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The Merchant's Pearl

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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.

Buy The Merchant’s Pearl to see if true love can conquer untold temptation today!

Librarian's note: See alternate cover edition of ASIN B07939Q86W here.

452 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 24, 2016

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Amie O'Brien

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 35 reviews
Profile Image for Alexis.
Author 2 books25 followers
March 19, 2017
Whew, what a story. First off, it's just fantastic writing. Even if the plot sucked, you would be like; "man, that story sucked, but boy was it beautifully written". There is talent here and it shows. Fantastic world building. It is obvious that the author put in the time and effort to present the reader with a well-researched story and nothing makes me happier than that. There are not many books that entertain while teaching you something about a different country, a different culture, and a different time. In addition to great world building, the characters are just beautifully complex, the dialogue flows and the romance enchants. Listen I know I'm gushing but this is a five star read. If you're into romance and especially romances with a unique plot, pick this one up.
Profile Image for Yvonne (It's All About Books).
2,110 reviews262 followers
June 24, 2017

Finished reading: June 23rd 2017

“I just wish I understood what it all means sometimes—why one person rises while the other falls? Why one set of feet must be kissed while the other’s gets stepped upon?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

P.S. Find more of my reviews here.
Profile Image for K.D. Dowdall.
Author 4 books60 followers
January 12, 2017
“The Merchant’s Pearl,” by author, Amie O’brien, is a beautifully written historical romance about life in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, especially life as a harem slave. The main characters, Prince Emre and his concubine, Leila, one of several of his concubines and wives, begin to fall deeply in love amidst the turbulent times of change, from the old-world-order to the new-world-order, regarding the Industrial Revolution of Europe. The Merchant’s Pearl is an intriguing and intimate look at the Ottoman Empire’s daily life with all the opulence, beauty, and suffering of a way of life that existed for hundreds of years. The Merchant’s Pearl Saga has much more to say and I am eagerly looking forward to Aime O’brien's second book in this saga. I highly recommend The Merchant’s Pearl.

Profile Image for Eleanor Small.
10 reviews
April 17, 2017
Set in a Turkish harem in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, this novel explores how love can succeed against the odds, amongst themes of trust, sex and politics – the latter of the harem, royal court and the wider world. Leila, a slave harem girl, battles with her new station in life, dreaming of when she was free and trying to reconcile herself to the fact that she will probably never be free again. Told from Leila’s point of view, we watch how she battles harem politics and expectations, develops a deep friendship with Dariya, a woman who is also a harem slave to the same man and, how Leila falls in love with Prince Emre despite herself.

Prince Emre has loved Leila for years but, despite being a Prince, had to wait for the opportunity to present itself before he could claim her as his. He is somewhat unusual for a man in his position as he chooses to give Leila the space and time she needs before she decides to be his in fact. However, this was accomplished in an entirely believable manner.

I loved the realism; there were many true to historical period and culture hurdles for Emre and Leila to overcome. Emre already had two wives and two children; Leila could never become his first and most important Kadin. Dariya didn’t enjoy sleeping with Emre and Emre knew that sharing him with other women was a red line for Leila but he continued to do so for a significant period of time in any case –all because he was male, a Prince, he could and it was expected of him. Leila may have been physically innocent but she was years wiser than Emre in the realities of harem life. She was very conscious of ensuring that she conformed to the foreign rules (except for her avoidance of intimacy) and Emre was concerned with how many rules he could break. The difference in their religions was explored very thoughtfully and, I felt, faithfully to the times.

Whilst Emre and Leila fear the unknown the collapse of the Empire would bring, their fate is entwined with its failure; only then can they be together in the way they wished. The narrative was compelling, despite being written in a modern, American vernacular (it was consistent so didn’t jar) and I fell in love with the characters and begrudged every moment I had to put the book down and do something else. The beautifully rendered, poignant emotional journey that Leila undergoes often had me in tears. There was good juxtaposition of the various differences in how the harem girls reconciled themselves (or not) to lives of sexual slavery. The novel was well-researched and was a fascinating insight into the daily life of the Royal family and how, despite Emre being a Prince, he was just as much a prisoner of his existence as the slaves.

