasuerus, who had only recently arrived in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire. It had been a huge surprise two years ago when the old king, Darius, had chosen him over his other son, Xerxes, and it made him an intriguing figure. But the real reason for the girls' interest was the gossip they had heard in the marketplace that the king was the most handsome man who ever lived.

Unfortunately, the Jewish girls who made up Esther's circle would probably never have an opportunity to see this paragon for themselves, but they hoped that Esther's uncle might have seen him at the feast.

"Did you get to see the king, Uncle?"

Mordecai pushed his plate a little away from him. "No, Esther, I did not. We menials were crowded into the Apanada, while the king and the Royal Kin dined inside in splendor. But I must say that we were treated well. There were huge quantities of meat and fowl: horses, camels, oxen, donkeys, deer, ostriches, geese; the countryside must have been decimated to provide so much food. The wine served was from Damascus, I was told, and everyone assured me it was excellent."

"Did you at least take a cup of water?" Esther asked.

Mordecai gave her a stern look and did not reply.

Esther wasn't surprised. The Jewish community to which they belonged held strictly to the Mosaic dietary laws. Even a cup from a Persian kitchen would be unclean for Mordecai.

Esther thought about how thirsty her uncle must have been and sighed. His look grew sterner. "The Law is the Law, Esther. Except if you're that weasel Ezra and his friends. They were eating and drinking without a thought for what it means to be Jewish." His lip curled in disgust. "They were as drunk as the Persians by the end of the evening."

This was one topic that Mordecai could hold forth about for a long time. The Susa Jews were broken into two sects. The smaller one, to which Mordecai belonged, held strictly to Mosaic Law. The other sect, comprised of most of the wealthy Jewish merchants in the city, had assumed many of the ways of the Persians among whom they lived.

Esther nodded impatiently.

Mordecai continued, "It's a disgrace. That the descendants of Abraham and Moses should turn their backs on the Torah and seek to become like these pleasure-loving Persians! It was Nebuchadnezzar who forced us out of our homeland of Judah and dragged us into years of subjugation in Babylon. Now these traitor Jews seek to imitate the very people who enslaved us? Bah! It is disgusting."

Esther tried her best to cheer him. "You taught me the scriptures, so I know that such a thing has happened many times before, and we always survived. We are God's chosen people, Uncle. No matter how many may turn away from the Covenant, we will always triumph in the end."

He grunted, looking only slightly mollified.

Esther attempted to steer the conversation back to their original topic. "Even if you didn't get to see the king last night, I'm sure you will see him soon. After all, you work right there in the palace. And he is going to reside in Susa now, isn't he?"

"Yes, it appears he has decided it is time he took up the reins of government here in the capital. He's been Great King for almost two years, but first there was that rebellion in Egypt that he had to put down, and next he decided to go to his summer palace in Ecbatana to escape the summer heat. But I understand that he has come to Susa for good."

Esther reached across the table for her uncle's empty plate and put it on top of her own. "There is still a chance that Rachel got to go with her brother to the procession through the city yesterday. Ahasuerus was riding in his golden chariot and she might have gotten a good look at him. I know that Sarah and Rebecca weren't allowed to go. Nor was I." This last statement was accompanied by a faintly reproachful look at her uncle.

Mordecai regarded her with a trace of amusement. "I am asking myself, why would a group of nice Jewish girls be so interested in the Great King of Persia?"

Esther grinned. "Because he's supposed to be so magnificently handsome. We want to know if it's true or not."

Mordecai's thin, intelligent face became instantly grave. "I hope you have enough sense not to be swayed by a good-looking face, Esther." His voice was as severe as his expression. "That's what happened to your mother, and look what it brought her."

"It's just a game we're playing, Uncle Mordecai. We're not really interested in the king." Her voice softened. "I will never run away from you, dear Uncle. You have always been so good to me. And I love you."

Mordecai looked away, both embarrassed and touched by her statement. She waited for him to resume the conversation and finally he said, "I may not have seen the king, chicken, but I do have some exciting news to tell you about the feast."

Esther's interest sparked. "You do?"

"Yes, indeed. It was quite an extraordinary thing. None of us in the Apanada saw it, but we heard about it as we were leaving. Soon all of Susa will hear about it, but here is a chance for you to be first with the news to your friends."

