Review: The Concubine’s Gift by K. Ford K.

The Concubine’s Gift is a gift indeed.

Concubine's giftBernice 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.

Next Up for Review: The Concubine’s Gift

concubineThe next book up for review is The Concubine’s Gift by K. Ford K. This may not qualify as a strictly traditional historical fiction novel, as most of the action occurs in a contemporary setting,  so I’m moving out of my comfort zone a bit. The premise mixes a number of unusual elements: a famous brothel, a conservative little Nevada town,  an antique makeup case containing an almost magical powder, a sexually inhibited resident who becomes drawn into the world of a famous Chinese concubine…It’s probably difficult so see how the plot falls together, but I’m only 50 pages in so my description is purposely vague. So far, I’m finding the text to be easy and quick to read, and the author has me caught up in the explicit but tasteful plot already…

The novel isn’t very long–a little over two hundred pages–and I should have a review up right after Christmas.

Until then, Happy Holidays!

Oleanna, Darkness into Light, and what’s coming next…

I have completed Oleanna and Darkness into Light. I am holding myself back from writing a full review for Oleanna right now, due to the fact that I am reviewing this for the HNS and it is our policy not to post reviews on our personal blogs until after the issue has come out. I plan on adding a link to the HNS review, which is limited to 300 words, as well as elaborating on my comments here, in August. To summarize my thoughts on Oleanna, however, I found it to be a gently told tale with quiet depth, atmospherically stark yet richly detailed (how can that be? I will explain in the review), like the culture and the people of Norway herself. Quite beautiful.

For Sam Baty’s post-WW2 thriller, Darkness into Light, which continues the adventures of Jennifer and Otto (survivors from the first adventure during the war), I would write exactly the same review for this book as I had for the first installment. Thus, the problem with reviewing books in a series. In order to avoid useless repetition, I will simply direct you to the first review, HERE.

Next up: Eucalyptus and Green Parrots (Lori Eaton) 

THEN: Vivaldi’s Muse (Sarah Bruce Kelly), Spirit of Lost Angels (Liza Perrat), The Concubine’s Gift (K. Ford K), Saving Gerda (Lilian Darcy–with its beautiful cover–I really wish this wasn’t only an e-book!), and The Other Alexander (Alexander Levkoff). That should take us into the winter, and I am trying to read faster so that I can also fit in a few other e-book  titles before the new year.