Wisdom came as God's gift, but sacred love was forged through passion's fire.
Standing in the shadow of his famous father, young King Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, longing for a love that is true and pure--a love that can be his cornerstone.
A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah has known since she first laid eyes on Solomon that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father secures a promise from Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams will come true.
But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon's harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?
My thoughts on Love's Sacred Song:
I admit I’ve wondered what life was like for those women in the harem of one of Israel’s ancient kings. Never having the whole heart of your husband. Having to endure the jealousies and petty scheming of your husband’s other wives. Palace intrigue. Rebellious plots. Manipulations. Lies. Dashed expectations and hopes. Neglect. Favorites. Was there anything good about it?
The promise of exploring such issues drew me into this story. I wasn’t disappointed. The tension between Solomon’s situation as the husband of multiple women—treaty brides for the sake of political alliance and Israel’s peace—and my hope (along with Arielah’s) that hers and Solomon’s love could somehow rise above that and be exclusive, was often hard to bear. I was in turns sympathetic to Solomon and infuriated with him.
Only someone as pure-hearted and certain of God’s will for her life as Arielah could have walked that tricky road between a man’s heart and a king’s duties. That road is rife with peril and sacrifice. Though women bring him pleasure and he has plenty of them, Solomon has never known a love like his abba David had for his ima Bathsheba. Arielah longs to show him that kind of love. A love that is a gift from Jehovah. Unconditional. Unbreakable. And if anyone can do so, it’s Arielah. This is a young woman with the faith of a giant, a willingness to forgive those who hurt her drawn straight from the well of God’s forgiving heart, and a love for Solomon as uncrushable as iron.
Though she's had her share of detractors in the past (especially chilling were her brothers, introduced at the story's beginning), Arielah’s entrance into Solomon’s harem earns her instant enemies, and unexpected allies. Even without the individuals scheming against Arielah and Solomon, and despite the best of intentions on Solomon’s part, his duty as king is a constant pull on his heart. The question of whether he can ever be true in any sense of that word to one woman turned those pages for me.
Great secondary characters abound. Arielah’s abba, Jehoshaphat. A young man named Reu. Solomon’s right hand man, Benaiah. Solomon's mother, Bathsheba. And one of Solomon's other wives that I won't name (no spoilers!), a character I grew to admire for her strength and complexity.
Normally I don’t care for chapter inscriptions--quotes from outside sources included at the head of each chapter. They feel like author intrusion to me and usually don’t add to the story. In this case I appreciated the scripture references, many from Song of Solomon, some from other books in the Bible, included at the start of each chapter. They gave the story its Biblical context, and I was amazed how many details in scripture I’d glossed over through countless readings, little clues to the story behind Song of Songs woven into the cloth of this novel.
Finally, I felt Mesu Andrews brought even more attention to historical detail to Love's Sacred Song than she did to Love Amid the Ashes, her debut novel, creating a landscape rich in sensory and visual details, and completely transporting. This was a turbulent, painful, beautiful love story, played out against a setting in which building and nurturing the love Solomon and Arielah each desired required complete reliance on God's wisdom and promises.
PS: If you haven't read Love Amid the Ashes, see my review of it. Maybe I'll convince you.
This book was provided by Revell for review.