Esther's eyes widened and she leaned forward. "What happened?" she breathed.

"The king sent for his wife, Vashti, to show herself at the banquet."

Esther's mouth opened in amazement. Persian women were kept sequestered, allowed to see no males but their husbands or blood kin. Such a summons would be unthinkable in Persian society.

"Before all those men?" she asked.

"Yes." Mordecai raised his graying eyebrows. "And unveiled, because he said he wanted them to see how beautiful she was."

Esther gasped. "A Persian woman would never do that!"

"Exactly. She refused, and apparently that made the king angry. I'm sure he was drunk. All of the Persians had been drinking for days."

"What happened next?"

"The king issued a royal decree, right there in the banquet room. He was angry, but I've heard his anger runs cold, not hot. So he issued this decree, with perfect clarity, stating that Vashti's refusal to obey her husband's request was a violation of her marriage vow and a dangerous example to the women of Persia. Therefore she was no longer his wife."

"But he put her in an impossible situation! It would have been wrong of her to show herself, and it was wrong of her to disobey him. How could she choose correctly?"

"It was a diabolically clever move," Mordecai said with a tinge of admiration in his voice. "Everyone knows he never wanted to marry Vashti. Now he is rid of her."

"I think it was a horrible thing to do." Esther glared at her uncle. "Poor Vashti. How she must feel!"

Mordecai shrugged. "I think Ahasuerus means to rule. Vashti was pushed on him by his father, and now that Darius is dead, Ahasuerus wants a fresh start, unencumbered by a politically connected wife."

"How terrible it must be to be a Persian woman. To be unable to walk to the market or visit friends, to have to cover up your face and hide inside a harem and never get to see the men of your community." She shivered. "I thank God, Uncle Mordecai, that you brought me up to be a Jew."

"You always were a Jew, Esther," Mordecai assured her. "Your father might have been Persian, but a Jew is defined as the child of a Jewish mother. Among our people, the father's blood does not count."

Mordecai rose from his bench. "Now I must wash and go to the palace." He gave a grim little smile. "The place will be buzzing with speculation and gossip. Everyone will want to know what is going to happen next."

Esther watched her uncle depart, but instead of removing the breakfast plates, she leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands. The morning sun was warm, not hot, and it felt comforting on her shoulders and head.

Poor Vashti. Her mind turned to what she had said to her uncle about being glad she had been raised as a Jew.

Her life might have been very different had that not happened. When her mother had been only a little older than Esther was now, she had eloped with a Persian cavalry lieutenant. After her father had been killed in battle, her mother's brother, Mordecai, had taken her mother and Esther home to Susa; Esther had been two years old at the time. Her mother had died when Esther was only six. Since Mordecai had not remarried after the death of his wife, for many years it had been just the two of them in the tidy, mudbrick house in the Jewish quarter of Susa.

Esther knew nothing about her father except that her mother had loved him enough to turn her back on her own family and community to follow him. When Esther was small she had once asked Mordecai to tell her about him, and her uncle had shown that stern face she always obeyed and commanded her never to mention her father to him again. She had never done so.

But sometimes she thought about this Persian father of hers, who had stolen her mother's heart and then died tragically at a young age. Her mother must have been brave. Esther knew she could never do such a mad thing. She was comfortable in her familiar surroundings: her small, tight community; her friends; her beloved Uncle Mordecai. She was fifteen and knew that one day she would get married. She liked her best friend's brother, Abraham, and she thought he liked her. But she was in no hurry to leave home. No hurry at all.

* * *

That afternoon Esther joined the other women from her street for their weekly visit to the local market. All of the Jews in her community patronized this particular market because it was the only place in Susa that offered meat and fowl that had been ritually killed and dressed by a trained Jewish butcher.

Esther's clothing was nicer than the clothes she wore to work around the house; today she wore a long white tunic encircled with a narrow leather belt, and over that a shorter robe in green that opened at the front. Her long black hair was braided, wound into a bun and covered by a light veil with a simple gold fillet. On her feet she wore soft leather sandals. It was a style of dress adapted to the hot climate of Persia, and most inhabitants of Susa, male and female, wore some variation of it.

