The Merchant's Pearl

The Merchant's Pearl Saga Book 1

Romance - Historical
450 Pages
Reviewed on 02/15/2017
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

The Merchant's Pearl is the first novel from Amie O’Brien, but she would tell you her characters are constantly nagging her for their future installments. Madly in love with her husband and children, she hopes to spend more time petting horses, reading books, and pursuing her addiction with world travel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite

The Merchant’s Pearl tells the story of Sarai, an opinionated young daughter of missionaries. She thought the world was her oyster, at her disposal to bend and shape at will. But tragic circumstances convene to change Sarai’s destiny from world changer to gift for a spoiled Ottoman prince. This is where Amie O’Brien’s tale really takes off and this historical romance really gets going. Sarai is no longer the girl she had been raised to be; she was now Leila, a concubine thrust into the world of backstabbing, seduction and pseudo-friendships. In the midst of this kind of life, is it possible that Leila could actually be happy in a life where the most she could hope for was favoritism rather than love or genuine affection?

I was wary of this book at first, which was why I chose to review it, knowing it would either be a spectacular success or failure. I’m happy to say Amie O’Brien’s tale was an astonishingly surprising success. The Merchant’s Pearl is more than your basic historical romance. It is a multi-layered story of history and customs, western ideals versus eastern pragmatism, love and seduction, friends and enemies. The story is beautifully told, and detail oriented so you’re transported back to the late nineteenth century beside Leila. There wasn’t one moment that I felt taken out of the story because I was so eager to read it all, and find out how it ended. This isn’t just some lightweight romance either. O’Brien gives the reader the downside of life as a commodity and it is jarring and disturbing, but oh so real. A fantastic read from a new to me author, but I certainly look forward to her next work.

Stephanie (as posted on A

I am a self-admitted historical romance junkie. I've read hundreds, if not thousands. That being said, this is - without a doubt - the most memorable historical romance I have (or likely ever will) read. I must admit that I was slightly hesitant to pick it up; it's a Turkish harem story, and (in all honesty) my tastes tend to be more European in nature. I am SO incredibly thankful that I took a chance and branched out for a new reading experience; it would have been such a loss if I had passed this beautiful story by. There are so many things I love about this book, I hardly know where to begin. I'll just put it this way. A thought struck me while reading - one I've never had before. I thought, "This is a PERFECT book for a book club." I've never really had any desire to sit and dissect specific chapters of a book with fellow readers...until now. The characters are 3-dimentional (and not just the main characters, but the extended cast, as well). I could gush over all of them, but let's just focus on the pearl, herself. I won't mention her by name, because I debate over what name would be best to use - a perfect example of a great discussion for a book club. I was so inspired by her. She had stronger conviction than I could ever dream of having - while remaining "real" and believable in nature. There were times when I was frustrated with her for not compromising or letting things go. But that would have been falling into up and giving in to her circumstances...and - what's the saying? - well-behaved women don't make history. I'm so glad I wasn't there to offer my misguided advice. Beyond the thought-provoking and well-rounded cast, it's like I entered an entire sphere of alternate reality, as EVERY aspect of the story was just as dynamic and complex as the superb character development. The love story was anticipated, of course, but it was one of the most touching, tender, and delicate romances I've encountered. There was so very much more, though. It was a coming of age story. It was a coming to terms story. It was a (VERY well researched) story of religious and political conflict. It was a story of difficult truths that don't offer easy avenues toward a happily ever after. And none of these plot lines and stories came off as "preachy" or judgmental in any way (like you so often find in a Scottish historical romance where "the English are devils" or an English one where the "Scottish are heathens" or "the French are vile"). This was so much more 3-dimentional. The conflicts were intricate - presented and revealed in such a way that you could see the multiple sides to the various beliefs and opinions. I have to admit to a flash of disappointment before breathing a huge sigh of relief (and then a squeal of excitement). After reading many historical romances, I have come to expect a certain happily-ever-after-type-ending. Just as Ms. O'Brien didn't spoon-feed the rest of the tale, she didn't throw on a stereotypical, predictable, unimaginative ending...but she didn't exactly leave us with a cliffhanger, either. It ends with hope and love and faith...but it's not spelled out for the reader. Just as I began to think I was going to have to allow the characters to live on in my own imagination (where they would pale in comparison to anything I read on the pages), I was THRILLED to learn that this is the first installment of a series, so I'm left with scarcely contained joy and anticipation for the sequel. It is my understanding that this was Ms. O'Brien's first book. Wow! I stand and applaud her incredible talent, I thank her for sharing her beautifully imaginative world with us, and I anxiously await word on book number 2!

