The Last Concubine

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Title: The Last Concubine
Author: Catt Ford
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Buy Link:The Last Concubine
Genre: historical romance /Timeless Dreams title
Length: 220 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: Enjoyable historical (but not quite) romance, but I had some issues with characterization.

Blurb:

When Princess Lan’xiu’s brother delivers her under duress into General Hüi Wei’s harem as a political offering, her only question is how soon her secret will be discovered. She is under no illusions: when the general discovers she is actually a he, death is his only future—though he doesn’t plan to make it easy. Lan’xiu has dressed as a woman all his life, but he is no damsel in distress. He can swing a sword with the best of them.

General Hüi Wei has everything a man could want: power, wealth, success on the battlefield, and a harem of concubines. At first, he regards Lan’xiu with suspicion, but he finds himself strangely drawn to her. When he discovers the beautiful young woman is actually a man, his first reaction is to draw his sword. Rather than waste such beauty, he decides to enjoy the spirited Lan’xiu’s submission—and ignites a passion and desire deeper than anything he’s felt with other wives. But court intrigue, political ambitions, and the general’s doubts may be too much for their love to overcome.

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Review:

I love the model on the cover. I enjoyed this book overall. I do not get nearly enough stories to read which are set up in Ancient China and this one was a treat. Since this is a “Timeless Dreams title” as the blurb states, I did not really expect a true historical romance, but I have read more than one title from these series and often enough settings seem well researched, even if the negative reaction to same sex relationship is minimized or ignored, again per the blurb.

The settings in this story seemed believable – I certainly do not have nearly enough knowledge to determine if they were correct or not. The portrayal of the life in a harem seemed very authentic though and communications between wives/concubines was a lot of fun to read. I actually thought that some of the wives/concubines were very well drawn and interesting secondary characters, and I would have loved to get to know them more.

I really loved the main character, his strength which at first shows in his resign to fate and then the hope that he can have more and I thought Lan’xiu was very well drawn character. I did have some problems with the portrayal of General Hui Wei, however. Do not get me wrong, I am not a big fan of the Big Strong Alpha and little helpless guy dynamics in so many mm romances. Actually scratch that – as a rule I am not fan of such dynamics at all. I enjoyed several alpha characters in mm romances, but they were not asses and they respected their partners/love interests, etc and their love interests were not complete damsels in distress.

When I see the guys as being equals and a relationship which is forming is give and take, that is my favorite type of the relationship. In any event, what I am trying to say is that I am totally okay with the General not being a big strong alpha type character. But when General falls in love with Lan’Xiu it is as if he becomes a besotted man in love and not a seasoned warrior and official. – It was sweet, do not get me wrong, and romantic, but a bit silly too as far as I am concerned. The guys also fall in love fast – really, *really* fast, pretty much from the moment their first real meeting, so if Insta!Love bothers you, you should stay away from this book.

I was torn on this issue in this book, I thought that there was a real opportunity to let the guys get to know each other before they would fell in love and such opportunity was lost, so I cannot say that the Insta! worked for me there, but the connection between them was sweet, hot and full of chemistry, so I guess I did not love the Insta!Connection but I did like what happened afterwards?

I think this book to me was full of energy and excitement and that was a big plus for me, it kept me interested to see what happens next, even though it was not a mystery and whatever suspense was there came from not very likely source.

Recommended.

8 thoughts on “The Last Concubine

  1. Leslie S

    Thanks Sirius – I bought this book recently and was waiting for your review before I started reading it! :grin:

    1. Sirius

      I think you may like it Leslie, overall I did too, I know you like settings different from usual, I do too. I think all I needed is for general to be a little less erm.. besotted. I cannot believe I am saying it in the romantic story, but when you read it you will see what I am talking about, let me know how you feel about that and book in general :). And the fact that it is Timeless dreams title gives the license for less historical similarity, although again to me settings overall felt believable. And it was easy to swallow overall acceptance of gay relationships, because we know that at different stages of Chinese society they were accepted to different degrees and definitely much more than in European societies. Erm, sorry for rambling.

  2. Val Kovalin

    Great review, Sirius! You might also enjoy Fall of a State by Kate Cotoner. Also ancient China, and beautifully written.

    1. Sirius

      Thanks Val, I did and I enjoyed it very much, I would love to read a new work from this writer, I enjoyed every single one by her.

  3. Reggie

    Thanks Sirius, great review. I have been on the fence with this story. I was wondering if the characterization would be strong enough for me. I think I will wait to buy it for when I am in the mood for “location” driven books.

    Thanks again!!

  4. Denni

    I agree with your review Sirus. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, too many authors hit my pet peeve (contemporary romance in historical costume).

    This one wasn’t as deep or complex as some of the early reviews might indicate. But definately enjoyable, a good (not quite) fluffy beach read.

    1. Sirius

      Thanks Denni, I hear you about your pet peeve, it is one of mine as well :). Actually, no, scratch that, I do not mind reading “costume historical” with one caveat – if the book does not pretend to be the real historical. I love fantasy as much as I love historicals and as long as we know that it is a romp and it just uses past as vehicle to talk about the present and characters and plot are fun, I do not mind. I think in that regard this book did a much better job – it did not claim to be a real historical, but at the same time settings at least seemed believable enough even if I cannot vouch for authenticity.

      Yep, beach read is a good description for this one IMO.

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