Esther walked through the familiar narrow streets of her neighborhood chatting to her neighbor, Naomi. Naomi had always looked out for Esther, inviting her over to spend time with her own children so Esther would not be lonely. After the initial polite greetings, Esther related the tale she had heard from Mordecai about what had happened at last night's feast. Some of the other women overheard what she was saying, and by the time they reached the market everyone had the news.

The Jewish women kept together as they made their way from stall to stall. The market was both noisy and colorful: the cries of the vendors, the chatter of Aramaic spoken with the accents of countries from all over the empire, the stalls heaped with colorful produce from the countryside, even live lambs and bullocks for slaughter. Esther and Naomi were examining a display of delicious-looking pomegranates when they heard someone call Esther's name. Both women turned their heads.

"Rachel!" Esther said in surprise. "What are you doing here?" Rachel was Esther's closest friend, a small, dark girl with the long-lashed eyes of a deer. Since her father was a rich merchant, the servants usually did all of their household shopping.

A young man stepped up to stand beside Rachel. "She has a nice piece of gossip that she can't wait to tell you, that's what she's doing here."

"Abraham." Esther smiled up at her friend's tall, well-built brother. "Did she make you bring her?"

"She did," he replied.

"We went to your house first and when you weren't there, I remembered this was your market day," Rachel explained.

Naomi commanded, "Come away from the stall, girls. We are impeding people who wish to buy." She shooed the young people out of the way, then turned to Rachel. "Now, what is this gossip that is so urgent you must seek Esther out at the market to tell it to her?"

"The king has put away Vashti!" Rachel said, looking around to see the effect her dramatic revelation had on the others.

Naomi's face broke into a small, satisfied smile. "Oh, that. We already know all about that from Esther."

Rachel's face fell and she turned to Esther, her brown eyes bright with accusation. "Your uncle told you! Why didn't you come right away to tell me?"

"I was going to come to your house after I finished the marketing," Esther apologized.

"Isn't it dreadful?" Rachel demanded. "He put her away for not obeying his command to show herself. How could she be expected to do that?"

"Uncle Mordecai thinks he wanted to get rid of Vashti for political purposes."

Abraham nodded agreement. "It's politics, all right. The court is divided into the party that wants to go to war against Greece and the party that doesn't. Vashti's family evidently belonged to the wrong party."

Esther shivered at the thought of how terrible it must be to have your whole life ruled by the vagaries of politics. "I'm glad I'm not a Persian woman," she said.

"Me too," Rachel agreed.

Naomi looked from one girl to the other. "A Jewish woman can be divorced against her will, girls. You must know that."

"Yes, but that can only happen if the wife has committed adultery," Rachel replied.

"That's not true," Naomi said. "A Jewish man can put his wife away by simply giving her a bill of divorcement. The marriage is immediately dissolved, even if the wife doesn't agree."

Rachel frowned. "But doesn't he have to give a reason?"

Naomi patted her arm. "Believe me, Rachel, if a man wants to get rid of a woman, he will find a reason."

Rachel was horrified. "But ... if the wife is forced to leave her husband, where does she go?"

"She goes home to her parents. Where else can she go?"

The autumn sun was warm, but Esther suddenly felt chilled. If her future husband should grow tired of her, could he divorce her because she was half-Persian? She pulled her robe closer to her body. It was as if the tightness and security of her little community had suddenly been breached and the world was a less kind and stable place than she had thought.

* * *

That evening, over supper in the courtyard, Esther asked Mordecai if what Naomi had said about Jewish divorce was true. He confirmed that it was.

She toyed with her bread, her eyes avoiding his. "What if that should happen to me?"

"It won't happen to you, chicken. No man would ever want to put you away."

"You say that because you love me, Uncle Mordecai."

"Esther, look at me." He waited until her eyes were looking directly into his. "Do you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you."

"Then know that I would never give you into the keeping of a man whom I did not think would take care of you for the rest of your life. Do you trust me to do that?"

She smiled. "Yes, Uncle Mordecai, I do."

"Then finish your dinner," he said with mock sternness, and obediently she took a bite of her fish.

Excerpted from A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf Copyright © 2011 by Joan Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. 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

Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life with her husband in Connecticut, where she raised two children and countless numbers of assorted animals. Joan is the author of numerous historical novels including The Road to Avalon which Publishers Weekly lauded as "historical fiction at its finest."

