New Authors for February TBR Challenge

I’m very happy that I managed to stick to my plans for the challenge this month. Lucky me got to read Empress Orchid by Anchee Min …. AND The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle.  


So, without further ado, here are the reviews:

Title: Empress Orchid

Author: Anchee Min

Year published: First published in 2004, the paperback edition I read was published in 2005

Why did you get this book?
A friend from work passed me this book last year as she knew I love reading.

Do you like the cover?
The red cover design is rather striking. It features a Chinese face with the head-dress of a Qing dynasty royal, such that I’m instantly clued in as to which historical figure the story is about. There are only two prominent empresses in China’s history, so it wasn’t difficult to guess who this story is based on.


Did you enjoy the book?
As a matter of fact, I did enjoy the book. In fact, I could hardly believed that I finished it in 5 days, in between blogging, playing X-Box games and working on the church website project. So, it is a good sign.

The story is written in the first person and based on real people. The author kept to the historical events as they were recorded, translating the decrees, edicts and poems from the original documents. I also liked how she gave a feminine perspective (that of wanting love) to this story which traces the rise of one of the most famous female political figure, Empress Cixi (or Tzu Hsi) from her childhood, her bid to rescue her family from abject poverty and herself from an undesirable marriage to a slow-witted cousin by competing to become one of the Emperor’s concubines.

The book takes on a subtly erotic undertone as the story unfolds in the Forbidden City where concubines vie for the Son of Heaven’s attention and seduction bestows power upon its mistress, and treachery and intrigue is everywhere.

This fascinating peek into the dying dynastic family kept me utterly engrossed. Rife with pageantry and rituals, the novel fed the curiosity of the history buff in me. The heroine’s sacrifice of a new-found love towards the end for the sake of her royal son and the greater good of her nation, is rather noble. But expected of a woman of her status in the society she’s in. It gave the ending a touch of melancholy yet hints at hope for healing.

Would you read something by this author again?
This is her fourth novel, and it ended in the successful foiling of a coup d’etat. If her next book continues where this left off, I’ll probably read it.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?
Unfortunately, I’ll have to return the book as it’s on loan.

Anything else?
The author’s checkered past – she was a model member of the Red Guard during the Maoist era in China, who was later disgraced upon the death of Chairman Mao, and left China for the US – is the focus of her memoir, Red Azalea. There are quite a good number of discussions about her books, and some interviews with BookReporter, Powell’s and ChineseCulture.


Ok, just before I started on Empress Orchid, I read some bits of it and thinking that it isn’t really a romance, more of women’s fiction, I decided to read Carlyle and blog about it as well. So, here’s my take on it: 

Title: The Devil You Know

Author: Liz Carlyle

Year published: 2003

Why did you get this book?
I’ve been hearing so much about Liz Carlyle from the other ladies in this challenge that I decided to check out her work.

Do you like the cover?
I had a sense of deja vu when I spied this book on the shelf. The cover looks eerily like another I’ve recently read. I’ll dig that out later.  

Did you enjoy the book?
I did. I did. The flawed hero, Bentley, had a tragic childhood, and was generally dismissed as a rakehell and wastrel. There’s a lot of pent-up emotions in the principal characters, such as his love and respect for his elder bro, and the heavy sense of guilt they both have towards each other. Then, there is this deep seated yearning in him for a love that will set his heart free, but when it was within his grasp, he nearly let it slip through his fingers because of his fear of intimacy and the disgust he thought the heroine, Freddie, would develop should she learn about his shameful abused past.

I also admire the heroine’s tenacity. She refused to give up on him, because she had glimpsed the innate goodness in him and believed firmly that their love is worth fighting for.

Would you read something by this author again?
You bet I would. In fact, I’ve amassed one other old title and two of her latest, so I’m looking forward to reading them too.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?Anything else?
I’ll have to return this copy because it’s on rental. But I intend to keep her new books, which I bought last week. Am looking forward to reading those, probably spaced out amongst other authors. We’ll see …



5 thoughts on “New Authors for February TBR Challenge

  1. LOL tara! Really I didn’t read her again until after her one contemp in Big Guns (LOVED it).

    After I started AWOV, I loved hellbent and rushed to the computer to figure out what book was his. Honest I had completely forgotten reading it. I ended up reading AWOV and TG before getting back to The Devil You Know and the book was much much more enjoyable with the back story.

    I do enjoy LC, but she is one of those authors who says all her stories can stand alone, where as I think they are more complete if read in order.

  2. I admit I’m a Carlyle fangirl and my heart stopped when I saw Sybils:

    The Devil You Know was my first LC and I have to say I didn’t care for it.

    This is one of my favorites.

  3. ag says:

    IMO, Hellbent was just waiting for the love that will redeem him.

    And I’m glad I started with DYK, cos it makes me curious about her later works. Can’t say the same for Sandra Brown (she’s my next post) though.

  4. Oh goodie – you have discovered Carlyle. I found her when her very first book was first published and she is one of the few authors I can say that I have enjoyed every one of her books! Some more than others true – but not a one of them is below a 4 on my grading scale.
    And Sybil is right – once you read more of the background on Bently, he becomes even more intriguing.

  5. The Devil You Know was my first LC and I have to say I didn’t care for it.

    I picked up one of the reissues, and fell in love with HellBent. And HAD to have his book. I read most of them then reread DYK and liked it much better with the history behind it. I have all of them now except A Woman Scorned which reissues this June or July I forget what her newsletter said now.

Comments are closed.