A central tenet of the novel is that Leila is terrified of physical intimacy; during the course of the novel she falls in love and eventually overcomes her fears. But for a book that was wholly about love and sex, there was a curious lack of description regarding the latter and this was one of the things that stopped this from being a truly great book for me. I know sometimes less is more, and Amie was very good at this in all other aspects, but this didn’t have to be erotica – even a few descriptive paragraphs would have added to the story. There was plenty of frank talk about sex in the abstract, which I felt added to the realism given this was set in a harem, but hardly anything about sex in actuality. We know Leila’s intimate thoughts about everything else that happens to her but have to guess a lot of it when it comes to actually experiencing intimacy which I found frustrating. And I hated that I never got to find out exactly how Leila disgraced herself in her first encounter with Emre; the various illusions weren’t enough for me.

Secondly, I really didn’t like how Emre was so blasé about the prospect of leaving behind his two children if he and Leila did manage to leave the country if the Empire collapsed. Maybe that was deliberate and Emre didn’t care – he only appears to have seen his children less than a handful of times throughout the entire novel. But his lack of care doesn’t ring true as he wanted his second child to be a daughter so she potentially wouldn’t have been in as great a danger as a son in any future power struggle. The birth of his daughter was barely mentioned, one minute his wife was pregnant and the next he had a daughter. I know this birth would not have been celebrated like a child of the Sultan would but I think Leila would have had considerable interest in the children of the man she loves so I found her lack of emotional reaction here to be an omission. Maybe this was part of the historical realism and men in Emre’s position didn’t interact with their children very much and Emre truly didn’t mind that he might never see his children again. But Amie had already broken a lot of rules to make Emre such a different and compelling character from his counterparts anyway, I felt this could have been stretched too, even if it was a sop to the sensibilities of the modern reader.

Like any good book, this book ended too soon and with plenty of leeway for the reader to complete Emre and Leila’s story – perhaps too much; I could have quite happily kept reading for several more chapters. Leila considered Dariya a sister, someone she needed “as much as I needed him”. Given this extremely close relationship, I wanted some firmer answers on how Dariya could remain part of their lives if they left the country. The book didn’t quite get to the happily-ever-after part, only hinted at its potential.

When all’s said and done though, I still loved this book and I will definitely be watching out for future novels from Amie.
Profile Image for Regan Walker.
Author 35 books765 followers
August 9, 2017
4 and ½ Stars - Love in a Harem in the Late 19th Century Ottoman Empire

A great debut novel, this is a well-told tale that will sweep you away to an exotic locale drawing you into harem life. You will not forget the well-developed characters.

Set in the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century (beginning in Istanbul in 1875), this is the story of Sarai, the daughter of missionaries. She was very close to her father who called her his “Pearl”. When she is eleven, her parents were killed and she was sold into slavery. Renamed “Leila”, she is made a “concubine-in-waiting” for Sultan Aziz. But as an older teen, she is claimed by his son, Prince Emre and becomes his concubine.

The story begins with a rather vague prologue, but then immerses us in the life of a haren. Told from the first person (we are only ever in Leila’s head), we see the quandary Leila faces as she is thrust into a world where she goes nowhere unguarded or uncloaked (save for her eyes). Mindful of her heritage, she fights the idea of being “owned”, even rejecting Prince Emre’s gifts.

Meanwhile, giving in to Leila’s preferences, Emre makes no sexual demands upon her. (He has two wives and two other concubines for that.) With Leila, he just talks about his life and his family’s struggles. They become friends, slowly learning to trust each other and confide their secrets. Leila shares her love of Jane Austen’s novels with Emre, who—like Leila—feels trapped by his life and so they become kindred spirits.

The romance between Leila and Emre is a slow burn (466 pages) as friendship develops into love. For being twenty, Emre is a most mature and unusual man. Leila is a Christian who, at one point, tells Emre she is planning on becoming a Muslim. But then she tells him she cannot read from the Quran, as it would betray her father’s faith. And her thoughts suggest she is a believer in God (not Allah).