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Reluctant Queen 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good! Some of it is fiction, but that is sometimes necessary to create and hold interest in a story. This story was already beautiful in the Bible. Now its riviting!
rebecca446 More than 1 year ago
While this is not the verse by verse bibical story of Esther, it is a beautiful love story between a man and a woman from different backgrounds, beliefs and culture, and a God and his nation. I look forward to more by this author.
teach10 More than 1 year ago
Characters are well thought out and developed. I especially liked that the author explained the social customs of the time period in her retelling of the story. Will reread again-one of my favorites!
MPadrelanan More than 1 year ago
Political intrigue, mystery, suspense and romance make up the plot for A Reluctant Queen - The Story of Esther by Joan Wolf. In this book, Ms. Wolf takes the story of Esther, the Queen of Persia, who risks her life to save the Jews from annihilation, and turns it into a fictional love story between Esther and Ahasuerus. Esther, a young Jewish girl, who was brought up by her uncle Mordecai, is convinced by her uncle to join the King's search for a new queen. Believing that this is God's direction in order for her to save her people, the Jews, she obeys her uncle. Her hope is that the King will not find her suitable to be his queen. After months of preparation, Esther is finally presented to the KIng. King Ahasuerus was so taken by Esther's beauty, honesty and intelligence that he immediately declares his search for the queen finally over. Now Esther must prepare her heart and mind to become not just the Queen, but the wife of a man she hardly knows. Will she be able to love him truly? As the Bible story goes, Haman, the King's trusted friend and 2nd-in-command plots to kill Mordecai and destroy all Jews. Now Esther must act to save her people from sure death. The big problem she faces is that the King has no idea that she, too, is a Jew. How can she face him now and tell him that all he knew about her is a Lie? Will the King divorce her as he had done with his previous wife, Vashti? Will she be able to save her uncle Mordecai from the hands of the treacherous Haman? Will she be able to save the Jews from annihilation? MY THOUGHTS Joan Wolf is a great storyteller! I have always believed that Esther's story was so amazing. As presented in A Reluctant Queen, Joan Wolf made Esther's love story even more beautiful and real. For two nights in a row, I have been living in the King's Palace in Susa. I witnessed Esther's growth from a terrified young girl, to a beautiful, self-assured Queen. The story is so powerful and moving. If it wasn't close to morning last night, I would have read it straight through. I loved how the love story of Esther and Ahasuerus was told, interspersed with many different supporting characters and sub-plots. Despite all the characters involved, the story flowed smoothly and beautifully. And behind it all, we witness how God's hand is at work in the life of Esther and that God's plans will be followed. I cannot say anything more except that, out of all the fiction I have read, this is by far, the best! Disclosure: I received a free Digital Galley of this book from Net Galley. However, I will receive a copy of this book for free from Litfuse Publicity. Both are given to me in exchange for this review.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Joan Wolf in her new book, "A Reluctant Queen" published by Thomas Nelson takes us back in history to the Persian Empire and the time of Esther. The queen of Persian angers her king and is banished. Now the king has a contest to see who will be the new queen. So all the beautiful women are brought to the capital and the king spends the night with them. Esther, who really is a Jewish woman, finds out all the likes of the king and is prepared for her night with him. He is so taken with her Esther becomes queen. Haman becomes a trusted advisor to the king and plots to eliminate all the Jews from the Empire. How Esther is able to foil this plot could only be a Biblical event. Ms. Wolf took an exciting book from the Bible and has done an admirable work in adapting it to a fiction book. Ms. Wolf has made it much more romantic than the Bible portrays it but that is perfectly fine. Ms. Wolf states, in her author's note, that she compressed certain events; a 3 day fast becomes 1, 2 banquets become one and certain events are eliminated all together. This is where I have a problem. We take our historical fiction writers to task when they break from total accuracy and rightly so after all this is history we are talking about. When it comes to Bible stories I feel that the need for accuracy is even more required. After all this is The Bible we are talking about. I don't feel putting the scenes in would have destroyed the pacing actually, I feel, it would have increased the suspense and drama. Other than this issue Ms. Wolf has done a great job and I commend her for it. If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to Kingdom Highlights where they are available On Demand. To listen to 24 hours non-stop Christian music please visit our internet radio station Kingdom Airwaves Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read but if you are expecting it to be according to the Holy Bible, you will be disappointed. And the writer is greatly mistaken when, at the end of the book, he states there was no king Ahasuerus. The Holy Bible clearly states in The Book of Esther that, yes, there was the king named Ahasuerus. But writers and script writers of movies have always taken creative license, especially when it comes to stories of the Bible. But really, a great book. I couldn't put it down.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
