From Goodreads: The Imperial Harem, Constantinople, 1579: Hannah and Isaac Levi, Venetians in exile, have set up a new life for themselves in Constantinople. Isaac runs a newly established business in the growing silk trade, while Hannah, the best midwife in all of Constantinople, plies her trade within the opulent palace of Sultan Murat III, tending to the thousand women of his lively and infamous harem. But one night, when Hannah is unexpectedly summoned to the palace, she’s confronted with Leah, a poor Jewish peasant girl who has been abducted and sold into the sultan’s harem. The sultan favors her as his next conquest and wants her to produce his heir, but the girl just wants to return to her home and the only life she has ever known. What will Hannah do? Will she risk her life and livelihood to protect this young girl, or will she retain her high esteem in the eye of the sultan?
The Harem Midwife is the sequel to The Venice Midwife, a fact I didn’t realize until I got this book. However, it is not necessary to read the first one to enjoy this second book. The opening pulls you in quickly, and the author does a good job introducing the characters, whether you already know them or not.
The premise is certainly very interesting, and we’re getting a good glimpse at life in Constantinople in the sixteenth century. The story is full of little historical tidbits that make for an entertaining read: Sultan Ibraiham, who had his entire harem strangled for the pleasure of selecting new women; the celebrations that took place during a birth in the Harem (the party stopped quickly if the baby turned out to be a girl); and the lifestyle of the Valide—the mother of the current sultan.
This was a quick read, and my only complaint would be that it all happens rather quickly. We get introduced to many different characters, and I felt some of them could have been fleshed out a little more. The ending, too, is a bit sudden for my taste. But it makes me want to read more books set in this time period. It’s always good when a book kindles curiosity.
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.