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Prologue

1851Imperial China

A LAND OF SENSUOUS DELIGHTS and grinding poverty. A land of silk and jade, of tiny feet and dark, exotic eyes. The ruler of this vast and opulent land is the newly appointed Emperor Xian Feng, the Son of Heaven. Only nineteen years old, he has inherited a corrupt bureaucracy, the rebellious Taiping of the northwest, and a country slowly losing its mind to opium. The eunuchs who serve him grow more corrupt. The white devils constantly bang on his doors demanding trade for goods he does not want. And yet in all this his first duty is to sire an heir. In fact, he will not receive his full imperial salary until he has the required twenty-eight wives.

To this end, the Festival of Fertility has been declared! Eligible women from throughout the land have been invited to come to the Forbidden City, Xian Feng's home in Peking. Their virtue and their fortunes will be examined, they will be tested for lucky aspects of mind and body, and if successful, they will never leave the Forbidden City again. The winner will become the empress herself. Second place goes to four favored concubines. Then two other harems will be established for women who will likely never grace Xian Feng's bed.

A daunting task for any man to oversee, especially one who is simultaneously running a country. And so, in this most difficult hour, Xian Feng turns to his childhood friend and names Sun Bo Tao, former bad boy of the Forbidden City, as master of the festival. Apparently, the emperor does not hear the warnings that he is appointing a fox to run an imperial henhouse.


THE CONCUBINE Jade Lee | The Concubine | Chapter 1