~ About the Book ~
Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.
But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.
With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.
Release date: 6 June 2017
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
~ Excerpt ~
“Lady Aemilia bids that you return to the villa. She wishes to have a word with you.”
“Lady Aemilia?” Lydia asked, confused. The general, as far as she knew, had no wife.
“The general’s mother. She lives with him.”
Lydia nodded, and they followed the young man back to the house.
The lady crooked a finger, signaling Lydia to bend closer. She fingered Lydia’s tunic with hands drenched in onion juice.
“Is this your work?” she said.
“Yes, my lady.”
“Your own? Not your father’s?”
She nodded. “It is excellent.” She turned to look out her window into the courtyard. “My spies told me of your visit to my son. I went to see him after you left. He showed me your father’s letter and the linen you brought him. Exquisite work, that piece.”
Lydia bowed her head in thanks.
“My son is a fool.”
“He is a good man. But his vision is limited. When he looks at you, all he sees is a young woman. And that’s the end. Do you know what I see?”
Lydia shook her head. “No mistress.”
“I see potential. You want a workshop?”
“It’s my most cherished dream.”
“They say young Caligula has promised to appoint his favorite horse, Incitatus, as a consul when he becomes emperor. I have met the Roman consuls; believe me when I say the horse would be an improvement. I think if a horse can be a consul in Rome, then a young girl should be able to own a shop in Philippi.”
Lydia would have laughed out loud, except she suspected it would be an act of treason.
“What are your terms? I do not have a lot of time to waste, in case you failed to observe the significance of these wrinkles. I am not looking for long-term investments, you understand?
Lydia’s mouth hung open for a moment. “What are you looking for, mistress?”
The general’s mother laughed. It was a surprisingly youthful sound. “I am looking for a little diversion, and I suspect you shall provide it. I will enjoy proving my son wrong. He is too puffed up with his own importance, as are most of the successful men in this city. In this whole empire, from what I have seen. I find it annoying. It will do Varus good to recognize his fallibility upon occasion, particularly in regard to women. Here is our bargain then: you will succeed. Understand? Failure is not part of my plans.”
Lydia would have gulped, except her throat had grown too parched to produce any spittle. “I will not fail you.”
“Mind, I want my money back within the year.” Aemilia bit into her onion again with strong, healthy teeth, splattering onion juice everywhere, including on Lydia. “And a lifetime of purple goods at half the price in your store.” She shrugged. “But then, look at me. How long am I likely to live? So that should hardly be a deterrent to our bargain.”
Lydia straightened the corner of her shawl. “Two pieces per annum at half price. The gods have given you the gift of long life, my lady. You will likely outlive me and Zeus himself. I will be bankrupt within six months if I set no limit on this bargain.”
Aemilia slapped her knee and laughed. “I accept your terms. You may call me patroness.”
~ Review ~
Tessa Afshar has brought the Biblical world to life again, this time with the story of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. Scripture records her story in Acts 16, and while it tells us very little about her or her circumstances, there are three details in particular that are quite intriguing when you stop to think about them. First of all, she is a native of Thyatira living in Philippi (Macedonia). Secondly, she was a seller of purple cloth in a male-dominated commercial world. And finally, she was already a worshipper of God. I’ve read Acts I-don’t-know-how-many times and knew that Lydia was the first European convert, but the fact that she was already a worshipper of God had somehow failed to register with me until I read this book. How did a woman of Thyatira living in Macedonia come to be a successful entrepreneur and a worshipper of the One True God?
With few hard facts to work from, Tessa Afshar has created a highly plausible story that answers these questions while remaining faithful to what is known from the Biblical account. The story begins in AD 25, when Lydia is sixteen and serving as her father’s very capable apprentice, then follows her story for the next few years before jumping forward to AD50 and picking up the story from there. It is a story of betrayal and loss, but also a story of learning to rely on the ‘bread of angels’ as God supplies her needs on a daily basis.
As always, the historical details are fascinating without being overwhelming, and the writing makes for effortless reading. A strong cast of secondary characters, including the formidable Lady Aemilia, also enlivens the story.
A great read for those who enjoy seeing New Testament times come to life.
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ About the Author ~
Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel, Land of Silence was voted by Library Journal as one of five top Christian Fiction titles of 2016, and nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. Her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, won her “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011.
Tessa was born in Iran and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She serves on the staff of one of the oldest churches in America. But that has not cured her from being addicted to chocolate.