My Splendid Concubine

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Overview

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, continues the love story that Robert Hart did not want the world to discover. It is well known that behind every great man, there is a woman. In Robert's case, that woman was his concubine, Ayaou. She remained a mystery for more than a century. Robert arrived in China in 1854. By 1908, he was the godfather of China's modernization. The Ch'ing Dynasty called him Our Hart. In Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave wrote, "By early May, he had a sleep-in ...
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More About This Book

Overview

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, continues the love story that Robert Hart did not want the world to discover. It is well known that behind every great man, there is a woman. In Robert's case, that woman was his concubine, Ayaou. She remained a mystery for more than a century. Robert arrived in China in 1854. By 1908, he was the godfather of China's modernization. The Ch'ing Dynasty called him Our Hart. In Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave wrote, "By early May, he had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou.... Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years." In 1875, Robert described Ayaou as "one of the most amiable and sensible people imaginable," while casting himself blackly as "a fool."

Praise for My Splendid Concubine

My Splendid Concubine won honorable mentions in fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, 2009 San Francisco Book Festival, and the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival.

"My Splendid Concubine is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for historical fiction fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre."
—Midwest Book Review Online

“A fascinating illumination of nineteenth-century Chinese culture and the complex Englishman Robert Hart, the father of China’s modernization. Hart’s struggles adapting to Chinese culture, always feeling the pull and force of his Victorian British background, are compelling. His relationships with his concubine and his concubine’s sister are poignant—the novel is as much a study of the complexities of love as it is anything else. A powerful novel ...”
—Judge of 2008 Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780981955308
  • Publisher: Three Clover Press
  • Publication date: 2/12/2009
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2012

    The Concubine Saga is a fictional of account of a real person, R

    The Concubine Saga is a fictional of account of a real person, Robert Hart. He was was a British consular official in China, who served as the second Inspector General of China's Imperial Maritime Custom Service from 1863 to 1911. He was born in Ireland but left in disgrace as a young man. He evidently was a very sexual young man and was unable to control his desires, according to his religious upbringing he went to China after he was awarded the position of student interpreter in the China consular service. Not long after he arrived he met the woman, Ayaou who was to become his concubine and with whom he would have three children. According to this story he also had Ayaou's sister come into the household as he didn't want her to be sold to cruel people and he had feelings for her also even though he was in love with Ayaou. Because of Robert's ability to handle delicate negotiations with the Chinese, he was able to move up the ranks to become a respectable and trusted man in China. In his personal life he was still at odds with his religion and his lifestyle as having concubines was not accepted in polite society.


    To further his understanding of the Chinese he learned "how to think like a Chinese" and learn all that he could learn about his adopted country and their customs and languages. This all helped him and because of his diplomatic skills he was able to work effectively with the Chinese and be the go between, if you will, for China and China's trading deals with other countries such as America, France and Germany. He was also very instrumental in establishing custom houses, railroads and various other programs to aid the Chinese. Because of his communication skills, patience, good judgement and good relations with the Chinese he earned himself the nickname of "our Hart".


    When I started reading this story I was a little intimidated as, one: I had never heard of Sir Robert Hart and two: I knew very little about China. The author's depiction of Hart's life in China and with his relationships with Ayaou and her sister was told in descriptive detail and such beauty of the Chinese culture that I did not want it the story to end. A very well written and impeccably researched story that I highly recommend to the historical fiction fan. A lot of history but not written like a history book. This book does have a lot of sexual content in it but told in a very tasteful way. I really enjoyed this book.

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  • Posted June 15, 2012

    The fascinating thing about this book is the cultural experienc

    The fascinating thing about this book is the cultural experiences that the main character experiences. Having traveled outside my home state and country I understand the cultural shock that you can experience when you travel to a country that is significantly different than your own. In addition, I have hosted foreign exchange students who have had their own cultural shock. What makes this especially interesting is the fact that he gains acceptance in a culture that has traditionally been closed to ‘Western’ people.