History is woven in through what Emre shares with Leila about what is happening in his father’s kingdom, reflecting considerable research into the culture and the history of the time. Only two things distracted: the dialog and phrasing is often modern (the use of “Hey” as a greeting, for example); and the end feels like the middle in that there is no clear happy ever after or any clear ending. It feels like “to be continued” should be added. So, one presumes another installment will be forthcoming.
Profile Image for Stephanie Collins.
Author 1 book547 followers
September 21, 2016
I am a self-admitted historical romance junkie. I've read hundreds, if not thousands. That being said, this is - without a doubt - the most memorable historical romance I have (or likely ever will) read. I must admit that I was slightly hesitant to pick it up; it's a Turkish harem story, and (in all honesty) my tastes tend to be more European in nature. I am SO incredibly thankful that I took a chance and branched out for a new reading experience; it would have been such a loss if I had passed this beautiful story by. There are so many things I love about this book, I hardly know where to begin. I'll just put it this way. A thought struck me while reading - one I've never had before. I thought, "This is a PERFECT book for a book club." I've never really had any desire to sit and dissect specific chapters of a book with fellow readers...until now. The characters are 3-dimentional (and not just the main characters, but the extended cast, as well). I could gush over all of them, but let's just focus on the pearl, herself. I won't mention her by name, because I debate over what name would be best to use - a perfect example of a great discussion for a book club. I was so inspired by her. She had stronger conviction than I could ever dream of having - while remaining "real" and believable in nature. There were times when I was frustrated with her for not compromising or letting things go. But that would have been falling into line...giving up and giving in to her circumstances...and - what's the saying? - well-behaved women don't make history. I'm so glad I wasn't there to offer my misguided advice. Beyond the thought-provoking and well-rounded cast, it's like I entered an entire sphere of alternate reality, as EVERY aspect of the story was just as dynamic and complex as the superb character development. The love story was anticipated, of course, but it was one of the most touching, tender, and delicate romances I've encountered. There was so very much more, though. It was a coming of age story. It was a coming to terms story. It was a (VERY well researched) story of religious and political conflict. It was a story of difficult truths that don't offer easy avenues toward a happily ever after. And none of these plot lines and stories came off as "preachy" or judgmental in any way (like you so often find in a Scottish historical romance where "the English are devils" or an English one where the "Scottish are heathens" or "the French are vile"). This was so much more 3-dimentional. The conflicts were intricate - presented and revealed in such a way that you could see the multiple sides to the various beliefs and opinions. I have to admit to a flash of disappointment before breathing a huge sigh of relief (and then a squeal of excitement). After reading many historical romances, I have come to expect a certain happily-ever-after-type-ending. Just as Ms. O'Brien didn't spoon-feed the rest of the tale, she didn't throw on a stereotypical, predictable, unimaginative ending...but she didn't exactly leave us with a cliffhanger, either. It ends with hope and love and faith...but it's not spelled out for the reader. Just as I began to think I was going to have to allow the characters to live on in my own imagination (where they would pale in comparison to anything I read on the pages), I was THRILLED to learn that this is the first installment of a series, so I'm left with scarcely contained joy and anticipation for the sequel. It is my understanding that this was Ms. O'Brien's first book. Wow! I stand and applaud her incredible talent, I thank her for sharing her beautifully imaginative world with us, and I anxiously await word on book number 2!
Profile Image for Carole P. Roman.
Author 72 books2,203 followers
December 21, 2016
Meticulously detailed story about Leila, a young girl living in a harem in 19th century Turkey. The Ottoman Empire was teetering, it's bloated aristocracy and royal family feuding over the throne. No one was safe, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian. The daughter of murdered missionaries, Leila finds herself placed in a harem and reluctantly trained in the arts of pleasing a man. Her defiance catches the eye of young prince Emre, who finds both her intellect and independent spirit refreshing. She is chosen to be his, and must battle with his favorite concubine, Aster, as well as her own Western ideals and conscience. A beautiful friendship develops changing the course of their lives. Amie O'Brien lovingly recreates life in exotic Turkey, capturing the angst of young love bridging two very different cultures.
1 review2 followers
January 22, 2017

