The Aviary Gate, by Katie Hickman, Bloomsbury, 2008.
I found this book at a deep discount. I read the back cover and then flipped through it to read random passages. It seemed read-able, and since I knew absolutely nothing about Turkish harems in 1599, and very little about the Ottoman Empire, for that matter, I picked up this book.
Some years ago, I read an article about how hard it is to write good beginnings. I'm starting to think this is not entirely true. I've read several books lately with good to excellent beginnings, that fell apart in the middle and were disappointments at the end. This is one of them.
This book has a very good, well-researched beginning. In fact, this entire book is obviously well-researched. But that beginning and all that research doesn't quite hold it together, especially when confronted by a rather abrupt and completely unsatisfying ending. This book didn't have to end happily for me to have liked, but it did have to end well.