    That said, it was not a particularly easy read. The adapting to this culture was uncomfortable for him and to read about. In addition the story was not in my typical genera and was hard for me to get into. This is probably not a book that I would have picked up on my own, but I am glad I read it. I love the ability of books to expand our horizons and help up experience things we never would otherwise.

    I give this book 3 clouds out of 5.

    This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.

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  • Posted April 3, 2011

    Excellent historical fiction

    After reading all of the books written by Anchee Min, I searched for Lloyd Lofthouse's two books My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart...

    Anchee Min included Robert Hart a thread of her story line in her works.

    These two books by Lloyd Lofthouse flesh out in great detail the life and times of Robert Hart and his historical and cultural ties to China during that era.

    It was very interesting to see that part of history framed through another character's eyes (Robert Hart).

    This book and Our Hart are goods picks for book club discussions

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2010

    Good

    I really enjoyed reading this.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    China's delicate flowers

    Having two, delicate as a flower, sisters fighting over which one gets your sun instrument for the night, is probably an unrealized fantasy of most men walking the planet. But, for Robert Hart, a randy, runaway from his puritanical Irish background, it is a dream that comes true. Inspired by a man who arrived in China in 1854 who rose to great respected heights, this character has just that problem. The sensual descriptions to bring home how wonderful this dilemma was for him, was for me a bit overdone, but overall I enjoyed learning the nuances of the Chinese culture. I admit to not knowing much about ancient China other than that I believe acupuncture, tai chi and Fung Shui are all practices with great benefits. The fact that women were chattels sold to the highest bidder and that girl babies were routinely slaughtered was news. The warring, poverty, and harsh realities for commoners comes as no surprise. I found the book fascinating, but wanted more details of the culture revealed, details of how this man grew into his role, what he accomplished and less focus on the sexual ecstasy of a man torn between two enchanting lovers. I understand that my yearning for more knowledge will be addressed in the sequel to this book coming soon.
    www.lindaballouauthor.com
    Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii
    Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales

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  • Posted March 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Prurience & Violence in 19th Century China

    My Splendid Concubine is a thought-provoking novel about attitudes and cultures, but Lloyd Lofthouse is a masterful yarn-spinner as well, weaving a well-balanced dose of suspense and page-turning action. Posted as a rookie customs official in coastal Zhejiang province's Ningbo along the Yangtze River Delta, 20 year-old Robert Hart is suddenly forced out of his sheltered office gig and finds himself involved in a skirmish against Taiping rebels, a true-life 15-year uprising by Chinese peasants against the Qing Dynasty government resulting in over 30 million casualties.

    Himself a Vietnam vet, Lofthouse paints battle as blood-red as it surely must be. Armed with western muzzles "spitting jagged orange flames of death," Hart takes his first life, but not without the same dumbfounding, bile-inducing reaction that may have come straight from the author's own memory: "He had just killed someone. The thought numbed him for a moment. It was good that his weapons were thinking for him."

    It is during this scene of bedlam that our protagonist meets Ayaou, a teenage boat girl whom Hart rescues along with her family. In turn, Ayaou's father offers her and her sister for sale as concubines to their protectors.

    Hart is at once disgusted and stirred by the thought of "taking bids on her virginity," but admits to himself that "it bothered him more that he found the idea tempting." Herein lays the genius of My Splendid Concubine, for Lofthouse portrays the legendary Sir Robert Hart not as an icon of righteousness that his future bronze statue in Shanghai Square would convey to the masses, but as a layman conflicted between the values of his faith and the temptations of an exotic country, summed up in one lucid sentence: "Though it appalled him, Robert still wanted to understand."

    The thought of purchasing a woman "like a chair or a piece of art" may disturb 21st century readers as much as it did Robert Hart two centuries ago, but the fact is that concubinage was a socially accepted practice. Chinese emperors traditionally kept thousands of concubines to enhance the royal bloodline; in turn, European merchants residing in imperial China mimicked this form of quasi-matrimonial relationship on a smaller scale.

