A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther

( 43 )

Overview

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.

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Joan Wolf never fails to deliver the best!” —Nora Roberts
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609812881
  • Publisher: Oasis Audio
  • Publication date: 6/14/2011
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library Unabridged, Library Edition
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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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First Chapter

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 43 )
Rating Distribution

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(21)

4 Star

(11)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Excellent....didn't want it to end...

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2011

    Worth Your Time and Money - An Excellent Re-telling

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Danger, Court Intrigue, Romance All In One Package

    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.

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    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."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Esther

    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 :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    WATERHOLE

    STEEL PACK

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2013

    Very Good Read.

    Could not put it down.

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  • Posted July 14, 2012

    An interesting take on the story Esther

    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.

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  • Posted April 30, 2012

    Good Read!

    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.

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  • Posted January 2, 2012

    A wonderful love story!

    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.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

    Rich, detailed retelling of a favorite Bible story

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2011

    A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf

    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?

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    Not a Reluctant Read

    A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf is a fictionalized version of the Biblical Queen Esther (The Queen biblical queen from the Book of Esther in the Old Testement). People who studied the bible wouldn't really like this book because it has been extremely romanticized and 'beautified' for the benefit of the readers. For those who are not familiar with the story of Esther would love this book, but for those who are familiar with Esther's story would feel as if there's something missing from this story, mainly Esther's background as Hadassah before she went to the king's harem and raise as queen and whatnot. The author left out a lot of things in this re-telling of Esther's story.

    But then again, this book is much more emotional, passionate and descriptive than the bible. It was well written despite the fact that it has been fictionalized and romanticized and one could definitely the emotional aspect in Esther's journey to be the Queen of Persia and save the Jews from total annihilation.

    This book, like alot of Christian fictions teaches us about following God's plan. Another important message that I believe that the author is sending across through her version of Esther's story is having faith in whatever you do.

    Overall, this is a good read. I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. I received an ARC of this book from Thomas Nelson Publisher. I was not required to write a positive review for this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    New Depth and Richness added to an intriguing story through use of creative license

    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.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    When you got it, flaunt it - but for a good cause!

    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!

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  • Posted June 18, 2011

    Biblical Fiction at Its Best

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    Not recommended for adults

    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.

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  • Posted June 14, 2011

    An Okay read.

    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.

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  • Posted June 14, 2011

    Loved it!

    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.

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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A new look at the story of Esther

    When I first picked up this book I was thinking ok, another Biblical romance about Esther, now you have to understand that Esther is my favorite Bible story, so I have read lots of books about Esther, so after a while you start wondering what can be done that is new in this story. Well I have to say Joan Wolf did it, the whole story was unlike most books written about Esther, I enjoyed that she made it Esther's choice to go into the contest for the queen, I also was very impressed with the King that she presented, this book, did perhaps take a bit more liberty with historical facts than other books do, but it is a work of fiction. I loved watching Esther fall deeply in love with her King!

    It is the classic love story, that one that has been told through out the ages, but with a wonderful individuality. I truly loved this book. Great job Joan Wolf!! 378 pages 5 stars $15.99 US Readers group discussion guide included.


    This book was provided for review purposes only, no payment was received for this review

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A great historical biblical romance~!!

    A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Queen Esther is a fictional account of the biblical story of Esther.

    The story of Esther is one of the few books in the bible that is about a woman. In A Reluctant Queen she is fifteen years old when she agrees to her Uncle Mordecai's scheme to win the ear of the Persian king, Ahasuerus, in order to secure the Jewish lands in Palestine.

    Esther is against the proposal, but enters the marriage contest that the King has decreed. All the beautiful woman are to come before him and he will judge who is most appropriate to become his new wife. Esther believes she will never be chosen, nor does she wish to be, and unhappily complies with all the primping and preening that occurs in order to properly attire herself to meet the King.

    On the day of her interview, Esther vows she will be an unwilling participant and by her actions, make the King wish to choose another. Esther didn't reckon on enjoying Ahasuerus' attention and personality. Growing up in a Jewish household, even though she is part Persian herself, Esther has come to believe that all Persian's are animals who are not to be trusted and when she finds herself liking the King, her life makes a turn in a direction she had hoped it never would.

    On that day that Esther takes her marriage vows, her life is irrevocably changed forever. Will she gain the trust of her husband and make amends for her people, in the name of God?? Or will her love for him keep her voice silent? As Esther comes to realize that their whole relationship is built on lies and that the King upholds the truth before any other moral tenet, she puts her faith in the hands of God and allows her destiny to flourish.

    As far as love stories go, I enjoyed this book. Esther was likeable in her innocence and naivety, although her age bothered me, she didn't come across as a mere fifteen year old girl, but someone older and wiser. I enjoyed reading her innermost thoughts about the patriarchal culture she lives in and her realization that woman were just tokens in a game, appalled and dismayed her and her religious belief system became rocky. I thought Joan Wolf captured that essence of woman remarkably and found it enlightening to read.

    King Ahasuerus was likeable also, his and Esther's romantic spark was a beautiful read. It had a touch of comedic appeal that was charming. I couldn't help but want these two together, without all the politics that lead them to each other involved, that is. The customs and practices of the different cultures was an interesting read, like how the King was able to divorce his first wife, I found that to be very clever.

    Though there are some truths inside the pages, for the most part, the story is a compilation of historical data with some fantasy thrown in. The fact that Xerxes and Ahasuerus were mayhaps the same person, works against having Xerxes as his brother in the novel, you have to keep to heart, that this is a work of fiction. Author Joan Wolf has taken a story, in which historical documentation is fleeting at best and incorporated another angle on the way things could have gone. From a romantic aspect, the book is a well-written, descriptive historical re-imaging of one woman's destiny as God's chosen instrument.

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