Andrea Grenadier

Like several reviewers here, I also do not read much historical romance. But being a writer myself, I know how very difficult it is to write well. A few years ago, I attended the Library of Congress' Conference on Romance Fiction, and it was an extraordinary eye-opener, meeting authors whose job (and passion) it is to create compelling, believable fiction, sometimes following a laundry list of requirements by their imprints and publishing houses. Now knowing that a Harlequin Romance has about 100 requirements to make it publishable, I'll never think romance fiction is child's play, or think that it's anything but an art and a craft.
That said, I approached "The Merchant's Pearl" with the idea that it would be a swift and entertaining read, and I have to say it completely seduced me with its incredibly smart, nuanced writing, its intriguing plot, and best of all, characters that reluctantly unfold to slowly reveal their brilliant layers. One of the most interesting thing about her writing is that it compliments the readers intelligence, and uses a few descriptors that I admit, I had to look up (thankful that the Kindle has a dictionary function!) Ms. O'Brien knows her terrain, and she takes her characters on a journey that I found memorable, and a story I found beautifully told. Without giving anything away, because it's also an adventure story, I will say that I found myself deeply moved by the writing and the story as well. I sometimes find it almost unbearable in fiction to read about characters that can be cruel (and are cruel) to one another, and in a book that focuses mostly on the company of women will no doubt show those sparks. But the cruelty wasn't shocking or gratuitous; rather, it revealed the vulnerabilities of the characters who were perhaps the most disliked. And here is a gift that I find rare in today's fiction, and that is when an author has sympathy for her characters, and writes their lives and their love affairs accordingly.
I loved this book, I admired the character of Leila, who understands the art of love, strength, and compromise, and I thought the dialogue was natural and expressive. I'm really looking forward to more of Ms. O'Brien's nuanced and beautiful writing, and hope this ebook finds its way to print before too long.

Carol P. Roman

Meticulously detailed story about Leila, a young girl living in a harem in 19th century Turkey. The Ottoman Empire was teetering, it's bloated aristocracy and royal family feuding over the throne. No one was safe, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian. The daughter of murdered missionaries, Leila finds herself placed in a harem and reluctantly trained in the arts of pleasing a man. Her defiance catches the eye of young prince Emre, who finds both her intellect and independent spirit refreshing. She is chosen to be his, and must battle with his favorite concubine, Aster, as well as her own Western ideals and conscience. A beautiful friendship develops changing the course of their lives. Amie O'Brien lovingly recreates life in exotic Turkey, capturing the angst of young love bridging two very different cultures.

Sarina M.

I loved this book. The characters wriggled their way into my heart. I appreciated that the author gave many of the characters a back story, so we could sympathize with them even if we didn't like them. I also enjoyed learning so much about a culture that I knew so little about. This was a beautiful story, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

Gloria Benaroch Garland

This is a very fast paced book. Keeps your interest high and wanting to know more. It gives you information on a private area of a harem and how it works. There is a class status on the concubines. Sad that they are chaperoned throughout their whole lives and can't be independent. There is a great relationship which is not the norm between the prince and one of the harem girls.
Fast easy read and interesting.

Gwendolyn Plano

This is one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. Though it takes place in an Ottoman harem, the heart of the story – a young woman’s desire to be loved fully and exclusively by her lover – is universal. The evolving relationship between the Prince and his concubine is captivating and at times, breath-taking. The sensitivities exposed, the tenderness shared draw the reader into a world of mystery and religious expectation. It is a journey worth taking for it brings the reader into the human heart.

The author has an extraordinary ability to unravel emotion through dialogue and description. The senses are alive in this book – from the rich interiors of the palace to the window views, from the savory meals and aromatic oils, from the gauzy gowns to the jewels – a reader lives and breathes the 19th century and falls in love with love.

I am looking forward to reading Amie O’Brien’s next book. Her first is a rare jewel!


