The Concubine’s Gift is a gift indeed.
Bernice Babbitt is a model citizen of Valentine, a conservative small town in Nevada—whose economy ironically revolves around a brothel. Bernice may be the conservative, inhibited, and self-critical daughter of a reverend on the outside, but she is curious, perhaps even a little obsessed by the idea of sex. She is an avid collector of erotic female memorabilia, fascinated by anything of a sexual nature. Her dueling natures surface when she discovers a forgotten jar of make up powder in her newest acquisition, a lacquered make up case, once the possession of Blissful Night, the most famous concubine in Hong Kong (Blissful Night’s story is the “historical” element in the book). Bernice, of course, cannot resist trying on the powder, and she finds that she begins having visions of other people’s sex lives.
The content of The Concubine’s Gift may be explicit, but is never inappropriate. In fact, the novel portrays the most respectful approach to sexuality I have seen in the media in a very long time. It is a story, ultimately, about the power of sexuality when used to heal, not wound; but it is also a cautionary tale of the dangers of living ones’ fantasies, the consequences of treading where one should never have stepped….It comments on the risks of bringing what one may learn about others into the light. Some recipients of Bernice’s advice are given new life, new breath, a freshness to deadened lives, and creativity, and some discover the black depths of addiction, the searing pain of loss…delving into the unknown is a risky business…
The underlying element of fantasy that pervades the story—the powder’s magical qualities and its origin— is a wonderful mystical touch that gives the reader a sense of Eastern spirituality without plunging her or him into disbelief. The premise is well done—it flows, it works, and it keeps the reader engaged.
I love the wise and witty tone of this book; it is sarcastic while serious. Funny and earnest. Flamboyant yet down-to-earth. And the language is very accessible. And what an eclectic crew of characters inhabit the town of Valentine: Trinket, a café owner with an insatiable love for men . . . Mrs. Lin, the antiques dealer who sells Bernice most of the contents of her “collection” and firmly believes she is a reincarnated European countess . . . the love-obsessed and emotional homosexual Harold . . . the hypocritical, bullying leader of the bordello’s opposition, described as “a bulky man, who likes to walk into rooms sideways . . . ” (the humor in this book is a bit Monty Python-esque, with it’s unexpected juxtapositions) . . .
As for the packaging, the book was well edited, although I found four or five typos. My only suggestion would be to change the cover design. The bright orange cover may be eye-catching, but not in a positive way, in this reader’s opinion. An image of the beautiful antique make up case instead of the current image of the concubine might portray the theme of the book more accurately and add an air of allure for reader.
I flew through the pages—as you can see by my prompt review! I truly loved it. I can see why it had to be self-published, as the content and topic is definitely off the beaten path of the mainstream, and would likely be perceived as controversial (a conception I would disagree with, as the theme is so tastefully handled). The Concubine’s Gift is yet another example of the best of Indie publishing. If the theme is to your taste, I highly recommend this novel.
The author’s website is http://kfordk.com/, where you can read her thoughtful blog posts and find updates about her upcoming works.
The Concubine’s Gift by K. CreateSpace, 2011, 230pp, pb $9.99, ISBN 978-1466287570
DISCLAIMER: The author sent me an autographed copy in exchange for an objective review.