I am really loving this series of book about the lives of women from the bible. While I'm sure much of it is dramatized to help fill in the blanks in their stories, the way Joan Wolf brings them to life is amazing. She keeps them true to their story while filling in the little details to really bring them to life. Ester finds herself in a world completely different from her own when she is offered to King Ahasuerus as a potential bride. She must pretend not to be a Jew in the hopes that he will pick her from his harem filled with beautiful women as a wife. She is shocked to find herself chosen and is conflicted as to what she should do. There was a very touching and sweet romance in these pages as Esther and Ahasuerus came to know one another. It made Esther's deceit that much more difficult to manage. She also doubts her place in the plan her people have put together. Why would a great king listen to her about matters of any importance? But she is more important than any of them realize, and she is destined to help the Jewish people and save them in many ways. Ester became a very strong person as the story progressed, and even Ahasuerus was changed as he came to know her. A very moving story that I think anyone can enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book,but several things the author wrote are inconsistent with what the Bible wrote and that disappointed me a little bit. I wish the author would have stuck more to the Bible and researched about what she wrote. I did enjoy it though,I liked how Esther really comes to love the king,and there are several other things I appreciated. Quite a good book overall :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReenaJacobs More than 1 year ago
Despite Esther being one of my favorite biblical stories, I wasn’t sure about this work when I first started. The writing focused on quite a few mundane descriptions written like a laundry list, and I feared the entire book would be muddled with them. As the story progressed, it was as if the author got so wrapped up in telling the story, she forgot to throw in the drab descriptions. It was wonderful. I went from wanting to skim the passages to wanting to take in every word. Truly, The Reluctant Queen was an interesting take on the story of Esther. I never knew what to expect or how Esther would handle each situation. The king. He was a very attractive character. Despite the many problems he faced, he never lost his cool, always waited until he had the relevant facts before making a decision. A wise king. You’d think he was King Solomon. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic toward his plight. Speaking of sympathetic… one character I didn’t expect to feel any for was Haman. Ms. Wolf did a wonderful job giving him motive and making him human. He was actually a character I could root for and mentally say, “Don’t do it!” Despite knowing the biblical story, I hoped for the best for Haman. He was like the Sandman in Spiderman. “I’m not a bad person, I’ve just have bad luck.” Of course, Haman had a hand in his bad luck. Still… couldn’t help but feel bad for him. Bottom line: Ms. Wolf mentioned taking liberties with the story and embellishing at times. I think by doing so, she created a culturally rich piece with a realistic and fresh take. Over all, this was an enjoyable story of Esther. I received this work from the publisher in exchange for a review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AndreaLisa More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written book about a young lady named Esther. It is the tale of the emotions and courage of a young girl who had to leave her comfort zone and enter a totally foreign world, in order to serve a purpose way bigger than she could ever dream of. It¿s about love, friendship and most of all seeing the hand of God at work in all things. The story of Esther has always been a favourite of mine and although this book is a work of fiction, I found it so intriguing and believable. I fell in love with this book and could hardly put it down. It was both romantic and a bit suspenseful, it allowed me to understand more about the world Esther lived in and admire her even more. The author did a wonderful job in turning this into a wonderful love story. Although this i in the Bible, there are some twists to it; it¿s a wonderful book. She did a wonderful job in presenting each of the main characters. This book will pull you in, it caused me to reflect upon the actual story of Esther more and somehow it made me understand more about how great the sacrifice Esther and Mordecai gave. No matter what our story is, God¿s hand is in it, and this was plainly shown throughout this book. I found it both inspiring and entertaining and didn¿t want it to end. I would definitely recommend this book to all those who loved a wonderful love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've gotten a new book from booksneeze, and it's a good one. ? Before I get started, however, I need to say that because of some law thing, I'm under no obligation to give this book a good review and that I received this book for free from the booksneeze program offered by thomas nelson. Okay, now that that's done, let me tell you about this book. "A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther" by Joan Wolf is a- you guessed it- retelling of the biblical account of Esther. I've always loved the story of Esther in the Bible- parts made me sad, satisfied, and at points I felt slightly guilty for giggling at the circumstances (Like Haman hanging on his own gallows. Now who can say ironic?) But at its core, I believe Esther is a story of one young girl's obedience to God and in turn causing a great chain of events to occur that would forever shape a nation, a people, and an empire. Now this book, in my own opinoin, focused more on the romantic part. Or maybe, quite honestly, it was just me. But all in all, I would say that this was a good book. Four out of five stars?