This is the one book that everybody needs to read. . .From the beginning to the end, it's nonstop. . .the characters are very interesting and the setting is mesmerizing. . .Mrs. O'Brien is a very talented writer and I'm ready for the second installment. . .She has crafted a very intriguing story. . .Love it!

J. Eco

Loved the emotional build and beautiful descriptions. The author brings to life a difficult period in history through a story of forbidden love. Full of heart and warmth. Like a previous reviewer, I too felt like I was there in the rooms of the palace. Looking forward to the sequel.


I wouldn't classify myself as an avid reader of historical fiction; however, this book captivated my attention and I was drawn in as the storyline rapidly began to unfold. After reading the first three chapters, I couldn't put it down. It was extremely well written and very descriptive!! The story beckons a re-read. Looking forward, with great anticipation, to the next part of the Saga....Margaret


I'm a big fan of historical fiction and this book did not disappoint. I thought I'd read a little every night, as is my habit, but ended up reading the entire book in a weekend and then read it again right after. Very well written and descriptive - I felt like I could envision each room of the palace. This book profiles a time in history I knew nothing about - it was so fascinating, I ended up reading the second time through with my laptop open, just so I could Google the places and spaces the author writes about!

Kelly Bean

I'm not a history buff, so I don't typically read historical fiction, but I read The Merchant's Pearl because the premise seemed so interesting. It did not disappoint! It has everything I look for in a novel- relatable characters firmly planted in a plausible world, suspense, and forward momentum. The inner workings of the palace during the Ottoman Empire was fascinating. Definitely a page turner! I can't wait for the next book!

Terry M

Couldn't put it down!!!!! Completely captivated my attention and held it until I finished every last page!

Lillian Ammann

Up until I reached the end of the book, I would have given it 4 stars. The writing is beautiful. The characters are believable, though not always likable. The setting is exotic and the romance tender and emotional. The history was intriguing. The book was very well-edited; I found only a few wrong words.

The only nitpick I had with the story was that sometimes, the dialogue seemed too modern for the time and place. For example, the lovers often greet each other with "Hey." To me, this is something the younger generation uses today, but it was foreign to my generation. Therefore, I suspect it would be foreign to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. There were a few other similar expressions, but I wasn't often pulled out of the story by out-of-time-and-place language.

With all those positives, though, the ending disappointed me. It wasn't a complete cliffhanger (or it would have merited only one or two stars from me). However, there wasn't a clear resolution. All we had were plans and promises, and with the political situation being what it was, there was a strong likelihood those plans might not materialize. The ending is obviously the setup for a sequel--readers who like cliffhangers in series books will probably love this one.


The Merchant's Pearl by Amie O'Brien
The Merchant's Pearl Saga Book One
Imagine an eleven-year-old who not only became an orphan after her parents were murdered, but was then sold to the traders. Being handled and touched as merchandise instead of a human.

Imagine having to hide the way you were raised—having to pretend to worship a foreign god instead of your God. Having to hide your true heritage and language.

And imagine being given to a sultan's son. Living with other concubines. Living amidst hatred and jealousy.

And worst of all, imagine falling in love with the man you must share with other women.

This is a very emotional book if you get jealous for your heroines. It's very detailed as it shows life within the palace and living with other women. Very well written.
**Received from author for an honest review.

Book Lover

“The Merchant’s Pearl,” by author, Amie O’brien, is a stunningly written historical romance about life in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and the life of harem slaves. The main characters, Prince Emre and his concubine, Leila, one of many among his concubines and wives, begin to fall deeply in love amidst the turbulent times of change from the old-world-order to the new-world-order of the Industrial Revolution of Europe. The Merchant’s Pearl is an intriguing and intimate look at the Ottoman Empire’s daily life with all the opulence, beauty, and suffering as a way of life that existed for hundreds of years. The Merchant’s Pearl Saga has much more to say and I am eagerly looking forward to Aimie O’brien next novel. I highly recommend The Merchant’s Pearl.

Leah Benedict

I lived in Turkey as an expat for three years and loved gaining a new perspective of Turkish history. The history of life inside a harem is fascinating, and this book does a wonderful job of giving you a look into their world. The characters are complex and their struggles so interesting, you'll be turning the pages till the very end. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it even if you don't typically read historical fiction! It's a story about love, morals, perseverance, and all of the challenges in between.

