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.