Picking up where the biblical book of Esther leaves off, THE HADASSAH COVENANT traces the fate of a concubine named Leah whose Jewish ancestry prevents her from becoming the queen of Persia during the Babylonian exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. Years earlier, Esther, then the queen, had befriended her, and the ongoing exchange of letters between the two women provides crucial clues to historical events that reverberate down to the present day.
Those events place Hadassah (the Jewish name for Esther), the wife of the present-day prime minister of Israel, in the critical role of saving the lives of "hidden Jews" who are being hunted down and killed by militant Muslims in Iraq. Unable or reluctant to leave Iraq decades earlier, many Jews had hidden their ancestry by taking on Arabic names and assimilating into the culture; now their identities have been revealed, and their lives are at stake. Several brutal murders of adults and children have even been shown on television.
The link between the ancient Israelites in Persia and the contemporary Jews in Iraq is Mordecai, Queen Esther's uncle and adoptive father who had served as "exilarch," one who represented the entire Jewish population during the exile. The letters between Esther and Leah, which tell the rest of the story about Mordecai, offer the key to a peaceful resolution to the wave of terror that has struck Iraqi Jews.
Enter the Mossad, the secret service of Israel, and one Mossad agent in particular who discovers and carefully guards the ancient letters as he analyzes their content. He and Hadassah share an important link, and they join forces in applying what they've learned from the past to forging a plan for peace in the present.
Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen do a credible job of imagining what might have happened in the lives of Esther and Mordecai and placing that possibility as a backdrop for present-day tensions in the Middle East. They've done their research, and on a technical level --- the book is highly detailed with regard to secret intelligence and covert operations, and the weapons and technology that make both possible --- it's all plausible. I had no problem believing that any of the governmental or terrorist actions could actually happen. The link with Esther, not so much, though it makes for a great story. Once I got past some of the unlikely scenarios and settled back into the story, I found myself genuinely enjoying it.
From what I gather, if you've read the first book in the series --- HADASSAH: ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING --- you may be a bit let down by this one, which makes me glad I didn't read the first one. With nothing to compare it to, I got caught up in both the present-day story and the ancient letters. Sure, I had a hard time imagining the Israeli prime minister calling his wife "honey" (isn't that a purely American term of endearment?), just as I found it hard to believe that there could be two green-eyed Israelis named Hadassah (the second being a child who narrowly escapes slaughter). And yes, I'd like to circulate a petition calling for a moratorium on green-eyed beauties in Christian novels for at least a decade. But these are minor annoyances and, I suspect, problems for me alone. Same with the cover, which brings the word "cheesy" to mind. But don't judge a book by it and all that. The content is much, much better.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 1, 2005