The novel

In the closing years of the eighteenth century, the once great Qianlong reign languishes in a morass of corruption and waste. The emperor, once the powerful ruler of a thriving dynasty, is now the feeble tool of his devious minister, Heshen, who plies his ruler with opium and whispers shadowy innuendos into his receptive ear. This dark stagnancy is abruptly interrupted when the English envoy of King George III refuses to perform the traditional obeisance: the kowtow. The Imperial Interpreter Second Class, the alluring Lady Cao Baoqin, assigned to the English embassy, is consequently incarcerated in the Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, destined to end her days among these forlorn flowers of decades past. Lady Cao, however, is much more than she appears to be; rumours whisper of her mysterious association with the much-revered author of the Dream of the Red Chamber—a novel as politically dangerous as it is galvanizing. Loved by a stalwart Dutch diplomat, coveted by the Grand Censor, and scorned by the power-seeking Heshen, Lady Cao is a delicate pillar of indomitable strength and fortitude.

Set amidst the intrigue of a dilapidated court, The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines is a work of lyrical eloquence in which one woman emerges as the most unexpected of heroines, a woman who, through the indomitable power of her ink-reed, will defy an empire.

© P.J. Royal