The Consorts

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The Consorts (Forbidden City Book 1)

Last Free Dates: 10th Sep 19 to 14th Sep 19
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...A beautifully told and excellently researched tale of relationships and romance in the eighteenth century Chinese court. Flawless. ...

In the 18th century Chinese court, Lady Qing is an overlooked concubine, not favoured by the Emperor, and passing time with the only real friend she has, the Lady Ying. Then the court finds itself upended, and the two women find themselves caught in the courtly games of their superiors. With highest rank in the land available to the most devious, their friendship may not survive.

I had trouble reviewing this, because I was desperately looking for something I could nitpick on. I didn’t find it.

It is well researched. It is beautifully written. It is well-formatted. It stands out because it is the story of courtly games from those who are the victim of them, the pieces, not the power players, and it makes those pieces all too human. There is some sexual content, but nothing that a teen or older audience would have trouble with. This is more about the relationship than the sex, and it develops that relationship beautifully.

Told in first person by the Lady Qing, this is the story of what would normally be the side characters in a drama. All the characters are distinct, as seen through the eyes of Lady Qing, who herself comes across as a distinct personality with a strong voice. The story itself contains just enough flavour to give an insight into the world these women live in without drowning the reader in it, and the story flows rapidly and well. It was hard to put down so I didn’t, either the first or second time I read it. I will be upfront: the core relationship (a tangled mess of friendship and love) is between two women, and readers with a problem with lesbianism may not enjoy this book. They will be missing a good read.

The short Author’s Note at the end contains more details about historical details, explains a few liberties that were taken, and fleshes out much of the backstory. There is also an advert for another free ebook in the back of this, and I might well be taking the author up on it.

My immediate reaction was a five, but I considered that I might be giving one out too easily. I decided that I would sleep on it, and see what my view was the next day. And then I realised that if I was struggling that hard not to give it a five, it had clearly earned the rating.

Romance readers would like this, but so would literary or historical fans, or just those that like strong stories. A fantastic read.

Rating: 5
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