Review

Harvest of Rubies

by Tessa Afshar

Sarah believes she has reached the pinnacle --- a station in life beyond her wildest dreams, doing the work she loves (and in the palace, no less). Her position as the queen’s senior scribe is an anomaly in Persia, where women cannot read and most don’t work. But Sarah is not “most women.” The daughter of a royal scribe, she learned to read and write three languages, starting at the age of 11. Having lost her beloved mother years before, and certain God had forgotten her, Sarah wanted only to capture the attention of her father. Her self-taught reading accomplished that goal.

"There is so much depth to HARVEST OF RUBIES that readers will happily drown in its message of God’s unfailing love and mercy, while diving headfirst into the captivating plot and precarious romance."

The subsequent years of instruction land her a job as the queen’s senior scribe --- a position that surprises and pleases Sarah and her father. But when the queen rewards Sarah’s job-well-done with an unexpected, life-changing gift, Sarah discovers that in God’s eyes, she is like a harvest of rubies --- precious beyond measure for who she is, not what she can accomplish.

Cousin to the prophet Nehemiah, Sarah is happy to be working in the castle, where she can use her reading, writing and bookkeeping skills to manage the queen’s accounts. Being a woman and a Jew, she does not fit in well with her co-workers. Worse, she is far more interested in numbers and linguistics than in clothes and beauty treatments, a quality that sets her apart from the female servants with whom she resides. But Sarah doesn’t need friends --- she has her work, in which she finds true validation.

Sarah’s work ethic and skill prompt the queen to send her on a secret mission involving a theft of funds and a false accusation. When Sarah solves the mystery, she is rewarded by the grateful queen with a gift she never expected and does not want: a husband. Worse, a wealthy aristocrat. Sarah’s perfect life is about to become a nightmare. When the wedding day arrives, Sarah sends the queen’s handmaidens away and tries in vain to prepare herself for her nuptials. She arrives for the wedding looking more like a demon than a bride, which infuriates and embarrasses the queen, as well as Sarah’s groom. Without even consummating the marriage, he leaves her to spend the summer alone at his estate while he stays at the palace. Her only companion is Pari, the handmaiden given her by the queen, and a handful of servants.

Loneliness and depression imprison Sarah. For many weeks, she does nothing but eat, sleep and wallow in self-pity, missing her father and her work, dreading a future with a husband who hates her, wondering why God abandoned her. She is unaware that God is slowly unveiling His plan for her --- a plan that involves a much more fulfilling future than the one she envisioned for herself.

At Pari’s insistence, Sarah finally leaves her room and quickly discovers that the palace steward, Teispes, is betraying her husband, stealing, and allowing his possessions to fall into disrepair. With the help of the old groundskeeper, the cook, her husband’s hunting dog and Pari, she compiles evidence against the steward and presents it to her husband upon his return. He is shocked to learn of the betrayal, but even more so to discover the true heart of his wife. In the weeks that follow, the two slowly shed the feelings spawned by their disastrous wedding. In the meantime, the Psalms of David and long-forgotten scripture verses resound in Sarah’s heart and soul, helping her to see God’s fingerprints on her life, leading her to realize that love, faith and friendship matter far more than her achievements.  

There is so much depth to HARVEST OF RUBIES that readers will happily drown in its message of God’s unfailing love and mercy, while diving headfirst into the captivating plot and precarious romance. Characters are realistically flawed, likable and earthy. Emotions run the gamut from insecurity and fear to passion, pain and the indescribable joy that can only come with the realization of God’s grace. This is a great read!

Reviewed by Susan Miura on May 23, 2012

Harvest of Rubies
by Tessa Afshar