Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Our Hart by Lloyd Lofthouse

Publisher: Three Clover Press
ISBN: 978-0-9819553-1-5
Publication date: 2009
Pages: 290

Our Hart is the fictionalized account of the real life Robert Hart who in 1854, at a very young age, started out as an interpreter in the British consulate in China. With his burgeoning love of China at the forefront he set out to truly understand the Chinese way of thinking by hiring a tutor to help him study the early poets.

After he resigned from the consul to become deputy commissioner of customs for Canton, his loyalties now lay with the Ch’ing dynasty. Due to his deep understanding of the Chinese concept of "face" he helped to keep corruption to a minimum and a lot of potential crises were averted. Hart managed to increase money flowing to the imperial coffers thus earning him the ear of the Imperial government, a feat unheard of for any "foreign devil."

Although Robert witnessed may changes in China and much unrest among the many different people of the country, his ultimate goal was to insure a stable income for China so that the country could modernize and prosper. Robert may have left Ireland in disgrace but 54 years later he left China in honor as Inspector General of Chinese Maritime customs, chief advisor to the emperor and senior guardian of the heir apparent for the Ch’ing dynasty.

This is not just the story of Hart’s career but also a deeply tender love story between Robert and Ayaou, his concubine. As much as he loved Ayaou, sometimes their cultural differences presented problems but as Ayaou matured, she understood how important Robert was to China. Along with the history and adventure Lofthouse deftly tells the story of a man torn by his love for Ayaou and his western upbringing. Throughout the book his head was at war with his heart over the morality of loving and keeping a Chinese concubine; a love that would last the rest of his life.

I read My Splendid Concubine last year and enjoyed the book a lot but I think Our Hart is much deeper emotionally and has more in-depth content. Although Our Hart is the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, it is a stand alone novel but I would recommend reading My Splendid Concubine first as it provides the backstory of Ayaou and her sister Shao-mei and how they initally became part of Hart's life. Both books are excellent reads that I found difficult to put down. 4****

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest opinion.


  1. Wow, great review! I hadn't heard of this book. Such an interesting cover too.

  2. Thank you for the kind review. After "Our Hart's" Advanced Review Copies went out, I received some constructive criticism from Dianne Salerni, the author of "We Hear the Dead", (due out this May) a wonderful novel also based on a true story.

    Due to Dianne's constructive comments, "Our Hart" underwent another round of revisions before going to the printer. I wanted to share one scene that was revised and a new scene that was added, but I couldn't fit it in the comment field.

    Lloyd Lofthouse

  3. I am pretty sure I would love this. I shall add to my list. I do love the books based on China.

  4. wow, yes, that sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for the review pointing it out.

  5. Great review Kaye. I'm just reading this now and it is good.

  6. This and the first book too sound fascinating. I'm hoping to do the Chinese challenge and these would be dandy for that. I know I can trust your opinion on more serious books, the kind I read. So these are going on my tbr list. Thanks for reviewing them. (nice to see an author comment, isn't it? I always get a kick out of it anyway). Take care.

  7. Sounds like a fascinating and interesting story!

  8. I enjoyed this book too, and learned quite a bit about China's history. I may go back and read Concubine becuase I haven't read it. Great review.

  9. I really enjoyed this book as well. I just posted my review and linked it to yours:


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