Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One of Many

Angie here: Today's guest is Roseanna White, author of Jewel of Persia. I loved this book and the wonderful story style. She brings out a deep topic in our society, not just historically. How do you deal with broken trust in the intimacy of marriage?

Have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like to be one of a man’s wives? As in, plural? And not just one of a couple, but one of many? A member of a harem?

I had to, while writing Jewel of Persia. My heroine, Kasia, is a (fictional) concubine to Xerxes, who had wives aplenty, though no one reports an exact count. She’s his favorite, the only one he truly loves, so in some ways, their made-up relationship was like any marriage today. But in other ways . . . um, no.

As my best friend and critique partner Stephanie Morrill (author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Series) read through the manuscript, she confessed to having some real trouble with this aspect. She couldn’t reconcile the fact that Xerxes supposedly loved Kasia, but then had no problem sleeping with other women. In our minds, that is quite simply Not Acceptable. End of story. Yet polygamy was a fact, not just in societies like Ancient Persia, but even in Jewish history. How many wives did King David have? And he was a man after God’s own heart. He loved Bathsheba—did he stop sleeping with his other wives after he married her? Um, no. And then there’s Solomon, a man so wise he was rewarded with all possible earthly possessions, like gold and cypress and so many wives and concubines he undoubtedly didn’t know all their names.

Um . . . huh? How is that cool? How is that what God ordained? Right?? We’re raised to believe in fidelity and monogamy, and by the time the New Testament rolled around, this was becoming the way of things the world over.

Or was it?

True, it’s illegal to have more than one wife in our country today. But let’s consider it for a moment. Turn on the TV. Read a mainstream book, or even examine the back story of a Christian book. Are the heroes and heroines always pure until they wed? Often not, because that is reality. I’m a big fan or portraying reality. What I’m not a big fan of is the assumption, even within the Church, that this is acceptable. So often we hear about that double standard that says it isn’t okay for women to be promiscuous, but that you just have to assume many men will sow their wild oats before they settle down.

So I ask you—how is this different? In both cases, are the wives not expected to deal with the memories their husbands have of other women? Are they not accustomed to rolling their eyes when the men’s bug out at an attractive girl strutting down the street?

I was blessed to marry a man who shared my beliefs, and who lived by them. We dated all through high school and married in college, and so there was never any other girl he even kissed, just as he’s the only guy I have. And perhaps because of that, I view other relationships through an interesting lens. I wonder how husbands and wives deal with the fact that their spouses have had intimate relationships with other people.

And after considering that for many years, in many other stories, I realized harem life really wasn’t so different. Both require confidence in knowing your husband’s heart is yours, no one else’s. And yet both require forgiveness and humility, too. Both require placing your heart in the palm of the Lord so that jealousy and bitterness can’t eat it away.

I have to face the fact that a lot of modern readers are going to struggle with the harem aspect of my book. But it was something I couldn’t write off, something that couldn’t be ignored. And hopefully something that makes us all pause and think about the nature of love and marriage, and the fact that even in the midst of a situation we just couldn’t imagine, the Lord still reigns, still ministers.

Kasia had to come to the same conclusion many women today must: no matter how many others her husband has known, no matter where she ranked, no matter the pain it caused, she was not defined by being any man’s wife, even when that man was the king of kings. She was defined, rather, by being daughter to the Lord of lords.


  1. Thanks so much for having me, ladies!

  2. I am glad Roseanna related this to today, and didn't leave out the Christians either. Sadly, many Christians are just as at fault as our unsaved friends.

    Sounds like she tackled a tough topic well!

  3. A great post, Roseanna. Your book sounds very intriguing! I did the Beth Moore study of Esther last year so was even more intrigued.

    I look forward to checking out your book! Thanks so much for being with us on the blog today.

  4. Interesting book Roseanna, it sounds as if it stands as a direct opposite to the story of Anna and the King, where she couldn't accept that the king had many wives and the king eventually realizes that it is possible to love only one women instead of having so many.

    Anyway, that is so cute that you married your high school sweetheart! :)

  5. Eva, we're positively adorable. ;-) Been together so long that we crack the same jokes and are now joking that in another fifteen years, we won't have to talk at all, but will STILL laugh at the same time, just at our shared thoughts. Fun stuff.

    Yes, very opposite Anna and the King, LOL. (Interestingly, I was in a local production of "The King and I" as a teen.)

    Missy, I haven't done the Beth Moore study, but we did do a Bible study of the book in my church about two years ago. LOVE the book of Esther!

    Good to see you, Annette!

  6. Intriguing post, Roseanna and I'll look forward to reading your book!

    Speaking of the King and I, it's one of my all time favorite movies!

  7. i truly enjoyed this posting...roseanna, thanks for sharing :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  8. A great topic. Glad to see some deeper levels of real-life issues being addressed in Biblical fiction. Great job, Roseanna!