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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

GIVEAWAY!! "The Concubine Saga" by Lloyd Lofthouse ~ An Extraordinary Novel of China

What is to become of an Irishman on the cusp of  the 19th c. who is sent by the British to a China steeped in medieval ways: to learn the language, to learn the customs, to become trusted by the Empire and to set up a Customs Service?  A tall order for a young man just approaching his 20's.  This fascinating novel is the true, but fictionalized story of Robert Hart who was that young man, and of his many years in China. Above all, it's the story of his enduring love of a beautiful concubine.  This is a large volume of two books, but well worth the read.   I'm rating it a 4 stars. 

Particulars of the Book:
Published by:  Three Clover Express
Pages:  621
Genre:  Historical Fiction

You may wish to purchase the book from Amazon

Goodreads Summary: No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart's status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the "godfather of China's modernism," inspector general of China's Customs Service, and the builder of China's railroads, postal and telegraph systems and schools. However, his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine. Sterling Seagrave, in Dragon Lady, calls her Hart's "sleep-in dictionary" and says she was wise beyond her years. Soon after arriving in China in 1854, Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Christian upbringing and almost break him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese. He also finds himself thrust into the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest rebellion in human history, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier. During his early years in China, Robert experiences a range of emotion from bliss to despair. Like Damascus steel, he learns to be both hard and flexible, which forges his character into the great man he becomes. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, The Concubine Saga is the deeply intimate story of Hart's loyalty and love for his adopted land and the woman who captured his heart. Historical fiction potboiler, yes. But where The Concubine Saga truly shines is its thought-provoking passages on relationships, attitudes and cultural differences. The heated dialogue between Hart and Ayaou will especially touch a nerve for any westerner who has ever lived and loved in China…" Thomas Carter, photojournalist and author of "China: Portrait of a People

About Lloyd Lofthouse:    Award-winning Author!

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart [combined in this single volume], which earned honorable mentions in general fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, 2009 San Francisco Book Festival, 2009 Hollywood Book Festival, 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival, 2009 Nashville Book Festival and was a finalist in historical fiction for the National Best Books 2010 Awards. Lloyd Lofthouse grew up in Southern California, served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine and lives near San Francisco with his wife and family with a second home in Shanghai, China.

Please visit Amazon.com to find out more about "The Concubine Saga."

The Bookish Dame Welcomes Mr. Lofthouse As He Writes His Guest Post Below :

"Robert Hart (1835 - 1911), the main character of "The Concubine Saga", was based on a real person. He grew up in Ireland and attended the Queen's College at Belfast. His father was a Wesleyan minister and the Wesleyans believed women were equal to men.

However, when Hart arrived in China at age 19, he quickly became aware of the temptations of the concubine culture and struggled mightily with it. Eventually, due to the advice of one of his Chinese language teachers, he bought an adolescent concubine but not without some Victorian guilt. Her name was Ayaou and Sterling Seagrave, in his book "Dragon Lady", called her Robert's live in dictionary.

Decades later, in a personal letter to his agent in London, Hart wrote that Ayaou was the wisest person he'd ever known. Harvard Scholars and Seagrave credit Ayaou with what Hart learned about Chinese culture and the main reason he eventually became the most powerful foreigner in China's history and the only foreigner the Emperor of China trusted. Today, East Asian scholars see Hart as the godfather of China's modernism.

In ancient China before the end of the concubine era, a man's concubine was not ranked as highly as his wives and even the wives were ranked (example: the second wife had more influence in the house than a third wife). In fact, the first wife in a wealthy family often had more power than the husband inside the home and could make life miserable for the husband, the other wives, concubines and even her son's wife or wives.

It was customary when a woman married that she went to live with her husband's family. Chinese sons did not move out and buy a house of their own. Eventually the oldest son inherited the home, the family business and the wealth of the family when the parents died, and then his first wife became the matriarch inside the home.

The man of the family might be a powerful general commanding an army, a prince in the Imperial court, a wealthy merchant, a famous poet or artist or a rural peasant farmer, but inside the home, the first (or only) wife usually ruled without question and lower ranked wives and then concubines, which were third class citizens in the household, were often treated as if they were slaves to the first wife in addition to offering sexual pleasure to the husband when he demanded it.

