My Mother Would Have Burned
Return to My Splendid Concubine's home page.
The reason my mother would have burned "My Splendid Concubine" was because she grew up in a country with the soul of a church. After my mother died, I found a video collection of the Bible, an audio version and about thirty different published versions.
I didn't know then that there was that many ways to speak for one God.
After my father died, mother spent her last decade to the age of eighty-nine studying the Bible several hours a day. This was her struggle to discover the answer to salvation that haunted most of her life.
My mother loved to read other books too, as did my father, who was not a religious person. However, if my mother ran into a vivid sex scene in a novel, she threw the book in the fireplace.
Since I was born and raised a Catholic and when I was twelve my mother switched to the Jehovah Witnesses, I know why she would have burned my book.
To Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and most devout Christians of all sects, lust is a mortal sin.
In fact, Catholic Questions in a Secular World says, "The seven deadly sins are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.… Lust is the self-indulgent desire for gratification … without the sanctifying graces of marriage."
When I was single in my thirties, I had a lusty relationship with a lawyer, who ended the relationship due to Christian guilt. She wasn't a Catholic but she attended two different Christian churches on Sundays, and she made it clear that it was the guilt that drove her to stop seeing me.
By the way, the "Concubine Saga" is historical fiction about a real man that went to China in 1854, bought a concubine and stayed until 1908 to become the most powerful Westerner in China's history and the only foreigner trusted by the Emperor.
My reason for writing this series of posts was to show how cultural differences bring about biased opinions due to religious, spiritual and/or cultural beliefs.
In fact, for that reason, I know my mother would have burned my first novel. Books have been written on the subject of sex in America that explains why she would have burned it.
America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty by Marty Klein, Ph D. is one example, which "Spotlights the political, legal and civic battles raging in this country against what is arguably our most private and pluralistic right – sexual freedom."
In Cultural Differences Defined by Written Language, I attempted to explain why cultures around the globe are not all the same as I have in the past when I wrote of The Collective Culture versus Individualism.
An anonymous reviewer known as "colorado outback" posted a one-star review on Amazon of My Splendid Concubine, "You should Not Buy This Book – Seriously, just Soft Porn."
My mother would have agreed with "colorado outback", but that was because she was influenced by her religion.
Outback said, "this seemed more like the sexual fantasy of the author and NOT the historical novel it is purported to be."
However, "outback" was wrong. The idea to write My Splendid Concubine did not bloom from a sexual fantasy or a wet dream, and I'll explain the real reason later.
Since writing My Splendid Concubine was not motivated by sexual fantasies, I responded to "outback's" biased opinion, and he counter-attacked saying my book does not "come up to par with Anchee Min, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Charles Dickens, Amy Tan, Pearl S. Buck, James Michener, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Tom Robbins and so on…."
I'd have to agree. I have never even fantasized that I was equal or better than those authors.
Outback claimed to have read all of the books by the above authors and thousands more yet he only has two, one-star reviews posted on Amazon (at the time I wrote this original post).
Where are all those five-star reviews extolling the virtues of the work he admires?
Outback has a right to "his or her" opinion, but I do not have to agree or stay silent as he indicated when "outback" wrote, "P.S. You may want to grow a thicker skin."
There are other opinions of My Splendid Concubine that do not agree with "colorado outback" that demonstrate a better understanding of the novel.
Since "colorado outback" may argue (if he, she or it ever reads this) that I quoted a friend's biased review to defend my "thin skin", I will use a review from a nonbiased source — the Midwest Book Review, which has posted almost 60,000 reviews on Amazon and compiled about 200,000 helpful votes compared to "outback's" two reviews with two helpful votes.
The Midwest Book Review has a policy that if a reviewer does not like a book, he or she is to stop reading and find a book they enjoy. Good thing "colorado outback" doesn't write reviews for The Midwest Book Review.
The Midwest Book Reviewer wrote of My Splendid Concubine, "Love for ones wives' sister is typically forbidden by most western religions, but the most successful westerner in Chinese history is faced with this conflict.
"'My Splendid Concubine' is the tale of Robert Hart who deals with the matters of his lust and how to deal with them the Chinese way, which so conflict with his upbringing.
"The Taiping Rebellion doesn't
help matters, him making enemies of established and skilled mercenaries in the
process of protecting his interest and the women he loves. 'My Splendid
Concubine' is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and
After first reading The Midwest Book Review for My Splendid Concubine, I thought, "Maybe I can write, but what happens if this is the only person that enjoys the book?"
Then a reviewer from the Historical Novels Review Online, wrote, "Some readers may be uncomfortable with the frank sexuality of the novel, as well as Hart’s simultaneous romantic relationship with both Ayaou and Shao-Mei, but those who are interested in unconventional romances with an out-of-the-ordinary setting will find plenty to enjoy."
If I did not write such a lusty novel from personal sexual fantasies as "outback" claims, why did I write it?
The answer is simple.
I wanted to show the clash between different cultures and Sterling Seagrave showed me the way when he wrote in Dragon Lady, "To take the pain out of learning, his Chinese tutor suggested that (Robert) Hart might buy a concubine and study the local dialect with her.
"Hart wrote in his journal, 'Here is a great temptation. Now, some of the China women are very good looking: You can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month. ... Shall I hold out or shall I give way?'"