    Lofthouse's Hart is not an idol; he is a flawed man, a real human being who is no stranger to vice or sin. In his dark past he has contracted syphilis from British college girls, he cheats with his new boss's girlfriend upon arriving in China, and now he is faced with temptation in the form of pubescent flesh that can be had for mere pocket change. It is a range of emotions any man traversing the forlorn roads of the word knows all to well: "He was a traveler on a lonely journey, who occasionally embraced human affections the same way that he took the sun and water."

    Theirs is a passionate relationship. Each initially doing their best to restrain themselves ("He twined his fingers together and locked his hands behind his back lest they escape and reach for her."), curiosity and rapture quickly overcomes Hart as much as it does the virgin Ayaou. Lofthouse voyeuristically pulls away the nine-paneled silk screen from their oft-used bed, but approaches their couplings with literary deftness, arousing the reader with gentle romance ("He kissed her neck and ran his tongue along her smooth flesh. She tasted like the ocean."), before assaulting us

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Historical Novel

    This is such a delightful historical novel in many ways. Not only does the author do a marvelous job in capturing the time period through both characterizations and descriptive background, but he also seamlessly added a great romantic tale. A great book to spend reading together in bed with your loved one or spouse, for surely it is a book to be shared.

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  • Posted April 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Well-Written Story about a Little-Known Historical Figure

    Mr. Lofthouse brings Robert Hart to life in this little-known chapter of Chinese history. While most of us have heard of the Opium Wars, few of us realize the impact this Englishman had on Chinese life. A book packed with historical significance, it is also an unforgettable love story. With great pleasure, I've interviewed Lloyd and can't wait for the next chapter...

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    This Is A Compelling Read

    Lloyd Lofthouse's "My Splendid Concubine" is a revelation. Reading it, I was transported to 19th century China and the alluring love story of Robert Hart and his concubine, Ayaou. Rich in detail, lovingly documented by Mr. Lofthouse, the story ranks with the highest order of romance/adventure writing. I got caught up in the narrative, and felt like I was accompanying Hart on his journey. I could not, and did not want to, return home until the book's last page.<BR/><BR/>Tim Fleming<BR/>www.eloquentbooks.com/MurderOfAnAmericanNazi.html<BR/>http://leftlooking.blogspot.com

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2008

    Lofthouse did his research!!

    My Splendid Concubine, a Novel by Lloyd Lofthouse, is the portrayal of Sir Robert Hart¿s early years in China during the mid 19th Century. Not much is actually known of those years as Hart reportedly burned his diaries which would chronicle those events. He returned to Ireland late in his life in 1908 and died in 1911 at the age of 76. A highly revered man in England as well as China. Lofthouse weaves a tale of intrigue, lust, love, loyalty, danger and disaster in Hart¿s early years while working as the Interpreter at the British Consulate in Ningpo. The book will captivate you, revealing China¿s cultures, customs and ancient organized civilization that foreign governments brought corruption into play proving once again the almighty dollar, pound sterling or yuan is King. I would highly recommend this Novel to all, but beware, the rating is not PG, meaning some passages even made this sixty year old blush, albeit an enjoyable embarrassment. Steamy, exciting, intriguing danger waits at every turn of the page, trust me in this. Steven A. Knutson, author of: It Takes One To Catch One ¿ Confessions of an an Alaskan Wildlife Trooper & Confessions from the Last Frontier.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2008

