The opinionated, only daughter of a missionary, is enslaved and gifted to an Ottoman prince who has an inner vow to win her affection.
Sarai was led to believe that the whole world could exchange their beliefs for hers. But when her parents are murdered, she quickly learns that the world never stops for just one person. The world takes, forgets, and swiftly moves on.
By 1875, she isn’t even Sarai anymore. She had spent her teenage years repackaged as Leila, a palace concubine-in-waiting for the overly indulgent, Ottoman Sultan, Abdul’Aziz. Leila does her best to stay out of the eye of ‘Aziz as well as his son, Prince Emre. But when young and thoughtful Emre claims Leila for his own harem, she is forced out of her shell and thrown into a ring of competitive women. Here, she cannot hide from the attention her young master wishes to lavish upon her. Nor can she can avoid the ruthless retaliations of his prior favorite, Aster. But it’s the unexpected gift of sexual sanctuary and an inside look into his family’s struggles that really collides with Leila’s upbringing. Soon, despite her better judgment, she finds her heart becoming increasingly tied to him.
But can she submit her faith and independent spirit to such a future—a future where to be loved means settling for the fact that she can only ever be his favorite? Will she be able to take turns sharing him among the four beautiful girls he had received before her, one being a jealous rival and another a closest friend? And what will happen to their love if Emre’s father can’t hold together his fragile kingdom, an empire that has grave threats encroaching from every side…including within?
About the Author:
This 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.
Q & A with Amie O’Brien
What is the first book that made you cry?
Wow. I’ve got to really go back on that one because, for some odd reason, I love books that make me cry.
I think it was The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. I was really young, much too young for Steinbeck! I picked up the book at a neighbor’s yard sale. I really related to the main character because I wanted a horse of my own in the worst way and this boy finally gets gifted a pony. He takes care of it, loves it like mad, only for it to get sick and later wander off and then he finds it in the canyon getting eaten by buzzards. It was terribly depressing. Scarred my little heart for life, LOL.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me to the point of exhaustion! No seriously, there is something about writing that gets me so fired up I basically just live, sleep, eat, and breathe the story. I wrote The Merchant’s Pearl in 14 months, including my research. Granted, I spent the next whole year editing it and polishing the research, but still, that’s pretty obsessive writing, especially considering its length and that I was working a full-time job. I think I spent like 2 years with an average of 4 hours of sleep per night.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I don’t think I really write conscious of either. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately want to be a bestselling author. I also want to make a good living. But when I write, I feel the characters so strongly I just write where the story is leading.
I also write within the confines of what I think is possible. The romance genre would have most authors push the limits, you know, in order to evoke feelings of that perfect, fairy tale ending. But I look at what reality would be and give my characters the very best I possibly can for them. I think I have to be true to life and show that although there may still be hardships, they’re stronger now because they are encountering them together.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I think that people are capable of anything. I personally feel things very strongly. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I know it. In fact, I sometimes catch stares at Starbucks because I make sympathetic faces for my characters when writing dialogue, LOL. Unconsciously, of course. I can’t help it.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Easy! I bought a book by Blake Snyder called Save the Cat. It was at Donald Miller’s suggestion and I have to say it’s absolute genius, not just for writing screen plays but for any story, any genre.
Does your family support your writing?
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I’m sure I’m supposed to respond with a book, but it was actually a song, Man in the Mirror, by Michael Jackson. As a kid, seeing that music video on MTV made me look outside of myself for the very first time. It wrecked me. In a good way.
Do you hide any secrets in your book that only a few people would find?
Yes. But I think only my hubby could spot them. There are a few times that small actions or things said come directly from our own relationship, good times and bad. He kept lifting his eyebrow at me while reading it.
His face hadn’t hardened at all these last few years. It still looked soft. His eyes seemed a deeper hazel than before, a soft chocolate brown rather than the medium color they had been when we were children. I studied them along with his long, thick, black lashes.
He didn’t have the lengthy beard either, the kind captured in oil paintings in certain rooms of the palace—the kind that made me cringe. Instead, his was a refined shadow that any man could grow in two or three days’ time. And then there was that olive skin, not as rich as his father’s, but a perfect match to his half-brother, Yusuf. Reflecting on the conduct of both, I had to smile. Suri was right. He seemed so much more thoughtful and less showy than Yusuf.
He must have felt me watching him or maybe it was the smile. He turned to look at me.
“I’m afraid I have built too good of a fire. Would you like to see the view from the window as the flames settle down a bit?”
He didn’t offer me a hand up, just stood in a gentleman like manner as I rose to go before him to the twin towering windows.
“Allow me,” he said, reaching over me. He gently pulled back the velvet drapes using a long cord. “Everything about these windows is such a nuisance. I guess we don’t always feel very secure as a family. We like our unwanted ones to arrive and retreat announced, so the windows have very little play and are filled with squeaks.”
“Seems about right,” I mumbled.
He quickly glanced up at me.
“I mean, I think I would wish it that way too, if I were the Sultan.”
He said nothing, just looked back to the window, but I noticed a smug smile.
He gestured to the Bosphorus. In awe, I placed a hand on the cool pane of glass. The water looked as if it were practically below our feet. There was only a small strip of land between the palace, white iron gate, and the low, concrete sea wall. If anyone were in a boat coming from the opposite direction, I would swear it would have to look like a floating castle to their naked eye.
“It’s unbelievable.” I let out a little sigh.
“Have you not ever seen it before?”
“No. How could I? We came in by carriage.”
“Yes. I guess you wouldn’t have seen it so close like this. The land side, that’s where the Forbidden Gates are and where everyone like you enters.” He cleared his throat. “Sorry, what I meant to say was…that’s where your dormitory lies. Everyone else would enter by the Shore Gate, or perhaps, the Treasury Gate—not the Harem Gate.”
“How do you sleep at night with such a vision right outside your window?” I asked, peering out at the vast, still waters that gently licked up against the smooth wall. “The reflection of the torch lamps, it’s like the water itself is on fire.”
“I manage. I suppose after enough years even this becomes commonplace.”
“Well, that is a great misfortune, Sire. It is truly the loveliest sight my eyes have ever beheld. And I’m afraid I don’t give credit to much.”