I loved this book. The characters wriggled their way into my heart. I appreciated that the author gave many of the characters a back story, so we could sympathize with them even if we didn't like them. I also enjoyed learning so much about a culture that I knew so little about. This was a beautiful story, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
Profile Image for Sheila.
Author 79 books186 followers
November 1, 2017
In a world of Christian missionaries, Turkish harems, Napoleon and the Suez Canal, a Christian girl is being trained to please a Muslim prince. But things are not quite as they seem. Her prince’s privilege of riches is as surely a prison as the home of wives and concubines; the luxury of choice carries cruel responsibilities; and the art of saying no might be the most seductive gift of all.

Both prince and virgin concubine hide secrets. Both are faithful to the God of their different belief. And both are intelligent enough to see the bigger world intruding on the narrow walls around them. Soon they share their fears and discoveries, bringing readers smoothly into well-researched history, and enticing us to see more in our present world too. How little do we know of other people’s lives? How little do we understand their cultures?

These concubines are bound by law to share their master’s affections, not so much sister-wives as sisters born of different heritages, with different expectations. Above all, in this tale, they are children growing too fast to womanhood.

The Merchant’s Pearl is a pearl of a novel, evocatively recreating the luxury and pain of the past, vividly painting the dilemmas of religious and cultural misunderstanding, and smoothly inviting the reader into a story that’s so much more than just history or just romance. Labels hid real people, then and today. And sometimes it’s good to see those labels stripped away. I loved this book.

Disclosure: I was given this book as a gift and I love it. Thank you.
Profile Image for Karen Ingalls.
Author 9 books80 followers
September 4, 2017
A very well-written love story between a Prince and his concubine. Their genuine and unconditional love is beautifully described. I could not put the book down and was "disappointed" that it is part of a saga. Anxious to read the next book in this series.
There is history, culture, and intimacy.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
1,001 reviews113 followers
March 8, 2017
I almost don't know where to start expressing my love for this book. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story but once I did I quickly fell in love with it. It ended up being my favorite historical romance of the year so far.

To keep it short, this story is set in the Ottoman Empire where the main character, Leila, gets chosen to be part of Prince Emre's harem. Emre turns out to be very kind and compassionate towards Leila and the end up falling madly in love.

Leila was quite a character. I totally loved her sass and how opinionated she was. However, she acted very impulsively a lot of the times which led to her being in trouble a lot. But then again it was kind of fun as well. Emre just stole my heart, it's as simple as that. Hello new book boyfriend.

I've got to admit I hadn't expected to be so captivated by Leila and Emre's relationship as much as I was. I absolutely loved reading about them falling in love. It was such a delicious slow burn. They even made my cry. And I don't cry often with books so this was surprising even to me.

The secondary characters were really great to read about as well. I loved the friendship between Leila and Dariya (one of Emre's other concubines). Dariya was just so kind to Leila. You can't help but like her. Hell, I even liked Aster even though she was quite horrible at times because she brought some drama, which I kinda liked at times.

But my favorite thing about this book probably was all the love for Jane Austen's books. They actually play a pretty important role in the growing love between Leila and Emre. I just loved it!

Overall, The Merchant's Pearl by Amie O'Brien was beautifully written, detailed and just exquisite. This is certainly a book that will stay with me for a very long time and I can't wait for the next one. I already know this author is going to be one of my favorites, just like Leila and Emre ended up being one of my favorite fictional couples.
Profile Image for The Irregular Reader.
416 reviews46 followers
May 3, 2017
Leila (formerly Sarai) is a missionary’s daughter sold into slavery after the death of her parents. Living in the cosseted and catty world of the Turkish Sultan’s harem, her main goal has been to remain unnoticed by the Sultan and his princes until she can make a claim for her freedom. When Prince Emre, the Sultan’s second son, claims her as his newest concubine, all her hopes seem to have been dashed. But Emre has been in love with Leila for years, ever since a disastrous attempt by his father to “gift” her to him. Despite Leila’s fear of physical intimacy, and her hesitation to tie herself into the place of a concubine, a rapport grows between the two. Meanwhile, the increasing instability of the Turkish empire in the face of the Industrial Revolution may provide them with a way out of their respective gilded cages.