I recommend a Chinese movie called "Raise the Red Lantern" to discover more. The following link will take you to one of the trailers for the film.


Before 1949, when Mao and the Chinese Communist Party proclaimed that women held up half the sky, women were the property of men to be bought, sold, tortured or executed at a man's whim. Women were also used as a tool to create alliances between wealthy and powerful families through arranged marriages.

Even though Ayaou urged Hart to buy other wives and concubines, she was fortunate that he never did. Near the end of his life, he attempted to erase all evidence of her existence but failed (he destroyed the portion of his journals that recorded his relationship with Ayaou). However, he wrote about her in a few letters to close and trusted friends and those letters thankfully survived and were donated to the Queen's College of Belfast after Hart's death.

The Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University published "Entering China's Service, Robert Hart's Journals, 1854—1863", and the editors wrote on page 154, "Hart's years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations."

My goal with "The Concubine Saga" was to breathe life back into that story."

TO RECEIVE A COPY...Please enter by following my blog on one of the available ways on my sidebar: GFC follower, Network, Twitter or Facebook

Please also leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you win!!
                                                                                    Ends  July 31st

US and Canada entrants only, please...

The Dame's Final Word :
In conclusion, I want to add that Mr. Lofthouse is a brilliant author who makes China come alive to the reader. I was simply swept away through the eyes of Robert Hart as he experienced all the nuances of China and its people and customs for the first time. 

The romance of Robert and Ayaou is gorgeously written in all aspects. Just a beautiful rendering of an epic love story.  There is passion between them, as well as between her sister/concubine and Robert.  Two women in one house...the Chinese symbol for trouble!   The erotic elements are handled with delicacy, and are quite enjoyable to read, adding a depth to his exploration of the concubine's role in China.

And I found myself wanting to carry this book around with me to sneak another page of reading in wherever I could...it's that engaging.

Lofthouse has a firm grasp on characterization.  His studies of people, relationships and their actions and reactions are so in perfect pitch that there can be no question they existed. They feel alive. I fell in love with several of them.  It was difficult when the novel ended.

This is a book for those of my readers who love reading about the Orient, but it's also for those who simply love a good historical fiction novel.  It's lush in details of Chinese culture.  It's a wonderful read.  Like the beautifully stitched quilt on the book's cover, this novel is delicately woven and created using choice selections of all sorts.  It will keep you wanting more from the author...not wanting the book to end.

4 star rating


This tour is brought to you in cooperation with:

Also You Might Want to:  Leave an approved comment on one or more Blog posts found at Lloyd Lofthouse.org or iLook China.net
between May 30, 2012 and June 30, 2012
during "The Concubine Saga" Web Tour
and automatically be entered into a drawing
to win a limited edition, signed and numbered hard-cover copy of the novel.
(NOTE: only one limited-edition, hard-cover copy is available to give away)



This is so interesting.. I love Chinese culture, and this sounds like a novel rich in history and storytelling. Thank you for posting.


I would enjoy reading this book. I am a huge fan of Lisa See who has written many books on China. I have never read a book by this author I would love to. The culture of China amazes me, especially the time of the Great Leap Forward under Chairman Mao who made horrible choices for his people.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com


Wow! What a great review. When a negative review appears from another source, which will happen sooner or later (guaranteed), I will return here and read this review again to help heal my wounds.

Thank you?

Lloyd Lofthouse

Carol N Wong

I have never heard about Robert Hart! I love to read about Chinese history and literature. I would be very pleased to read this book.



This looks so interesting! What an awesome read! Thanks for hosting this giveaway by this award winning, talented author. My email address is alexandchrissy@yahoo.com.


Enjoyed the review and sounds like a great read.
GFC follower @Jeanne
:)Jeanne B.T.


Thanks to all who commented. I was surprised how much this book drew me in. Such a wonderful story--even the battles were interesting! Thank you, Lloyd for the kudos!

Lara Newell

Sounds like a great read!

Google follower

lafra86 at gmail dot com

Literary Chanteuse

I love asian books.

-blog follower



Thanks for your notes, Margaret and Queen! ;] This is a rare find. I loved the intelligence and reality in this book coupled with the love story.

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