The Esther Paradigm (Sarah Monzon) – Review

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?

Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.

Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Release date:  1 November 2017
Pages:  260

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Her arms fell to her sides. “You want to marry me to protect me and my parents?”
Why did she sound so surprised? “Yes. As my wife, no one would dare hurt you or your family.”
There was no missing the sadness that floated across her eyes like a cloud that dotted the blue of the sky. “No.” She shook her head. “I can’t.”
Pride burned my esophagus, but I pushed back the pain. “Why?”
“Our protection comes from God, Karim. Not man.” The softness of her gaze cushioned her reprimand. Then she looked away, her fingers playing with the sides of her abaya. “Besides, it would not be fair to either of us to marry without love being the foundation.”
She stood and walked a few steps away, pretended to be interested in the sandstone that had been washed away for so many years that it had created this cavern.
I had spent the entire night in thought and prayer. This was the only way I knew to keep her and her family safe. There had to be a way I could persuade her, have her see the logic that was clear as the sun was hot.
Standing, I walked toward her, stopping only a foot away. I didn’t say anything. Didn’t move or touch her, but she stilled, aware of my presence. Silence rested in the hollowness of the cave, but my pulse beat like a drum in my ear. I waited. Listened. Not with my ears but with my soul. With the fibers of my body that made a person more than just a physical being. Deep down I felt it. Felt our hearts beat as one.
Of all that I could offer her—my protection, my name, my power, my wealth—could I give the one thing she’d protested against? My love? Was a heart even something a person could give to another, or did it have a mind of its own, falling for whomever it saw fit without giving any regard to the person for which it gave life?
Heat radiated off Hannah as I stood at her back. Her breathing had shallowed as she’d become impossibly still. Invisible, electrical currents shot through the space between us, like lightning seeking the ground. Always there had been this connection. This draw. As a boy, I’d thought it had been my fascination with her blue eyes and gold hair. My very own hidden treasure, like in the book my mother had brought home for me on market day when I was thirteen, Treasure Island.
The burning in my esophagus lowered until my belly ached with glowing embers.
I had to convince her. I couldn’t let anything happen to my kanz, my treasure.
With a hand to her shoulder, I turned her to face me, saw my reflection in her eyes as if I were peering into the depths of an oasis spring. A spark of rebellion had me lifting my hand, pulling back the confining material of her hijab until a waterfall of gold tresses cascaded over my brown fingers. My gratefulness deepened that we were hidden from the censuring gazes of the clan, which would steal the wonderment from the moment. Allah forgive me for plucking the modesty from Hannah’s head, the crown of her beauty reserved for her husband alone. Though I should feel shame for my actions, the delight coursing through me would not lead me to repentance.
Her gaze held confusion, and the beat of her heart that had matched mine kicked up its pace.
“Hannah,” I whispered. “Please. Do you not think love can grow?”

~ Review ~

Wow! This is definitely a contemporary romance with a difference, and I mean that in a very good way. Not only has Sarah Monzon, a Christian author, taken up the challenge of writing a Muslim hero, but she’s set the whole story within the Muslim culture. I don’t profess to be an expert on the topic, but this came across as authentic, respectful, and compassionate in its portrayal, without compromising the Gospel. To this, she has added a love story that is deeply passionate—think Song of Solomon. My heart thrilled to the way she wrote the relationship between Karim and Hannah—the intensity of Karim’s feelings as his love deepened, and the uncertainty and insecurity Hannah had to overcome as she adjusted to her new role.

I loved Hannah’s heart for the Bedouin people and found it fascinating to think about how you would witness to people in an area where proselytizing is forbidden. The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 9: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Having adopted the Bedouin culture and way of life and shown respect for their religion, Hannah and her family arouse curiosity about Isa (Jesus) simply by living alongside and serving them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or safe to share their faith.

And Karim . . . Wow. Maybe it’s simply the fact that he is such a unique character for Christian fiction, but he was almost mesmerising at times. I loved his voice and the way the author gave expression to his character. He wears responsibility well; he’s serious, disciplined, and often restrained in his manner—exactly as you might imagine a Muslim leader to be—but these qualities are governed by his kindness and his desire for peace. Again, I’m not an expert on the Muslim culture, but it felt to me as though Sarah Monzon totally nailed his character (to use a completely Western expression!)

Like the Biblical Esther, Hannah is an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances, called to live in a culture that is not her own and married to a man who does not share her faith. And in the end, she must contend with her very own Haman. I absolutely adored this story and can’t recommend it highly enough.

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.

~ Other Books by Sarah Monzon ~

~ About the Author ~

sarah-monzon-hr-4Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough; she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, has finaled in contests such as the Inspy Awards and received a 4 star review from Romantic Times.

Connect with Sarah:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary Romance, New Releases and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Esther Paradigm (Sarah Monzon) – Review

  1. Janet W. Ferguson says:

    Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Thank you for that beautiful review. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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