Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Unusual Historical

April’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2023 was “Unusual Historical.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Holly Read: Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Why was this book on your TBR? 

As with pretty much every random paperback romance novel I own, I probably found this in a neighborhood book box. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

It’s set in ancient Egypt. Not too many romances being written about the ancient world. 

Note: I had a hard time choosing a book this month because I FRIGGIN LOVE unusual historicals. I considered reading Lucy Morris’s Shieldmaiden Sisters trilogy because VIKINGS! But decided that maybe I should read something I already own. You know, in the spirit of tackling my existing TBR instead of adding to it. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

If I had read this book when I was 13, I probably would have LOVED it. It’s full of excitement and intrigue and a young slave attracting the love of the hottest lord around. 

I also don’t think that this book would have been written today. The central intrigue is about deposing Hatshepsut, that pesky lady pharaoh who usurped her stepson’s throne. 

I ended up in a Wikipedia black hole while reading this book, and learned that, yes, Hatshepsut was a real pharaoh, who reigned 1478–1458 BC. She ruled during a time of prosperity, sponsored one of Egypt’s most successful trading expeditions, and was a prolific builder of monuments—including a 97 ft tall obelisk (quarried from a single block of stone, mind you).

All of these things are referred to in the book, but Hatshepsut is the villain who is bringing about Egypt’s decline. She must be replaced by the true king who wouldn’t spend all of the gold in the treasury on silly obelisks, but rather on manly military conquest. (And yes, Hatshepsut’s successor, Thutmose III, did a lot of military campaigning and empire expanding during his reign.) The happy ending can only happen åfter Hatshepsut drinks poison. (Probably not historically accurate.)

Back to my point about this book not being written like this today: the young adult romance adventure market would not stand for this portrayal of Hatshepsut. If we’re telling a romance about a slave turned double-agent in the world of palace intrigue, young Mara would be on the side of the queen, fighting off the men who would undermine her. 

Anyways, here’s Hatshepsut, heroine of my heart.

However, despite the many many feelings I had about the politics of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, I mostly enjoyed this book. The beginning was a bit slow, but once the intrigue got going, it was pretty fun. Mara is a great heroine—charming, unrepentantly self-serving, and smart (though not as smart as she thinks she is). The attention to detail in the world-building is great. Who knows how accurate it was, but it *seemed* like an accurate portrayal of life in ancient Egypt: just weird enough to feel very foreign, but not so weird that the characters and their struggles weren’t recognizable.

For much of the book, the romance is not central to the plot, taking a back seat to the intrigue, but the love story does become centrally important as we reach the story’s climax. Plus there’s decent banter and a few passionate kisses.

This book probably would have continued to languish on my shelf o’ romances if it weren’t for the TBR challenge. And I’m glad that I decided to finally read it.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Ingrid Read: Highland Dragon Master by Isabel Cooper

Dawn of the Highland Dragon, Book # 3

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I saw it in a used bookstore and thought to myself, I don’t know what’s going on here…but dragons are good and highlanders are good, so…

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge? 

It fit almost TOO well. I had to.

What are your thoughts on the book?

We’ll call this an “in progress” report because I fell asleep when I was supposed to be reading. It happens. 

In this book, we have a highland warrior dragon shifter. (For real.) Realizing he’s having trouble overcoming his shifter nature, he’s pulled from the front line and sent on a mission, where he finds Toinette, a fellow shifter he grew up with during his adolescence. 

Toinette captains a ship Erik hires to take him to an island full of mystery. Here’s where I fell asleep. 

Impressions thus far are that there’s little heat between the two. It feels almost peripheral to the action. Also, Erik being a Highlander also feels secondary. It feels like it’s more of a paranormal/shifter book? But of course, there’s still plenty of time for that to change. 

I’ll update after I finish!

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? May’s theme is “Freebie.”

3 thoughts on “TBR Challenge: Unusual Historical”

  1. “Who knows how accurate it was, but it *seemed* like an accurate portrayal of life in ancient Egypt: just weird enough to feel very foreign, but not so weird that the characters and their struggles weren’t recognizable.”

    ::nods emphatically:: It is essential to my reading enjoyment that I am able to recognize the humanity in the characters no matter how remote (to me) the worldbuilding in the story. The other side of the coin is a worldbuilding that holds together properly.

    Liked by 2 people

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