O’Brien does a great job setting her story inside a well-researched and lovingly crafted historical setting. Her central characters, Leila and Emre, are crafted with multiple dimensions and feel more real than the typical heaving bosom and tall dark and handsome from romance novels. The story is, overall, more complex than many in the genre.

Ultimately, though, this book just didn’t capture me. The more modern speech was a bit jarring at times, but I can concede the use in these days and times. I’m tempted to think that the problem was on my end, I feel that romance novels for me can be hit or miss. However, I would still recommend this book to fans of historical romance. O’Brien clearly has talent as a writer, and aficionados of the genre will find a lot to like in the book.

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cat Imb || The Reading Cat ||.
417 reviews37 followers
September 21, 2017
I received an ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Amie O'Brien.

Wow. I have to say that when I opened my kindle and saw how many pages this book was, I was a little concerned it would be a book that dragged on without purpose, that could have been more concise. Boy, was I proven dead wrong. This book was meticulously and perfectly paced. There was never a dull moment, or a moment when I just wanted the book to be over. In fact, I wanted the book to NOT end.

It is abundantly clear that this book was painstakingly researched and verified. The accuracy and abundance of the historic facts does not go unnoticed. Despite it being set in the mid to late 19th century, this book feels worlds away. I think that has to do with how under-represented the Ottoman culture of that era is. I cannot fathom why though, the whole idea of a harem, and sultans truly is intriguing and exotic. It is like a breath of fresh air in a genre full of typicality. The writing itself is exquisite, and tasteful. It is formal, yet has this flowing, natural air to it.

The author allowed us to accept this foreign reality, and I use the word accept loosely here, by how likable and relatable her characters are. In fact, Leila has very Western views, and she mirrors so perfectly what the reader is also questioning and feeling.

I really cannot wait until the release of book II.
Profile Image for Lillie.
Author 22 books39 followers
February 19, 2017
Up until I reached the end of the book, I would have given it 4 stars. The writing is beautiful. The characters are believable, though not always likable. The setting is exotic and the romance tender and emotional. The history was intriguing. The book was very well-edited; I found only a few wrong words.

The only nitpick I had with the story was that sometimes, the dialogue seemed too modern for the time and place. For example, the lovers often greet each other with "Hey." To me, this is something the younger generation uses today, but it was foreign to my generation. Therefore, I suspect it would be foreign to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. There were a few other similar expressions, but I wasn't often pulled out of the story by out-of-time-and-place language.

With all those positives, though, the ending disappointed me. It wasn't a complete cliffhanger (or it would have merited only one or two stars from me). However, there wasn't a clear resolution. All we had were plans and promises, and with the political situation being what it was, there was a strong likelihood those plans might not materialize. The ending is obviously the setup for a sequel--readers who like cliffhangers in series books will probably love this one.
Profile Image for Kelly  The Sassy Book Lover.
421 reviews21 followers
May 17, 2017
*I received a copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

This is very different from what I usually read and I really liked it! I loved the different setting, culture, and POV that is in this book. It's not your typical romance and there is a lot more going on then their story. There is a journey for both of them in finding themselves and their way in everything. It's a book that you want to take your time and read. The ending was good and it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it does stand alone.

Leila is very interesting and different. She doesn't belong there, but her heart says otherwise. I loved the internal fight she had while trying to find her place and herself. She will pull at your heart and have you cheering her on.

