The first book I remember reading which could be classified as a romance is Mara:  Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  Copyrighted in 1953, this book still resonates in readers’ memories as evidenced by the nearly 250 mostly positive reviews on Amazon.  Not bad for a book over 60 years old. I first found the story on the shelves of my school library.

The story revolves around Mara, an Egyptian slave girl who ends up spying both for and against the female pharaoh Hatshepsut.  The hero is Sheftu, a nobleman who is the leader of the rebellion faction trying to put Thutmose on the throne.  He falls in love with Mara, even though he knows he can’t trust her.

In historical fact, Thutmose III turned out to be one Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, with wise governance and successful military campaigns.  Many feminists don’t like Hatshepsut’s portrayal in Mara because the pharaoh is the villain.  The truth probably is a combination of both extremes.

I don’t remember if I read Mara first or The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  I do know I went through a period of reading everything I could get my hands on about ancient Egypt.  These two books stand out in my memory.  Eventually my interest in this history lead me to Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody series and The Crocodile on the Sandbank and a trip to see the King Tut exhibit when it came to Chicago and Seattle.  I guess the spell ancient Egypt and Mara cast upon me those many years ago still bewitches.

To access Mara:  Daughter of the Nile on Amazon:

To access The Egypt Game on Amazon: