The Twentieth Wife: A Novel
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An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa's embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman -- a legend in her own time -- who was all but lost to history until now.
beauty. So much a woman. It had been years since their last meeting, and she had been full of life then, teasing, with a quick wit. But she had hardly spoken during their walks at the bazaar, and later at the zenana gardens. He had not felt it necessary for her to talk. It was enough to know that she was there, with him, by his side. He studied her intently, seeing the way her lashes curved on her cheek like a half moon, wanting to touch the pulse at her throat, desperately wishing for even a
darling,” Jahangir said, his eyes filled with love. “Thank you, your Majesty,” Mehrunnisa replied softly as she took her place next to him. She glanced around the room. Ruqayya sat in one corner, her face inscrutable, a tiny smile touching her eyes. Ghias Beg was flushed, his expression drenched in pride. Her mother had a worried look on her face. Two nights ago she had asked Mehrunnisa if this was what she really wanted. Mehrunnisa had simply nodded, tired of giving explanations. The only
law of primogeniture—the eldest son did not automatically inherit the throne. Nor was he gifted with quiescent brothers willing to live out their lives as governors of districts or provinces. At Timur’s death, the throne had changed hands four times, one son or the other claiming it for his own for a brief while, driven from it when another had amassed enough of a threatening army. And so Shuja had lost his kingdom to his half brother Shah Mahmud. Shah Shuja put a hand on Ibrahim’s shoulder.
from him, throwing Zaman into prison, blinding him in both eyes with a piece of hot wire. And so Shuja built up his own army to overthrow Mahmud, ruled for nine years himself . . . and in 1809, when he moved his court from Kabul to Peshawar, Mahmud sneaked up and grabbed Kabul and then marched on to Peshawar. Wafa moved her slender hands restlessly in front of her, entangling her fingers in a veil which came over her head to her waist. To stay on in Peshawar, with Mahmud’s army battering at the
her. That thought sent heat through her veins. It was easy for her to remember him; she had wanted him since she was eight. But for him to hold her in his memory . . . to ask her name even though he seemed to know it . . . yet, he had made no move to seek her out since he became Emperor. What did this mean? How could she have known that she still had this much power over him? What would Jahangir do? There was no father to thwart his wishes now. “Your Majesty, Mehrunnisa is wanted in the