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?
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Stick around! The author of The Merchant’s Pearl, Amie O’Brien, is in the virtual studio today.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a Southern-raised, turned Northern girl who enjoys living in the midwest (“Pure Michigan”). I’m married and have two kids. Our son rides dirtbikes, always keeping my heart on edge, and our daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t be more like me. She and I enjoy theatre, books, horseback-riding, and concerts. I met my husband in college and he is truly my best friend in the entire world. Our favorite thing to do is travel and one day we hope to be one of those brilliant, yet not so brilliant couples on Househunter’s International. You know, the ones trading in everything for a little loft apartment in France, or maybe Italy? Yep…that’s us!
2. When did you start writing?
I started writing about 4 years ago. I’ve always wanted to write, but just couldn’t think up that perfect storyline scenario. Basically, I didn’t want to brave writing a story until I could really, really feel it. Every time before, I would start a composition book and then put it back down a few pages into it. Then the thought of The Merchant’s Pearl came along. I found myself incapable of stopping!
3. Does your story have a moral?
Yes, I like to believe it has a moral. In fact, I hope it offers two. To me, The Merchant’s Pearl is about self-worth. It’s about holding on to who you believe you are, and being brave enough to not cave into the image that the world tells us that have to be. But at the same time, it’s also about believing in the worth of other people. That we be able to see past our differences, reconcile our dual pasts, and that we look at others for who they are trying to be, not just where they fail us.
4. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Oh man…picking a favorite character is like picking a favorite child. Who does that??? Okay, I am completely smitten by both Leila and Emre. Leila is incredibly strong, beautiful, and witty. She’s secure and yet completely insecure all in the same breath and I think that makes her very endearing to follow. But Emre is, by all surprises, far softer and approachable in nature. He’s kind and thoughtful, and amazingly slow to anger when Leila provokes him. He is vulnerable, yet crazy complex. Meaning, he can win you over, but you never have a sense of just how much of him you get to possess. He’s a mystery, really. I think he’s the real page-turner.
5. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
When I am reading books, the stories that I enjoy the most are the ones that not only entertain me, but stay with me. They teach me things. They become like an adjuster of my moral compass, causing me to question what I really believe and feel. Jane Eyre is my go-to story. It’s not just romantic. It’s a story about the choices that she must make to pursue love. They’re insanely hard choices, impacting her faith, her position in society, and how she feels about herself as a person. I love this kind of tension. I totally sought to emulate it.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers I would simply say to “stay the course”. Writing is hard, and getting people (friends, family, agents, publishers, etc) to believe in your book is even harder. It is a journey like no other and you have to start every single day knowing it’s probably going to be an emotional roller coaster. But, again, stick with it. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
So hard! Okay, books. But…my favorite is when it’s a beloved book made into a movie.
2. Dogs or cats?
3. Summer or winter?
4. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake. Every time!
5. Ebook or physical book?
If it’s an amazing read, I MUST have it as a physical book.
6. Living in the city or living in the country?
Well I do live in the country. (But I dream of a brownstone in Boston or Chicago!)
7. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
To the past.
8. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel. (Priceline it, baby!)
9. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Lose the money over losing memories. You can always get more money.
10. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?
Oh man…I’ll take the one who actually loves me the most.
11. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
Expired milk. (But I hate cottage cheese.)
12. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
Bottom of a well. (No zombies, right?)
13. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Holy cow! These are desperate measures! Hmmm…no more chocolate. :(…
14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Two inches. Why not? I’m already petite anyway. God forbid I ever be able to open the top kitchen cabinets.
15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
The Walking Dead (Pre-Neegan though!)