This book was recently on one of the Amazon daily deals lists, so I bookmarked it for future reading and gave it a go. It seemed like an interesting mix of religious romance (think Hallmark), historical fiction, and a mashup of Jewish and Persian culture. It was pretty much all of those things!
If you look up the book on Amazon or Goodreads you can see it’s in the three-part “Dangerous Beauty” series also featuring Delilah (of Samson fame) and Bathsheba (of David killing her husband and forcing her to become his wife fame – the Bible is wild). The idea of the series is that generally when the Bible refers to beauty, the word used is more bland and chaste, but in some cases it’s more like “HAWT”. That’s how these women were described. I think the goal of the series is to humanize these characters to draw out their personhood and the drama of what they endured.
The historical tidbits were my favorite part of the book. Hunt spent time on research and consideration of which names and even spelling of names to use for real-life figures, and also peppers in a lot of cultural notes including things like palace layouts, diets, the lives of eunuchs and concubines, and more. You realize how little control most people had over their lives. That’s useful in that it reminds us to be more sensitive of vulnerable people in the present.
The romantic aspect of the book was largely non-existent to me, as poor Esther spends the early part of her life trying to avoid an arranged marriage only to get drawn in to the king’s harem. There’s not much romance in that. Perhaps the “Dangerous Beauty” moniker is meant to show that being beautiful brings unwanted attention and danger. I’m not sure.
I’m interested in reading other books in the series, especially the Bathsheba book, because she had a pretty traumatic run of things and I’d like to read more about her perspective (or at least Hunt’s thoughts on it).