Prince Emre is not like his family. He was very different and needed to find his true self too. I loved how understood things and tried to keep the peace between everyone. He will have your attention from the start and you will love him in the end.
Profile Image for Cindy Woods.
1,058 reviews16 followers
May 4, 2018

What a very long, repetitious, dull book! The story is monotonous and characters one dimensional, colorless....especially Leila. The creation of life in the harem is very poorly constructed and not believable. The dialogue is juvenile and modern while we are led to understand the story takes place in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire.
The main character Leila is a self-righteous Christian woman who was sold by traders to the palace as a child after her parents are brutally murdered, yet I felt little sympathy for her as she martyrs herself as a virgin even after she is given to one of the sultan's sons.
The romance is bland especially given Leila's frigid reaction to Prince Emre. There are long periods of history added throughout as conversation between the two characters....each history lesson boring and overlong as the dialogue drones on and on.......yawn!
I never review a book I haven't read entirely, and this one was one long drag that I will pass on giving a recommendation. Zzzzzzz!
Profile Image for Judy.
3,049 reviews
February 6, 2017
The Merchant's Pearl by Amie O'Brien
The Merchant's Pearl Saga Book One
Imagine an eleven-year-old who not only became an orphan after her parents were murdered, but was then sold to the traders. Being handled and touched as merchandise instead of a human.

Imagine having to hide the way you were raised—having to pretend to worship a foreign god instead of your God. Having to hide your true heritage and language.

And imagine being given to a sultan's son. Living with other concubines. Living amidst hatred and jealousy.

And worst of all, imagine falling in love with the man you must share with other women.

This is a very emotional book if you get jealous for your heroines. It's very detailed as it shows life within the palace and living with other women. Very well written.
**Received from author for an honest review
60 reviews
December 26, 2016
This book was amazing for any author's first published book. The setting, the characters, and the drama were believable. All the action is behind the scenes but is no less suspenseful. Most of the characters, like most people anywhere, are trying to be the best they can be within the confines of a very rigid society. I really loved this book. I only ever give 5 stars to books I liked so much I knew I would read it again. This is just such a book.
Granny Coy
1 review
October 3, 2016
The Merchant's Pearl is a memorable novel that provides a fascinating look into Turkish history. Well-researched, with an intriguing plot, compelling themes, and believable characters who stay with you long after you finish. Can't wait for the next instalment!
1 review
September 22, 2016
I appreciate a book that keeps your interest from beginning to end. Can't wait for the next book!
Profile Image for Sarah.
449 reviews24 followers
September 21, 2017
3.5 Stars

For a self-published work, this novel has a lot going for it. The author put in the effort to research her timeframe and society setting, not an effort many put in with a harem setting. I also loved the slow build for our main relationship for most of the book. Yet, there are some issues that keep this from true stardom.

1870s Ottoman Empire is a world in flux, the modern world and European powers encroaching on a traditional Muslim world. Told through the eyes of a captive Ottoman prince and his harem favorite love, the reader gets an in-depth and intimate look at a powerful family in freefall from power. Just a short 40 years after this book’s events, the Sultanate and the empire they rule fall. I was as intrigued by the political conversations and maneuverings as I was our main relationship.

I appreciated the time and care the author took in building our relationship into something believable and real. Most historical romances don't take this route, instead of going straight for the sexy times. This is especially true of a harem setting. Emre and Leila reached a pinnacle of mutual respect and friendship before they even start to think of a physical consummation of their relationship. Starting out as friends first is always the best way to build a relationship, I feel, so I was very pleased to see that here.

I also enjoyed our lead’s personalities overall. Emre was the perfect blend of a gentleman and friend. He respected Leila as an individual, enjoying her mind and personality just as much as her physical form. Being trapped in the insular society that was Ottoman palace and harem politics made his personality stand out all the more as he had to please other parties besides himself, so acting in a way that was hard for him and his dealings with different hair him and family members.

My like for her starting out strong way, Leila proved herself to be a strong, iron-willed gal who didn't take gruff from her fellow harem members while also possessing an equally strong diplomatic streak. Ever since the death of her parents, Leila’s life has been one tragedy or struggle after another. So her finally finding a meaningful relationship with Emre and other harem members gladdened the heart.

