The Cobra and the Lily
The Cobra and the Lily is likely not a book with a huge built-in audience, but for specialized readers will love it. Those who like unique settings will be interested, since the book takes place in ancient Egypt. Those who like inspirationals or novelizations of familiar stories should take a peek because this book tells the Biblical story of the Israelite slaves’ exodus. I would group myself in both categories, so I was pleased to be able to review this new offering from Sheri Cobb South.
Lila is a Hebrew slave and a shepherdess. She is discovered one day by Ra- Met, a wealthy Egyptian nobleman who has the favor of the Pharoah. Ra-Met is plagued with headaches, but when he hears Lila’s beautiful voice in song, he is distracted from his pain. He purchases her the very next day and Lila is dragged away from her family and installed in Ra-Met’s household.
At first Ra-Met is only interested in Lila’s voice, but when she is cleaned up he notices how very attractive she is. He is also attracted to her independent ways. When he offers her the exciting opportunity to become his concubine, he is amazed at her refusal, but she has touched something inside him and he finds himself unable to force her.
Lila’s young brother Nathan is enraged when she is taken away, and he vows vengeance. He inserts himself into Ra-Met’s house and makes arrangements for them to escape. But Ra-Met discovers their plan and feels strangely betrayed at Lila’s desire to leave him. Angry and humiliated at her ingratitude, he makes his own plans. But how can Ra-Met go against the tender feelings he has for Lila and how will Lila suppress her own unwanted love for Ra-Met?
I am an inspirational-friendly reviewer, but even those who do not enjoy or are not interested in reading inspirationals still might like this story. There is no overt preaching; in fact, there’s no preaching at all. This is a straightforward novelization of an Old Testament story. I happen to like this kind of thing. Whether the original text is myth, legend, or religious text, it’s always interesting to see how an author will attach flesh to the bones of the original tale.
Since I am familiar with the Old Testament, I knew what the outcome would be for the Hebrews and the Egyptians. Still, the story had a tension to it, and it was uncertain how South would resolve the problematic relationship between Ra-Met and Lila, master and slave, Egyptian and Hebrew.
Neither Ra-Met nor Lila is amazingly well developed as a character, but the story moves along at a fast clip, propelled by the interesting and catastrophic events of the plagues of Egypt. South does a pretty good job creating the atmosphere of the ancient world, though more detail on the interactions between the two major ethnic groups would have been better. The harsher emotions that slavery and the scourges of God would have evoked were largely unexplored.
Considering that the main relationship is one of master to slave, the ick factor could have been very high. It wasn’t. Also, Ra-Met’s respect for Lila and the generosity he showed her seemed rather out of character for a man who begins the book entirely self-involved and inured to the evils of slavery. The ending is happy, but perhaps a bit unlikely. And given what I know about the next step in the history of the Israelites, Happily Ever After seems a trifle uncertain.
Still, South should be commended for setting her story in such an interesting place and time. The Cobra and the Lily was a quick read that kept my attention. The characters had more problematic obstacles to hurdle than in the average romance, and the coercive nature of their relationship had a tension to it that I enjoyed. If I wanted the book to be a little longer and a little meatier, that does not negate the fact that I did enjoy what was there. Sheri Cobb South seems to be one of the few small-press authors worth the higher price. I would love to see her novelize more Bible stories.