Seagrave writes in the next paragraph, "By early May he (Robert Hart) had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou. He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty…"
Then the editors of Entering China's Service - Robert Hart's Journals, 1854-1863, wrote on page 8, "But anyone who reads the journals through knows that his mental struggles about women were not soon or lightly won; whether the relpase was to daydreams or to a Chinese mistriess, it caused him ambivalence and anguish."
China has had a concubine culture for thousands of years and that culture, although changed in form, is still active today, which I wrote of in Concubines Return to China Riding Capitalism's Wave of Wealth.
In China, the concubine is a trophy showing a man's success. No major religion on earth has had a lasting impact on the Chinese culture in more than a thousand years.
In fact, the concept that lust is a mortal sin does not exist in China unless a Chinese has adopted Christianity as his or her religion.
That does not mean China is without morals but the moral codes of China exist without the sin of mortal lust as Catholics and many devout Christians believe. In fact, I've known mainland Chinese that are extremely moral and would put most Puritans to shame.
The idea to focus on Robert Hart's struggles with his Victorian, Christian morals while living in 19th century China's concubine culture sprouted when I first read his journals and letters published by Harvard University Press.
After all, in 19th century China, the more power and wealth a man had, the more women he owned.
Another influence was the movie directed by director Zhang Yimou in 1991, Raise the Red Lantern, which "focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what is going on — taking his pleasures when he feels like it."
For anyone that might agree with "colorado outback" or my "mother"---that My Splendid Concubine should be censored, burned or put on a "DON'T BUY LIST"---Amazon Kindle offers a free preview of the first few chapters.
Read the first few chapters of the novel free and learn if you agree with "colorado outback" that this novel is "soft porn" and should be banned. Why spend money for something you may want to burn unless you really want to burn it?
Everyone has an opinion, and I respect that right. However, I think if an opinion demonstrates a bias, discrimination, and/or a lack of understanding of why I wrote the story the way I did, I have a right to speak out.
If you visit the Amazon pages of this novel and its previous editions you may read the original negative reviews and my comments. Just because individuals think authors have no right to respond to negative reviews doesn't mean they are right. America's 1st Amendment applies to all of the citizens of the United States----not just readers who rate books and/or write reviews.
If someone critizes me and refuses to read my work, because I respond to some of the negative reviews, that's okay. But it isn't okay to spread false accusations about me, because I leave comments for some negative reviews.
I want readers who want to read my books and enjoy them the way they are, and that is why I want to point out a theme that appears in most of the negative reviews of My Splendid Concubine. If you think you might agree with the critics, then don't read my books. If you don't like it because I comment on some negative reviews of my work, then don't read my books.
Note: The 1st edition of My Splendid Concubine was released December 2007. If you read all the reviews, comments and awards from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, you will discover a wide range of opinions for this historical fiction novel. Some people enjoyed it. Some didn't, and if you are offended by my comments, then do not buy my work. Do not read it. There are plenty of books to read. You do not have to read what I write. It's that simple. Thank you.
1. “I love historical fiction, but this seemed more of an excuse for musings on religion and soft-core porn; not a good combination.” – December 16, 2010
2. “I came away from this book wondering why I had spent time on it. To many sex imaginations (because who really knows what happens between three people). This seemed more like the sexual fantasy of the author and NOT the historical novel is is purported to be.” February 22, 2011
3. “Instead it turned into a trite and tirering porno story about his love for his two concubines he purchased and the constant threat of their being re-posessed by the bad man.” – April 3, 2011
4. “The characters' sexually lives were perhaps too fully developed. … Was it really necessary to write about sex that much in order to convey how he felt about his girls? After a while, that whole premise just got old.” – April 26, 2011
5. “There was a voyeuristic feel to this book with WAY too much emphasis on the sexual thoughts and activities of Robert Hart” – May 30, 2011
6. “The book then spends endless chapters on the sex drive and life of this man.” – June 5, 2011
7. “What could have been a really, really interesting story was completely drowned in premature ejaculation and the strange secondary theme of overcoming a religion-forbidden love for two women. I was bored silly and annoyed by how many times the story was interrupted by a sex scene.” – August 26, 2011
8. “I'm very disappointed in the quality of writing, it reads like a Harlequin novel churned out in a quick hurry.” – September 23, 2011
9. “The main focus of the book was Hart's ambivalence about sexuality and the taking of a concubine.” – November 8, 2011
10. “this book was such a dissapointment. it read like a harlequin romance although ive never read one.” – November 13, 2011
11. “the maudlin "love story" of Robert and Ayaou could have been something taken out of a discount store paperback romance.” – February 2, 2012
12. “The book is extremely soft-core pornish. Almost every single page describes Hart's erection in some manner. Only a quarter of a way through the book I knew far more about Robert Hart's erections than any woman should, even his concubine(s). He is also described as a rather perverted individual (and not in a good way). The book is supposed to be about an epic love, yet Hart views every woman he sees only as an object of sexual desire. He has the uncanny ability to "feel the heat" of a woman simply by being in her presence, even if she is a 6-year old girl. He even lusts after his own sister, Mary, wishing they weren't blood related.” – December 26, 2012
13. “If you are looking for a barnstormer of a read with lots of sex and 19th century guilt and cultural angst, you've found it. The author plays way to freely with facts for me to be a fan of this work.” – March 1, 2013
Everyone Has an Opinion
Return to My Splendid Concubine's home page.