She was an ordinary Jewish maiden. Her beauty made her a queen of an empire. Her courage made her a savior of her people. She was Esther, and Joan Wolf tells her story in A Reluctant Queen. Of course, Wolf has to use her imagination to flesh out the story, but she basically follows the book of Esther. However, she does make some changes.
Esther, a young Jewish maiden who lives with her Uncle Mordecai, dreams of marrying her best friend’s brother. However, following a vivid and frightening dream that Mordecai has that he believes is from the Lord, the Jewish elders, including Uncle Mordecai, ask her to be their emissary to King Ahasuerus by becoming a candidate for queen. Only maidens from Ahasuerus’s tribe will be considered, but because Esther’s father was a soldier from that tribe, Esther qualifies.
When Mordecai takes her into the harem, Esther believes that she will be rejected quickly because she is so different than the other candidates and will be allowed to return home. To her surprise, that is what interests Ahasuerus in her. After their marriage, Esther finds herself falling in love with Ahasuerus and fearful that he will discover that she is Jewish and has lied to him. The king falls in love with Esther, too.
The amount of time that the king spends with Esther makes Haman, one of his trusted advisers, jealous. He also resents Mordecai because Mordecai will not bow to him. When Ahasuerus is away, Haman arrests Mordecai and plans his death, as well as the destruction of all Jews using his power as prime minister. Only Esther’s intervention prevents Mordecai’s death before the king’s return.
Wolf’s novel is engrossing, her characters well drawn, but some of its departures from Scripture trouble me. Wolf has Esther discover that Mordecai lied to her about her Gentile grandfather. She also equates Mordecai’s not bowing with provocation of Haman. Esther also sympathizes with her maid and eunuch who engage in sexual relations:
“At that, Esther’s heart swelled with compassion. She held out both hands and took Luara’s into a strong grip. ‘Of course I am not angry. How could you think I would begrudge either of you whatever happiness you might find in this prisoner’s life you lead?’” (pp. 182-183).
Is this attitude consistent with a Jewish woman of that time period? This scene does not need to be in the book. It has no integral part in the plot. Is this message of excusing sexual sin because of the situation one we want to pass on to teenaged girls who might read the story?
Another inconsistency is Esther’s condoning her children worshipping a false god:
“She would be the wife that Ahasuerus wanted and her children would be brought up as followers of Ahuramazda (a false god worshipped by Ahasuerus). Her duty to her people was done” (p. 315).
Wolf’s story is compelling and enjoyable, but her messages trouble me as inconsistent with scripture, not because she changes time elements and history, but because she represents a man whom the Bible portrays as godly as a liar, justifies sin, and shows little concern for the eternal souls of Esther’s children. – Debbie W. Wilson, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The story of Queen Esther is full of romance, suspense, and danger. A Reluctant Queen, The Love Story of Queen Esther is a fresh account of the journey of biblical heroine Esther from common orphan to queen of Persia. Master story-teller Joan Wolf sees Esther and King Ahasuerus as a young couple on a difficult road together: Esther is wracked with guilt for lying to her husband about her heritage, and the king, despite his vast kingdom, is a lonely man. Haman proves to be a cunning antagonist, seducing the king into trusting him implicitly, while threatening the existence of the king's love, Esther, and her people. The fate of the Jews is in Esther's hands-but her own life is at risk no matter her decision.