Yet, as the story progresses, she started to wear on the nerves. She'd blow hot and cold on Emre, alternately wanting to be with him then punishing him for small, sometimes even imagined, slights with silence and the cold shoulder treatment. The latter half of the book contained these instances more and more, as we went along. By the time we got to the end, at times, I felt like Emre could have done better.

I also felt that this book was far too long. Clocking in at over 400 pages, this book felt like it had extra padding. The relationship journey between Emre and Leila could have been told in half their scenes together. Repeated themes and the conversation topics bogged down their time together in the latter half. Maybe that's why Leila started to grind on me a bit; she was rehashing emotions and thought patterns that I felt should have been resolved or at least evolved by that point.

Still, at the end of the day, this read stands out far above other historical romance titles in the harem sub-genre. It takes the time to explore the world of the Ottoman Empire and the many political maneuvering's that were a part of daily life, both within the harem and without. The main relationship is also build up with a firm foundation and respect and friendship, with romance coming after that. Our leads are relatable for the most part and enjoyable, with occasional bursts of irksome behavior from our heroine. While the heft of this volume is daunting and unnecessary in many places, I'd still look into this title if you're looking for a well-written historical romance.

Note: Book received for free from author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Píaras Cíonnaoíth.
Author 114 books140 followers
October 9, 2017
Whatever flaws we might identify or frustrations we might feel are trivial in comparison to a reader’s pure joy in losing himself/herself in a narrative. When all the elements come together: an intriguing plot, thoughtful, profound themes, complex, troubling, characters, and language that make us shudder for its honesty, clarity, and confidence; we gratefully set all analysis aside and give ourselves up to the sheer magic of a great book. And for me, The Merchant’s Pearl (The Merchant’s Pearl Saga Book 1), is such a book.

Author Amie O’Brien weaves a fascinating historical romance, with intriguing twists and turns that will easily captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning.

The book description says it all: ‘As a missionary’s daughter, Sarai was taught that love and faith conquer all. But when her parents are murdered, she quickly learns that the world doesn’t stop for love.

As a teen, Sarai—now called Leila—is enslaved, a palace concubine for the Ottoman Sultan Aziz. Though she does her best to elude him, she’s forced out of her shell when his son, Prince Emre, claims her for his own. Tossed into competition with the other girls in his harem, Leila must face the lavish attention of her young master and the resulting retaliation from his prior favorite, Aster. But it’s an unexpected gift and a glimpse inside his family’s struggles that collide headfirst with Leila’s upbringing. Soon, despite her better judgment, she finds her heart has a mind of its own.

Can she subject her faith and independent spirit to such a future—a future in which the best she can hope for is to be his favorite? How will she stand sharing him with the other girls in the harem? As the sultan’s fragile kingdom unravels around them, will it even matter?’

Now, if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, I don’t know what will. But if you want to find out what happens you’ll just have to turn the pages for yourself to find out! But I will say it’s well worth the read. It’s my first time reading this author and I must say I was very impressed.

This captivating and commendable work had me immersed from the beginning. The story flowed from scene to scene with ease, and the author shows exceptional ability when it comes to storytelling. There are plenty of attention-grabbing moments in this page turner that will take the reader on a mesmerizing journey!

It’s one of those books that come along once in awhile that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end. I’m giving nothing further away here. And this, I hope, will only add to the mystery and enjoyment for the reader.

