June 22, 2012

The Concubine Saga by Lloyd Lofthouse

 E-book released June 2011
Paperback released March 2012

Please welcome author Lloyd Lofthouse to HF-Connection! I asked him what is the driving force behind his work, and what was the message he wanted to convey?

In 1999 and 2000, as I was reading "Entering China's Service, Robert Hart's Journals, 1854 - 1863", published by the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, my curiosity was aroused by two aspects of Sir Robert Hart's life (1835 - 1911).

First, Robert's early years in China, in his own words, made it clear that he was a conflicted individual—torn between the morality of his religious Victorian upbringing and the lusty temptations that life offers a young man through his often red-hot adolescent libido.

In China, that temptation turned out to be women he found extremely attractive and the fact that "Chinese women were for sale in unlimited supply," at a reasonable price.

Robert grew up in Northern Ireland near Belfast the oldest of twelve children. His father was a merchant and a Wesleyan pastor, a religion that saw women as equal to men at a time when women were mostly the property/chattel of men the world over.

How devout was Hart's father?

At the dinner table each day, as the food sat steaming in front of the hungry children, the father would ask each child what they had done for God that day. No one ate until all of the children answered.

In addition, Robert was the oldest and was expected to set an example for his younger siblings.

In fact, as a young man first attending the Queen's College in Belfast, Robert expressed a desire to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Wesley Pastor.

However, that changed while he was living in the dorms at the Queen's College. At age of 15, he found Belfast women and drink a temptation he could not resist, and he had a number of affairs with loose young women. The conclusion of that episode in his life was a dose of syphilis diagnosed by the family doctor and what was probably an embarrassing family scandal, which caused Robert to change his goals. As soon as he graduated from college, he applied to become an interpreter for the British Consulate in China, as far from Ireland as he could flee. In those days, China might as well have been on another planet.

For his first year in China, Robert, although tempted by the easy access to reasonably priced women, managed to resist, but on the voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai in 1854, he made friends with Captain Dan Patridge, who was the principal agent in China of the wealthiest British opium merchant in the world. The good captain offered Robert an invitation difficult to resist—stay the summer with Partridge and his flock of concubines in a cooler, more comfortable location in China.

In the early 20th century, Robert burned the journals that covered that summer with Patridge and the next two and a half years, which also covered his early years with Ayaou, his concubine.

This almost secret affair with Ayaou was the second aspect of his life in China that aroused my curiosity. Before Robert died, he attempted to erase any evidence of his romance with Ayaou and directed his family and friends, after his death, to burn the surviving journals and all of the personal letters he had written to them—a request that was ignored.

Since I was raised as a Catholic, attended a private Catholic grade school and my mother was extremely spiritual and religious, I identified with Robert's guilty struggle with his adolescent libido and the temptation that comes with it. Then, on page 154, the Harvard scholars that compiled and edited Robert's surviving journals wrote, "We may surmise that Hart's years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations."

I was curious about the love story that Sir Robert Hart wanted to hide from the Victorian world he grew up in.

Not only did I want to breathe life into the intimate details of this passionate, lusty romance, but I wanted to know who Ayaou was and to do that I had to learn about Chinese culture and its history until 19th century China also became a character in my novel, "The Concubine Saga".


You can buy a signed Limited Edition of The Concubine Saga on the author's website.  (View the book on Amazon)

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)

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"

Many thanks to Teddy Rose of Premier Virtual Author Book Tours who organized the tour for us.

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