About the book:
An inspired re-imagining of the tale of Esther, a young Jewish woman thrust from a life of obscurity into a life of power, wealth, intrigue . . . and tender love.
See the story of Esther in an entirely new way-with all the political intrigue and tension you remember, but told as a passionate and tender love story between a young man and woman. Misunderstood by many, King Xerxes was a powerful but lonely man. Esther's beauty caught the eye of the young king, but it was her spirit that captured his heart.
Imagine anew the story of Esther, one of our faith's great heroines, destined to play a key role in the history of Christianity.
I knew from the outset that this book was not going to be a retelling of the story of Esther using actual Biblical events, so the fact that a number of elements didn't follow the Bible's account of what happened didn't bother me. I also appreciated the fact that the author introduced it as a story being told in modern English, or that would have pulled me out of the story at times. I don't believe there was such a thing as Palestinian back in Esther's day. That's a more modern term. A few times the author switched point of view without warning, but I caught up quickly. I found her writing to be easy to follow, for the most part. Her characterization was definitely her greatest strength.
Overall I really enjoyed the story. I found the motivation of each character to be believable even if it did not follow the way the Bible presents the story as it actually happened. The "love story" aspect of this novel was what intrigued me enough to want to read it. The fact that it was told with romantic themes made it that much more satisfying to me. The way that Esther did not want to be chosen and then found herself in that very situation was compelling. Then to discover she was attracted to him and actually liked him as a person made the love story that much more intriguing. I enjoyed experiencing their developing feelings along with them. I really liked the king and found him to be compassionate as well as heroic. Their passion for each other was palpable and very gratifying in a wholesome sort of way. Nothing was gratuitous and every love scene added to the story, in my opinion.
I am thrilled to see so many options for readers when it comes to Biblical fiction. It's one of my favorite genres. As long as the author clearly states they fictionalized many aspects and changed things about the story to create their novel I am fine with it. However, if it had been presented as fact I would have had an issue with that. I don't recall Esther being reluctant or Mordecai being so politically driven when I read the Biblical account, but the Bible doesn't always delve into motivation, so that can be left to interpretation. This story itself was thoroughly enjoyable, and I plan to read more of Joan Wolf's novels in the future. She really knows how to pull a reader in so they forget they are reading a book and instead feel like they are experiencing the fictional realm with the characters. I love that!
A Reluctant Queen was published by Thomas Nelson and released in June 2011. A copy of this book was provided to me for review by Litfuse Publicity group, however, the opinion expressed above is entirely my own.