    An excellent romance and study of Chinese culture

    Any time I read a book written by a first-time author, I worry that no matter how interesting the subject matter, the writing style will be so amateurish that it will turn me off immediately. I had these concerns with the first chapter of My Splendid Concubine, as the writing seemed very choppy. But once I got past the first chapter, the writing seemed to be coming from a completely different author. By the way, chapter one is a framing sequence which I didn¿t find to be particularly necessary, so don¿t worry if you pick the book up yourself. Read on, you won¿t be disappointed. Lofthouse has crafted a story about an Irishman¿s attempts to understand the culture of China in the 19th century, framed in large part on the love affair between the main character and a Chinese concubine. Our hero must battle with his Catholic upbringing in order to first bring himself to admit his love for the woman, and then decide whether he can live in sin with her. The story contains some scenes of action, and some scenes of sexual activity¿not for the kids¿but its most interesting aspects involve Chinese culture and the reasons behind how things were done back then. Explaining how fathers sell their children to feed the rest of the family, how rich men can simultaneously and openly have wives, concubines, and pillow-girls live in the same household, why young boys would willingly undergo castration so they can get a better job¿these are just a few examples of the wealth of information contained in the book. The main character, Robert Hart, was a real person¿Inspector General for Chinese Maritime Customs¿but it is not necessary to know anything about the man to enjoy the book. Whether Hart is real or fictional, Lofthouse has written characters who have a real depth of feeling, the kind of characters you want to hear more about. It helps that the book is open-ended, as the reader is sure to want to learn what comes next for our hero. Odds are that Lofthouse¿s writing ability will continue to improve and the second book in the series will be even better. I¿ll definitely be one to buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    East Meets West in this Debut Historical Fiction Novel

    My Splendid Concubine is the story of Sir Robert Hart, a nineteenth century British customs official who, over several decades, grew into a position of trust in China. Hart travels to China in 1854 seeking to redeem himself after a shameful episode at college that embarrassed his family. He first meets Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, who advises him to study everything around him in an effort to understand the Chinese. This is the only advice of its kind he receives from his own people, for Hart discovers that the rest of the Westerners view the Chinese culture with disdain and superiority. His first employer, for example, chastises him for trying to learn Mandarin, saying, ¿It is their place to understand us. We don¿t have to understand them.¿ While most of the British and American officials dismiss the Chinese as superstitious heathens, there is one part of the Chinese culture they are quick to assimilate: the taking of concubines. Hart finds it hypocritical that his fellow countrymen should hold so little respect for the culture while indulging their own desires in a manner that Victorian society would condemn. Hart hopes to rise above such prejudice and lack of ethics, but finds himself sorely tempted by repeated opportunities to sample a service that the Chinese take for granted and the Westerners are perfectly happy to exploit. And then Hart meets Ayaou, a fiery and courageous girl from the lowest sector of Chinese society, the boat people. Their startling and memorable introduction sparks a passion that takes the young Englishman by storm. Hart is willing to bankrupt himself to buy Ayaou from her father, who is selling her to provide for the rest of his family, but circumstances whisk her away and Hart finds himself compelled to buy her sister, rather than let the younger girl fall into undesirable hands. Suddenly Hart owns a concubine, although not the woman he loves, and he is caught between his own Christian beliefs and the worshipful attention of young Shao-mei. And what of Ayaou, who has been sold to the violent American mercenary Frederick Townsend Ward? What ethics will Hart be willing to compromise in order to get her back? Lloyd Lofthouse has created a rich cast of characters against the exotic and fascinating backdrop of 19th century China. Hart is a sympathetic character who earnestly seeks to understand the Chinese culture in order to win acceptance there, and to find peace within his own soul. As Hart learns, so does the reader, for the author has skillfully woven lessons of the Chinese culture into the plot and setting. The girls, Ayaou and Shao-mei, are individually defined as characters and truly believable as sisters: sensually mature, playfully young, one moment presenting a united sisterly front, and the next moment squabbling with jealousy. And I have not even touched upon the pirates, the mercenaries, the opium dealers, and Hart¿s philosophizing eunuch servant! Don¿t pass up this debut novel by an author who will surely continue Robert Hart¿s saga and legendary career in a second novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    Finally a book worth reading

    I haven't been this excited about a book like this since reading The Joy Luck Club and Memoirs of a Geisha. The author does an outstanding job in guiding the reader through China in the eyes of a foreigner between the mid 1800's and early 1900's. It was a pleasure reading this book, especially as the story unfolds and the main character falls for a women not of his culture. During a time when it was taboo to love someone not of your culture, it's nice to see an inside perspective of how he felt. Hope you enjoy this book as much as I have!

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