If this book is anything to go by, I’ll certainly be looking forward to reading more from Amie O’Brien in the future. I would definitely recommend this book and would love to see it adapted for the Silver Screen. Five stars from me.
Profile Image for Candy Briggs.
653 reviews20 followers
September 10, 2017
It was a beautiful Love story. It has been set in the Ottoman Empire, during Napolean III's time(1875). Emre Is the fourth son to the throne and lives in the palace. He feels he lives in a cage, he goes virtually nowhere. Leila was a daughter of a vicar and British, but she could tell no one or it would be her death. She became a concubine to Emre and lived in his harem.
This was a comprehensive delight with the descriptions of the palace, their rooms and the views out of their windows. The characters were so believable, you actually developed feelings for them and what was happening to them. The plot swept you into a complex but heartwarming story. The troops, the guards and security precautions that had to be taken to keep everyone safe. The politics of the time were frightening to the characters and would be to anyone in the same position. I loved the way the author developed the love between Leila and Emre but I did not like the way it ended, I wanted more. The book was mesmerizing and forced you to keep reading to see what would happen next. Amie O'Brien has quite a astonishing talent and I hope the sequel comes out soon.
I received this as an ARC and voluntarily reviewed.
Profile Image for J.T. Riggen.
Author 5 books8 followers
November 21, 2017
Let me start by saying this genre of novel is not in my direct wheelhouse. There were some great reviews floating around of this title, and the author website was enough to entice me to give it a read. Great writing, is great writing, is great writing. There's no substitute for it. And Amie O'Brien is a phenomenal writer. I need to be transported right away when I read. Bring me into the world, paint it vividly, let me get lost in your words paragraphs and descriptions. O'Brien does just that throughout the novel. At times the themes can border on disturbing, which is perfect for the tone of the novel and the subject matter -- she is a slave trying to survive and trying to understand her disposition and feelings after all. This was a great read. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Anna Goodman.
2 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2018
Besides Anne of Green Gables and Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels I am usually not keen on series, but can't wait for the sequel of The Merchant's Pearl. The writing style is so absorbing and engaging and not for a minute I thought the book was too long. The love story of Leila, a harem slave stripped of her previous identity and Emre, a cadet son of the Sultan, is set at the end of the 19th century while the once mighty Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The details of the historical context are really well researched and interesting, I found myself totally immersed in the period. I love historical romances and this is the best I have read in a long time.
Profile Image for Janice  M .
Author 5 books361 followers
February 5, 2018
Amie O’Briens The Merchant’s Pearl is an unforgettable, heavily researched, and highly believable love story about the 19th century Turkish Harem of the Ottoman Empire. It is very clear that O’Brien spent timeless hours and dedication to making this story real and believable. You will live and breathe the 19th century and fall in love like you never knew you could.

Leila, the daughter of Christian missionaries, has found herself living in a Turkish palace after the gruesome death of her parents. Although she has tried not to she finds that she has captured Prince Emre’s eye and is chosen for his harem.

This is a coming of age story filled with a dynamic and complex plot line and a touching, tender, and budding romance. It is a love amidst religious and political conflict. Amie provides us with such real and believable characters so we feel as though we have actually stepped into this time and seen the magnificent palace and harem. The conflicts in this book stem from past and present issues in the world and are very three dimensional. Amie has also provided us with the best cliffhanger.

I tried to slow down and not finish the book because I didn’t want it to end. Fear not- The Merchants Pearl is merely the first book in what I’m sure will be a fantastic series. It will be one series you will want to pick up. If you read nothing else this year, read The Merchants Pearl. You will not be sorry.

If you’re looking for a book for your book club, I think this book would also be a perfect fit!
Profile Image for palomahdezc.
302 reviews13 followers
May 2, 2018
One of the best books of the year!

I was rooting for Leila and Emre’s relationship, even though they are fictional characters, their feelings were so real, sometimes I shipped them and other times I wanted to throw the book out of the window. I loved the vivid descriptions of the Ottoman Empire, I’ve never read a book set in that era or place. Thank God, there will be a sequel because the ending was quite abrupt.
194 reviews2 followers
February 5, 2020
Story concept is good but....

Ponderous is the word that came to me as I read this book. It was too wordy with no depth to it. The book could have been half the size with nothing missing from the story. Also the book is set in an earlier time period, but the conversation in many parts was modern. I don't enjoy writing negative reviews but I just couldn't help this one. The author seemed very sincere but needs more practice.
183 reviews8 followers
October 4, 2017
Very interesting read

I enjoyed reading this book. It was a very interesting look inside a harem, and life in the palace during the Ottoman Empire. It is the story of a love that builds between a Prince and the servant girl he chooses for his next concubine. It is the first in a series and I look forward to reading the next installment.
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