Amazon Customer 9/12/16

Two questions before I write my full review...1) Why is this book NOT available to purchase in Book form (only E-Book is currently available, correct)? I have so many people I would recommend this book to, but they are not all E-Readers. 2) Has the 2nd Book been started yet?!? I sure hope so!!! Full Review: I would say I read more than most people. When I can get lost in a good book, it is my favorite past-time. To say I loved this book is an understatement! The story, the setting and it's characters had me completely transfixed. It took me about a week to find the time to finish it from start to finish (due to a crazy schedule) and any time I wasn't reading the book I was thinking about it and wondering what was going to happen next. I would say any adult who knows how to read, should read this book. Man or woman. Seriously, I've encouraged my husband to read it next. The funny thing is, I typically don't read a lot of historical fiction, let alone historical romance, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. I am so glad my sister encouraged me to read it. I would say if you are thinking of buying this book - DO IT! The cliche saying is, "Don't judge a book by it's cover", right? Well, that is sort of true with this book (even though I like the cover). I would say, Don't judge this book by the fact that it hasn't been published by a powerhouse publishing company...yet. It is worth your money and it is worth the time you will invest to read it. You will love it! Can't wait for the next one!!!! :)

Deanna Ingram

I loved it!! Be sure to read when you have time to read a book and are not planning to stop and read in more than one sitting--it is a book I could not put down!!! Can't wait for the next part of the saga!!

Coy Lee Stroud

This book was amazing for any author's first published book. The setting, the characters, and the drama were believable. All the action is behind the scenes but is no less suspenseful. Most of the characters, like most people anywhere, are trying to be the best they can be within the confines of a very rigid society. I really loved this book. I only ever give 5 stars to books I liked so much I knew I would read it again. This is just such a book.
Granny Coy


The Merchant's Pearl is a memorable novel that provides a fascinating look into Turkish history. Well-researched, with an intriguing plot, compelling themes, and believable characters who stay with you long after you finish. Can't wait for the next instalment!

Nina Mannes

I appreciate a book that keeps your interest from beginning to end. Can't wait for the next book!

Arlene P. Ross

This is the first novel I have read about the Ottoman Empire and royalty with a harem. I mostly choose historical novels so this was a new experience for me. I enjoyed the book but I had trouble keeping all the characters straight in my mind. Not the main ones in Emre's harem, but the referrals back to his ancestry and the line of his brothers for the throne. The love story is very heartwarming, Leila stood strong on her principles until she was sure that Emre truly loved her. The characters were very well developed and reading the ins and outs of harem life was very eye opening for me, a leisurely but boring life. I would recommend this book to others and it would make a terrific book club discussion.

Aimee Lamb

Life in a harem is not all that it seems... that being said Miss O'Brien's writing had me feeling I needed to know more as the story slowly unfolded and drew me in at every page.
Orphaned at an early age when her parents were murdered Sarai aka Leila is sold to the Sultan Abdul Aziz.
Trained from childhood in the art of seduction and pleasuring for her ultimate fate, that of being a concubine.
In a fateful turn of events she is chosen to be in Prince Emre's harem where she finds friendship with one of her roommates Darya, and hatred from another Aster, all three being requested in turn, for their 'services' by Prince Emre.
Life for all, whether concubines, eunuchs, servants, or royals is constrained by age old laws of behavior and religious dogma. Leila is as much a prisoner of her surroundings as is her master Emre with whom she develops and strong relationship. they both love art, painting and reading. At first they have a respectful relationship which turns to love but, outside the confines of the palace, uprisings threaten the very fabric of each one's life. All comes to a head during Ramadan when religious constrictions and palace rules have all the main characters revealing hidden passions, jealousy and secrets.

Stephanie (BookFever)

I almost don't know where to start expressing my love for this book. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story but once I did I quickly fell in love with it. It ended up being my favorite historical romance of the year so far.

To keep it short, this story is set in the Ottoman Empire where the main character, Leila, gets chosen to be part of Prince Emre's harem. Emre turns out to be very kind and compassionate towards Leila and the end up falling madly in love.

Leila was quite a character. I totally loved her sass and how opinionated she was. However, she acted very impulsively a lot of the times which led to her being in trouble a lot. But then again it was kind of fun as well. Emre just stole my heart, it's as simple as that. Hello new book boyfriend.

