Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

The wind snatched at his words and the night sky swallowed them. Around him he could hear swords being drawn and the hiss of sharp breath, but none dared approach too close, and a callused hand had the sense to seize the dog by the scruff. Chang felt the power of the movement. It rose in him like typhoon, racing through his veins and driving all fear before it. He must enjoy this moment, taste its sweetness. It could be his last. ~ The Russian Concubine, page 246 ~

Junchow, China, 1928. Perhaps it's her red hair, or her hard life. Whatever the reason, Lydia Ivanova has a fierce spirit. Nothing can dim it, not even the foul waters of the Peiho River. Into the river's grime bodies are tossed, those of thieves and Communists alike. So every time she steals some marketplace treasure, the sixteen-year-old take her life in her hands. Her mother, Valentina, numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks rounded them up. They took her husband, but Valentina managed to buy back her child and bring her to China.

Now, though mother and daughter live in the whites-only International Settlement, no walls can keep Lydia in. She escapes to meet Chang An Lo, a handsome youth with fire in his eyes. He returns her love, but other dangers threaten him. Chiang Kai-shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like him - and in his possession are the priceless jewels of a dead tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. Their all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon the pair, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it...

For the most part I enjoyed this book. It was a pleasant read though not anything that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I thought the last 100 pages were the best by far. It falls somewhere between so-so and recommended. I couldn't relate the book's title to the actual story line which I think is what threw me from really enjoying this book. I kept expecting one plot line when it was something totally different. I found myself most interested in the culture and history of the time period rather than the story itself.

I would give this author another try though she's not at the top of my "have to read" list.


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