Review: Jewel of the Nile, by Tessa Afshar

book coverOverview

Whispered secrets about her parents’ past take on new urgency for Chariline as she pays one last visit to the land of her forefathers, the ancient kingdom of Cush.

Raised as an orphan by her aunt, Chariline has only been told a few pieces of her parents’ tragic love story. Her beautiful dark skin is proof that her father was Cushite, but she knows nothing else. While visiting her grandfather before his retirement as the Roman official in the queen’s court, Chariline overhears that her father is still alive, and discovering his identity becomes her obsession. Both her grandfather and the queen have reasons for keeping this secret, however, and forbid her quest. So when her only clues lead to Rome, Chariline sneaks on the ship of a merchant trusted by friends.

Theo is shocked to discover a stowaway on board his vessel and determines to be rid of her as soon as possible. But drawn in by Chariline’s story, he feels honor-bound to see her safely to shore, especially when it appears someone may be willing to kill for the truth she seeks.

In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters—including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It’s AD31, and a newly married couple is attempting to escape their pursuers across the River Nile. It’s a desperate effort, and there’s no help available. He is Cushite, she is Roman. This cannot end well, and it’s no spoiler to state that it does not. The husband and wife are soon parted. Chapter one commences 25 years later. A roman official is coming to the end of his term in Cush. His mixed-race daughter knows this means time is running out to discover the identity of her father. Her aunt will not help her, and a trusted friend advises her to leave well enough alone. But she is a Christian woman, and her friends are the daughters of Philip the Evangelist. They pray with her and, believing she has been given an answer, she sneaks aboard a vessel bound for Rome.

Philip is not the only Biblical character in Tessa Afshar’s newest release. From 14 verses in Acts 8, she has expertly woven a story around Philip’s interaction with the eunuch of an African queen. Using various historical sources, Afshar fleshes out the character of the official, portraying him as a Cushite (from the area now known as northern Sudan) rather than an Ethiopian due to modern day translation of the word “Ethiopian” to mean black-skinned people and/or African in Greek. This is a tale that takes readers from Cush to Caesarea, to Rome, and back to Cush. And, while readers understand that there must be a happy ending, we witness our lead characters being pursued by a warrior whose thoughts we experience but never really know.

This is a Christian novel with elements of romance and adventure mixed in. First time readers of Tessa Afshar can dive in and be emersed in the narrative without any necessary foreknowledge. Long time readers, however, will immediately recognize Theo even if they don’t remember his story. After featuring in Thief of Corinth and making an appearance in Daughter of Rome, it’s now his turn to play the male lead. Other characters from these two books also make appearances, including a certain Cushite ship’s captain about whom I had forgotten until I sped read these two books as a refresher.

As for a message, the one that spoke to me most was about unworthiness. Both Chariline and Theo wrestle with a lack of self-worth, believing the scars within them meant they were less than whole. Both were bound captive by beliefs imposed on them by others. Considering my personal circumstances, which I won’t go into here, this is something with which I easily connected. Thank you, Tessa, for such perfect timing. And perhaps, thank you God also.



Product Information

Publisher: Tyndale

Publication Date: 01 June 2021

Book Information


headshotAuthor Information

TESSA AFSHAR is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel Daughter of Rome was a Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestseller. Land of Silence won an INSPY Award and was voted by Library Journal as one of the top five Christian fiction titles of 2016. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious Christy Award in the Historical Romance category, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the ECPA Christian Book Award in the fiction category, and Thief of Corinth was an Inspy Award finalist. Tessa also recently released her first bible study and DVD called The Way Home: God’s Invitation to New Beginnings, based on the book of Ruth.

Tessa was born to a nominally Muslim family in the Middle East and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She then moved to England, where she survived boarding school for girls, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She worked in women and prayer ministries for nearly twenty years before becoming a full-time writer. Tessa speaks regularly at national women’s events. She is a devoted wife, mediocre tomato grower, and chocolate enthusiast.

Tessa Afshar’s Website


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