The Last Concubine by Catt Ford
Series: A Timeless Dreams Title
Author: Catt Ford
Genre: Historical (1600-1700?)
Length: Novel (218pgs)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (13th July 2012)
Heat Level: Moderate – Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥3 ½Hearts
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: Lan’xiu has been handed over as a gift to Hüi Wei, but it is also a sly plot by her brother Wu Min, after all Wu Min has looked at all the options and knows Hüi Wei will react badly when he uncovers Lan’xiu secrets. Lan’xiu knows she is facing certain death, Wu Min has made sure of that, but Hüi Wei surprises her with his reaction and even though things are going good between them, obstacles are thrown in their path and Lan’xiu begins to feel trapped. Hüi Wei surprises even himself with his reaction to Lan’xiu, there is a delicate balance that must be made but when he must go into battle Lan’xiu surprises them all.
This is a very well written novel which gives you a taste of historical China. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Chinese timelines, so I haven’t been able to pinpoint a certain timeline although I would hazard a guess of 1600 – 1700 hundreds based on the clothing described. Lan’xiu has been disguised since birth as a girl; her mother even gave her a girl’s name as it was the only way to save her life. When her brother discovered the truth Lan’xiu knew her time was short. Meeting Hüi Wei changes her life for the better, although she does have to contend with the other concubines/wives, many of whom are lovely women, and feeling trapped in her new gilded cage.
Now I bet you’re thinking ‘her & she, I thought this was an M/M’, well let me reassure you, it is an M/M but you get pulled into thinking of Lan’xiu as ‘her & she’ because that is how everyone has always thought of her with only Ning (Lan’xiu’s eunuch) and her mother knowing the truth, so even Lan’xiu thinks of himself as ‘her’ even with knowing that he is male, after all it has saved her life and when Hüi Wei learns the truth he is also encouraged to think of Lan’xiu as female.
The storyline of this one is intriguing; a woman given as a gift to a governor and taken on as his concubine, adding to his stable of concubines/wives, having to become a member of an existing family and trying to find a place without stepping on anybody’s else’s toes, all the while having to keep a secret that could cost her life. Add in political maneuvering of one of the other concubines and a brother who wants more and more power and you have a story that is never dull. We also get to see some of the turmoil that Hüi Wei goes through about his feelings for Lan’xiu, and the confusion of Lan’xiu being a man.
Lan’xiu and Hüi Wei make a great couple but expectations of the time causes some troubles. I was surprised by how quickly they fell in love but it was very like soul-mates meeting. The sex between them is very hot, sometimes rough and passionate and other times gentle and sweet. The supporting characters are great and we get to know some of them quite well, I loved Ning, Mei Ju (First Wife) and Bai (fifth wife) they added a lot to the story and added some light relief at times.
I will recommend this to those who like historicals, political intrigue, betrayal, attempted murder, battles, sword fights, passionate love and a very happy ending.