"The Merchant's Pearl" by Amie O'Brien


He was born to rule an empire. But she's the one who rules his heart…
Stripped of her Christian name and freedom, Leila tries to evade the lustful gaze of her masters. Even in a sprawling Turkish palace, there’s no room to hide from the handsome Prince Emre. On her dreaded first night as the prince’s concubine, instead of his bed, Leila receives a gift more precious than all the riches in the Ottoman Empire. If only she could trust the heir to keep his promise…
Prince Emre is torn between his duty to the splintering empire and his growing feelings for the stubborn daughter of a Christian missionary. Tradition forbids him from abandoning his harem, but Leila’s heart demands his undivided love. When religious and societal forces threaten to tear them apart, Leila and Emre must summon the courage to follow their impossible destiny. 

The Merchant’s Pearl is the thought-provoking first installment in a series of historical romance novels. If you like slow-burn romance, flesh-and-blood characters, and unconventional settings, then you’ll love Amie O'Brien’s opulent tale.

I was excited about the premise of this book. As the story began, I was intrigued by Leila's background. I would have welcomed a deeper understanding of how she lost her Christian name and found herself sold into slavery. I would have liked to have seen that element play out. I enjoyed the initial connection between Leila and Suri and thought she'd play a further role in the book. The supporting characters of Aster and Dariya and their interactions with Leila made conflicting and sometimes comical moments - some of the best parts of the book. I didn't like Prince Emre. The idea that he saved Leila by owning her seemed a nice gesture in the beginning. However, the relationship between the two of them felt cold, and while the description mentions slow-burn, I didn't feel it. Their encounters included many long, detailed conversations about history. Those conversations and all their information distanced me from the story. Most of all; Emre's claim that he must follow tradition - the reason he couldn't abandon the harem or give his love to Leila only - was debunked, for me, the moment he offered Leila the opportunity to be unlike the other girls. 

THE MERCHANT'S PEARL was a well-edited, informative book that I couldn't fall in love with as a romance.


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