ForstRose More than 1 year ago
While I am fascinated with different takes on the story of Esther and as such was excited about this book I also wondered whether it would be another of the "same" books with a different name because so many books based on this Biblical narrative have been published in recent years. Though this author takes what I would consider significantly more creative license in her book than most authors, this has also allowed her to bring a completely different perspective to a story I've known well for many years. Wolf has fleshed out her fictional Esther in ways that I believe no other writer has with this character. Even the secondary characters in this novelized Esther become richer and deeper as a result of Wolf's research and creativity. For those that want a Bible Study or true to scripture sort of presentation/take on Esther then please read this understanding that it is a novel and thus fictional as well as that the author intentionally veers from the scriptural facts purposely for the sake of plot and characters that make the book. If fiction and the Bible don't mix in your opinion then I suggest sticking to non-fiction or scripture itself however I personally find that reading historical fiction that is inspired from scriptural events brings a deeper, richer understanding of people and circumstances from a time and place I will never have the opportunity to experience first hand. Wolf as I mentioned has brought an entirely new dimension to Esther, several secondary characters from the scriptures regarding her experience, Susa and it's place in the Persian empire at this juncture. Politics plays a part as it must but Esther's placement in the palace and her relationship with Persia's then king as his queen takes on a tone of God-Ordained circumstances that all intersect just perfectly for Mordecai to place a Jew in a position to advocate for their people. The path to her joining the harem is much more meditated and calculated on Mordecai's part than the Bible story but Esther's attitude is also less resigned to what will be to the point she actually intends to make herself as unpalatable to the king as she can with the intent to escape what she sees as a forced imprisonment where the cultural and societal rules she was raised under are entirely reversed. Thanks to Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze Program for a review copy.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
The Book of Esther is one of my favorite Bible stories from childhood because I had been enamored by a lovely illustrated version (at least, that's what I remember, although I do not recall the title). Among all the patriarchs and strong male figures of the Bible, it is great to see the few women like Esther as role models of strength and bravery. While her story focuses more on finding the courage to express her faith, I have always viewed the Book of Esther as a beautiful love story. A Reluctant Queen definitely brings the romance to life between Esther and the Great King of Persia without losing the main Biblical message. I loved how the Great King was portrayed - how decent and intelligent he was! Not to mention his good humor, especially when Esther forgot that he was King and spoke her mind freely. The greatest moments are when the King teases Esther for getting embarrassed by what she says without thinking. Their relationship started on barely nothing except a royal whim, but it blossomed - how it blossomed! - into something that made me dance with delight! The only part I had trouble with was how Haman turned into the villain. In the original story, he is the one who is hell-bent on getting rid of all Jews and tries to utilize his trusted position with the King to do so. He focuses most of his anger toward Esther's uncle Mordecai. He seemed truly the villain! In A Reluctant Queen, Haman holds such a close, intimate friendship with the King. To watch him get that wrapped up in his personal issues and forget to protect his friend makes it seem like he became possessed by the Devil. I cannot fathom how blinded by jealousy Haman became in the end! It seemed a little random given how devoted he had been to the King's well-being - which I suppose that was how the King and Esther felt when they discovered his betrayal! Joan Wolf created such a richly-detailed retelling that will surely captivate anyone who loves a good, tasteful romance! There is no better place to learn about Esther's story than A Reluctant Queen - I guarantee that you will fall in love with Esther and her people!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MarjorieVawter More than 1 year ago
