Sarah lost her mother at a very young age, and her father withdrew from her as well. Neglected by her earthly father, following the death of her mother despite her prayers with childlike faith, Sarah loses her faith in her Heavenly Father. Convinced she can only depend on herself, Sarah teaches herself to read and write by age 12, and is delighted when her father takes an interest in her upon discovering she shares the talent of his profession. Encouraged by her cousin Nehemia, the King’s cupbearer, Sarah soon proves to be an even better scribe than her father; consequently, Sarah comes to believe that her worth lies in what she can do and what she can achieve through her work as a scribe. At a young age Sarah advances to the prestigious position of the Queen’s favourite scribe. To thank Sarah for foiling a plot to cause a serious rift with dire consequences between the Queen and the King’s Mother, Queen Damaspia kills Sarah with kindness – she arranges for Sarah to be married to wealthy aristocrat, Darius – the King’s cousin.
Believing Sarah convinced the Queen to arrange this marriage because she wants to be a lady of leisure, Darius dislikes his bride intensely before he’s even met her; and when Sarah inadvertently makes a mockery of their wedding, Darius comes to despise her.
Stuck in a marriage she did not want, stripped of her job - her only means of happiness and confirmation of her worth – Sarah is whisked away from Court to Darius’ estate, only to be abandoned by him immediately. For several months Sarah must wander her husband’s vast estate alone, ostracised and miserable. Stripped of her job, her personal measure of worth, Sarah must do serious soul searching to determine her true worth. Seemingly also abandoned by her friends and family, the only one Sarah can cling to, is God; but can Sarah let go of old hurts and truly open her heart to the Lord once more? Can she come to accept that He loves her, even if she can’t do her job (the only thing she believes she is good at)?
Sarah’s soft nature soon pushes her to befriend Darius’ staff, and she comes to realise his steward, Teispes, rules over them all with an iron fist. Abandoned by her husband, it falls to Sarah to unravel the mysteries surrounding the running of his household and protect his most loyal servants. However, Sarah’s meddling in Teispes’ affairs endangers her life, and every day on the estate becomes a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
Believing her husband neglects his staff, and resenting his quick judgment of her, Sarah harbours a dislike towards Darius, just as he does of her. Upon his return to his estate both Darius and Sarah come to realise that they need to re-evaluate their opinions of each other. Sarah notices that contrary to her image of him, Darius seems to be a kind, considerate, fair and even loving man; Darius cannot deny that his loyal servants have come to love Sarah, and as he glimpses her humble spirit and kind heart he cannot help but wonder if he misjudged her. Can two strong willed people driven by misconceptions, stuck in a marriage neither wanted, abandon their pride long enough to realise that each might be exactly what the other needs?
Tessa Afshar’s Harvest of Rubies was an absolute delight to read. Sarah and Darius are lovely, though flawed, characters and are very believable. The storyline is cleverly plotted and executed, and the book is an unpredictable adventure. Sarah and Darius’ relationship is very much like I would imagine an arranged marriage to be – both are wary, proud and bitter at first. The progression of their relationship is very realistically done – they don’t just wake up one morning and realise they’re in love (as many literary couples do). It’s a very gradual process of first considering that they might have been wrong about each other, then getting to know each other, respecting each other, liking each other, trusting each other and eventually loving each other. It was sometimes almost painful to walk this journey with them – especially the wedding. Oh Sarah. Afshar almost killed me with humiliation! I literally had to put the book down several times, because I just could not bear to share Sarah’s mortification on this day. Brilliant writing!
I loved absolutely everything about this book; especially the harvest of rubies – Sarah’s understanding of God through coming to understand Darius’ vineyard. My only issue with the book, is that Darius never tells Sarah that he loves her. I desperately waited for that moment, and it never came – I guess it goes to show that even as far as they’ve come, he still has some issues to overcome. Luckily Sarah and Darius’ story will continue in Afshar’s next book, Harvest of Gold. It is expected to be released mid 2013 – I can’t wait.
Title: Harvest of Rubies
Author: Tessa Afshar
Number of pages: 372
Publisher: River North, New Edition