Thursday, January 15, 2015

Esther: Royal Beauty

Esther: Royal Beauty
A Dangerous Beauty Novel, #1
Angela Hunt
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764216954
December 2014/352 pages/$14.99

When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.

Read an excerpt.


With nearly five million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tale of Three Trees, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Angela's novels have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Christian Book Award, and the HOLT Medallion Award. Romantic Times Book Club presented Angela with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, she completed her doctorate in Biblical Studies and is currently completing her Th.D. Angela and her husband live in Florida, along with their mastiffs. She can be found online at


Angela Hunt is one of my top five must-read authors, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of Esther for Christmas from my family. As a personal preference, I rarely read Biblical fiction as I don't like embellishing that which is in the Bible. However, knowing that Angela Hunt has a doctorate in Biblical studies and that she does a tremendous amount of research (including a lengthy bibliography in the back of the novel), I knew it would be a fascinating and credible--albeit fiction--account. Hunt paints an intriguing picture of this well-known Bible story and provides much insight into the era and culture. Her portrayal of life outside and inside palace walls captivated me as I followed Esther from her loving home with Mordecai and his wife to the palace and the lengthy preparatory process for that all-important audition with the king, continuing with her day-to-day life once she became queen. Hunt ably marries facts and feelings in her creation of multi-faceted characters and a powerful story. I gained a fresh perspective of one of my favorite Biblical characters and continued to ponder her life long after I closed the book. Add this to your must-read list. I'm already looking forward to her next book, about Bathsheba!


When I interviewed Angela Hunt at ICRS last summer, we talked a bit about this book and series, and Angie shared some things she learned during her research. While I posted most of our chat in July, I saved this excerpt to include here.

Tell me what's next for you. Esther is coming out next?

Yes, Esther is done and comes out in January. I'm working on the first draft of Bathsheba. I'm doing the three "Bible Babes." I was researching beauty and the word tob in Hebrew means a certain kind of beauty that is sexual and draws men to you. Those three are tob women. Their beauty got all of them into precarious situations.

That's interesting, because I don't put Esther in the same category as Delilah and Bathsheba. I've always thought of her as a purer beauty. I didn't think she did the same treatments as the other women.

She did the same treatments; I don't think she had a choice. The difference with Esther was, the night she got dressed she let Hegai dress her. She let him choose whatever he thought she should wear. But she went through all the same ointments and rubbing and treatments the other girls did.

I learned some things that I'd always wondered about such as, why did Mordecai not want her to say she was Jewish? I could never find a reason for that, but I found it [researching this novel]. If you study Nehemiah, there was a king, Xerxes, who stopped the assistance. The Jews had already returned, under Cyrus, to start rebuilding what became Zerubbabel's temple before Xerxes became king. But Mordecai's family did not go back. They could have gone back to Israel but they chose not to. They were still in Persia and Mordecai had a good position working in the king's gate but he still told Esther not to divulge her identity. I think it's because he knew Xerxes had been influenced by the Samaritans. They had sent him letters saying the Jews coming back were troublemakers so he had stopped sending supplies and money and had them stop the building. So just that tiny bit of anti-Semitic action, I think, put Mordecai on his guard, so he told Esther not to say who she was. I think I had her not eat shellfish and keep Kosher but not make a big deal about it.

No protagonist is perfect, no matter what we think of these women in the Bible. They're still human. I saw her as similar to an American Christian girl who is in love with the culture; I painted her as someone who loved Persia. She loved this cute Persian boy. One day she saw the Queen go by with her entourage in the marketplace and she was enamored. She's all caught up in that adulation, and it's not until her crisis moment that she even realizes what being Jewish is all about. There's no recorded time that she prays or says "God" up to that point. She's just like a lot of American girls who are so in love with culture that they have to get knocked down before they realize what faith is all about.

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You can find out more about this book in a Q&A with Angela Hunt which her publisher has provided here.


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