I've got to admit I hadn't expected to be so captivated by Leila and Emre's relationship as much as I was. I absolutely loved reading about them falling in love. It was such a delicious slow burn. They even made my cry. And I don't cry often with books so this was surprising even to me.

The secondary characters were really great to read about as well. I loved the friendship between Leila and Dariya (one of Emre's other concubines). Dariya was just so kind to Leila. You can't help but like her. Hell, I even liked Aster even though she was quite horrible at times because she brought some drama, which I kinda liked at times.

But my favorite thing about this book probably was all the love for Jane Austen's books. They actually play a pretty important role in the growing love between Leila and Emre. I just loved it!

Overall, The Merchant's Pearl by Amie O'Brien was beautifully written, detailed and just exquisite. This is certainly a book that will stay with me for a very long time and I can't wait for the next one. I already know this author is going to be one of my favorites, just like Leila and Emre ended up being one of my favorite fictional couples.

A. Wills

Whew, what a story. First off, it's just fantastic writing. Even if the plot sucked, you would be like; "man, that story sucked, but boy was it beautifully written". There is talent here and it shows. Fantastic world building. It is obvious that the author put in the time and effort to present the reader with a well-researched story and nothing makes me happier than that. There are not many books that entertain while teaching you something about a different country, a different culture, and a different time. In addition to great world building, the characters are just beautifully complex, the dialogue flows and the romance enchants. Listen I know I'm gushing but this is a five star read. If you're into romance and especially romances with a unique plot, pick this one up.

Amazon Customer

This book made me a neglectful mother and unproductive human being for a few days. I couldn't put it down. Even when I had to, my thoughts remained with the characters and their circumstances. This was a well-researched, unique and beautiful story about self-discovery, faith and true love. I loved the characters and how authentic they seemed. I can't wait for the next part! :)

Joyce DiPastena

I was given a free copy of The Merchant’s Pearl in return for an honest review. I do not read or review books that contain graphic sex scenes, therefore before I agreed to read this book I asked the author about its contents and was assured there were no sex scenes in the book. This proved to be true. There is, however, a fair amount of talk about sex, which I presume was inevitable given that the setting for the book is a Turkish harem. Just so that other readers like myself are aware.

The book is well written with well-rounded characters. I liked very much that the author avoided stereotyping any of the characters, especially the “villains.” We were given insights into why each character made the choices she or he did, which while not making some of their behavior exactly forgivable, nevertheless made it realistic and understandable. The historical background was quite interesting. I was prompted a time or two to look some of the history up on Wikipedia, which is always a sign that a story has made me “want to know more.” The author is clearly well-versed with her subject and portrays all angles with compassion. Some of the dialogue felt a little too jarringly modern for a historical novel that takes place in 1875, but that is a personal quibble. The story moved smoothly, maintaining my interest throughout. I was a little conflicted about the ending, but I understand this is the first volume in a series, so further resolutions may lie ahead. Aime O’Brien is a talented author. If you’re interested in the history of Turkey or Middle Eastern culture, this is an excellent book to add to your library.


Leila is a odalisque in the harem of the sultan of Turkey. One of his sons chooses her as his concubine but somehow she manages to convince him not to sleep with her but just be friends. But they really fall in love. The problem is that she thinks having sex with a guy with wives and concubines is a sin. Can she move past that? Would he ever choose to abandon all and just be with her?
I stayed for some time in Istanbul and lived next door of Dolmabace palace and visited the harem. That made this book extra interesting. However for a haremsetting this book was 19th century chaste. It feels a bit weird when a story drones on and on about shall I have sex with him or not and then not play any attention to it when things happen. Or read all kind of hints about how women were trained to be a dreamlover but never mention what that entailed. So for the setting a bit prudish. I also think the ending is just too early.

Kelly the Sassy Book Lover

This is very different from what I usually read and I really liked it! I loved the different setting, culture, and POV that is in this book. It's not your typical romance and there is a lot more going on then their story. There is a journey for both of them in finding themselves and their way in everything. It's a book that you want to take your time and read. The ending was good and it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it does stand alone.

Leila is very interesting and different. She doesn't belong there, but her heart says otherwise. I loved the internal fight she had while trying to find her place and herself. She will pull at your heart and have you cheering her on.

Prince Emre is not like his family. He was very different and needed to find his true self too. I loved how understood things and tried to keep the peace between everyone. He will have your attention from the start and you will love him in the end.