The Merchant’s Pearl by Amie O’Brien
Leila (formerly Sarai) is a missionary’s daughter sold into slavery after the death of her parents. Living in the cosseted and catty world of the Turkish Sultan’s harem, her main goal has been to remain unnoticed by the Sultan and his princes until she can make a claim for her freedom. When Prince Emre, the Sultan’s second son, claims her as his newest concubine, all her hopes seem to have been dashed. But Emre has been in love with Leila for years, ever since a disastrous attempt by his father to “gift” her to him. Despite Leila’s fear of physical intimacy, and her hesitation to tie herself into the place of a concubine, a rapport grows between the two. Meanwhile, the increasing instability of the Turkish empire in the face of the Industrial Revolution may provide them with a way out of their respective gilded cages.
O’Brien does a great job setting her story inside a well-researched and lovingly crafted historical setting. Her central characters, Leila and Emre, are crafted with multiple dimensions and feel more real than the typical heaving bosom and tall dark and handsome from romance novels. The story is, overall, more complex than many in the genre.
Ultimately, though, this book just didn’t capture me. The more modern speech was a bit jarring at times, but I can concede the use in these days and times. I’m tempted to think that the problem was on my end, I feel that romance novels for me can be hit or miss. However, I would still recommend this book to fans of historical romance. O’Brien clearly has talent as a writer, and aficionados of the genre will find a lot to like in the book.
A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.