I've always been fascinated by Esther's story. And I've long been of Joan Wolf's opinion that there must have been a true love between Esther and Ahasuerus for him to do what he did in removing Haman and giving Esther's people a way to defend themselves against the threat Haman posed. So when I was given a chance by Litfuse to review Joan Wolf's debut CBA novel, A Reluctant Queen, I jumped at the chance. It also helps that I'm leading the discussion as my Sunday School class studies Beth Moore's study on Esther. I'm fascinated at the perspective Joan Wolf has taken with fleshing out the story of Esther, bringing the characters and the time alive a little differently than the traditional interpretations of the times usually give us. But as always, I'm pulling for Esther, the brave woman who yielded herself to God to be the servant queen He needed her to be "for such a time as this." If you are a fan of biblical fiction, I highly recommend this retelling of a familiar Bible story, A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn"t realize that this book was written for a young girl. I suppose that a young girl would be interested, but frankly I was bored. I have read several books on the subject and this was the least interesting.
BabyGirlJ More than 1 year ago
I chose this book to review because Esther's story is such a profound one, and I was curious to see how the author retold it. I know that when writing historical fiction, especially Biblical stories, it is usually necessary to take some creative licensing with it, to expand the story to make it novel-length, and to give it a deeper feel and setting, as well as to develop the characters. The first chapter of this book started out slow, and the rest of the chapter was pretty much the same. Everything felt very "tell-y" and would have made a much more interesting read had there been more "showing". I didn't get a real feel for setting or characters. But, since that's not unusual, I kept reading. The author did take a lot of creative license (she does include an author's note explaining this). To be honest, I just couldn't finish this book. The characters never really "clicked" for me; I wasn't really concerned about what happened to them. They just didn't seem to have deep enough personalities-at some points, Esther came across as sort of bratty, which made sense in some scenes, and not in others. Also, the persecution of the Jews doesn't come into the story as a plot point until very late in the book, and it almost doesn't seem like it's very important. I just couldn't get into this story. Others may enjoy it though, so if you like, give it a try. * There are several sexual references and scenes (not very in-depth or graphic). Just a heads-up. * I received this book free from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program in exchange for an honest review.
BethRBR More than 1 year ago
When I first began reading this book, I was taken aback by the author changing some of the Biblical facts in the novel. After some outside encouragement, I decided to give the novel another chance. I am so glad I did. The story of Esther is one of my favorites in the Bible, probably due to the hero actually being a heroine. In the novel, A Reluctant Queen, the author Joan Wolf has created a fictional account of the Biblical story of Esther. At first glance all you many notice is the changing of some Biblical facts. But if you look more closely, you will see the author has done some thorough research. I actually learned some new things while reading the novel, because I did my own research in the Bible and on Persia to see what facts matched up with the novel. I don't have time to list everything here, but I will give you some examples. In the novel the Royal family takes a journey to Ecbatana, the capital city of Media. In the fictional story it is a long journey taking many days. I have looked at Biblical archaeological maps, and Ecbatana is an actual city that lies within a mountain range and it appears to be accurately portrayed as to the length of time it would take to arrive there by foot and by horse. Also, Hatach in the novel is a eunuch assigned to attend to Esther. In the actual account in the Old Testament, Hatach is a real person and is referred to as chamberlain in the King James Version of the Bible. In my research I found out that the word chamberlain would be more accurately translated "eunuch." This is another example in the novel of an accurate Biblical fact. I had never noticed Hatach before I believe because so much attention is always given to Hegai. These are just but two examples and for brevity's sake, I won't go on. This novel turned out to be my favorite book I have gotten from Booksneeze so far. It was romantic, yes, but there was so much more to it than that. It is a fictional account, without a doubt, but the author did such a beautiful job with the story that it draws you to the scriptures. The character of the king is warm and wise, and I don't know how she did it, but she developed him to such a point that she made him almost Christ-like. It made me wonder who the savior is in the actual account. Esther? Mordecai? Or was it Xerxes, because the Biblical account's main objective is the salvation and preservation of the Jews. Usually, I give a list of people I recommend this book for. Not this time. This time I just want to simply say, I recommend this book. Many blessings to you and Happy Reading! ~Beth Jeremiah 29:11 *Disclaimer: I received this book from Booksneeze as part of a free books for bloggers program. I am not required to give a favorable review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.