A woman with a devastating secret. A man bent on proving his worth. A chance encounter that catapults them into the heart of history.
When the daughter of a prominent Roman general meets a disinherited Jewish immigrant, neither one can dream of God’s plan to transform them into the most influential couple of the early church. Nor can they anticipate the mountains that will threaten to bury them. Their courtship unwittingly shadowed by murder and betrayal, Priscilla and Aquila slowly work to build a community of believers, while their lives grow increasingly complicated thanks to a shaggy dog, a mysterious runaway, and a ruthless foe desperate for love. But when they’re banished from their home by a capricious emperor, they must join forces with an unusual rabbi named Paul and fight to turn treachery into redemption.
With impeccable research and vivid detail, Daughter of Rome is both an emotive love story and an immersive journey through first-century Rome and Corinth, reminding readers once again why Debbie Macomber has said that “no one brings the Bible to life like Tessa Afshar.”
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Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of biblical and historical fiction. Her books have won the Christy and INSPY Awards and been voted by the Library Journal as one of top five Christian fiction titles of the year. Her first Bible Study and DVD, The Way Home, based on the book of Ruth, will be released from Moody Publishers in June 2020. Born in the Middle East, Tessa moved to England in her teens where she attended 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 for one year. She worked in women and prayer ministries for twenty years before becoming a full-time writer and speaker.
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Have you ever wondered what day-to-day life was like for the early Christian church? What it truly meant to become a follower of The Way in the initial years after Jesus’ resurrection? This is where Biblical fiction, when done well, can seek to take readers into the ancient world alongside the historical figures of old with their customs and etiquette, thereby facilitating a greater understanding of Scripture. Granted, this is no easy task, and although Biblical fiction is one of my favorite genres, there are only a few authors whose work I trust to remain true to God’s Word without adding to or taking away from it. One of these authors is Tessa Afshar.
Afshar’s latest work, “Daughter of Rome,” explores the lives of Aquila and Priscilla, the enigmatic New Testament couple whom the apostle Paul described as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3). The Bible mentions them six times, and their faith and influence are apparent, but their backstory and the details of their lives are not given. Implementing historical research and drawing from established facts about this period in time, Afshar ignites renewed interest in this husband and wife gospel team by creating a narrative that imagines what their individual lives may have been like before transitioning into their romance and eventual ministry. The beauty of this lies in demonstrating that they are real people with real flaws; as is evidenced over and over again in the Bible, God chooses to work through people who are broken and imperfect.
Priscilla and Aquila’s story diverges somewhat from Afshar’s usual style, effecting a deeper and more somber tone that makes the narrative all the more poignant. Gritty, realistic circumstances impress upon readers the harshness of life in ancient Rome. There is abortion, murder, persecution, and betrayal, but all are handled with grace and sensitivity. And as Rufus tells Priscilla, “It is hard to put to words. Trouble itself can be transformed, you see, in the hands of God. Instead of a place of destruction, pain and heartache can lead to hope.” As Priscilla grows in her faith, Aquila learns spiritual maturity. Far too often we, like Aquila, judge others for being what we consider to be inferior; the marriage of Roman Priscilla and Jewish Aquila truly speaks to the unity and unconditional love that Christ brings. As we struggle with our own burdens, we forget that those around us carry encumbrances of their own. Priscilla later testifies: “I can tell you that my own dreams have been crushed more than once. But when I condemned myself, God extended forgiveness to me. When I felt broken, he gave me strength. When I thought the future held nothing but pain, he gave me joy. Those are the actions of love.”
“Daughter of Rome” does not shy away from the vicissitudes of life, particularly Christian life, and as such it offers encouragement and inspiration. It is a story of second chances, a poignant and at times heartrending narrative, made all the more so because every reader can identify with it in some way. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). As Aquila wisely counsels, “The only way to peace is by learning to accept, day by day, the circumstances and tests permitted by God. By the repeated laying down of our own will, and the accepting of his as it is presented in the things which happen to us.” The apostle Paul demonstrates this throughout Scripture, and his role in this novel was one of my favorites because of his witty humor. He has a remarkable attitude toward suffering, but there is also evidence of his humanity, again emphasizing that God can use anyone for His glory. The fervor of the early church is something that, in many ways, I think we need to return to; our faith is dynamic, not static, and we should never lose our joy and awe at the priceless gift of salvation offered to each of us. With Christ as our cornerstone, we can become His instruments of love and peace. Priscilla “had been born a daughter of Rome. But she had become a daughter of the Most High God.” Whose child are you?
I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, part 255 Guidelines, concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in advertising.
Book Launch Celebration
Join us on our author pages on February 4, 2020 from 7-9 p.m. for a special Facebook Live Book Celebration--a chance to ask us questions; win chocolates, gift cards and other giveaways; and short presentations by Tessa and Heidi. Can't wait to see you there!
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