What if a timid, sexually-inhibited woman suddenly developed the psychic ability to see what everyone else needed to be blissfully happy in bed? And what if she started blurting out sexual advice against her will? That thought was the seed for my new novel, The Concubine’s Gift and the poor, long-suffering character of Bernice Babbitt was born.
After I had the main character and had researched the concubine trade in Hong Kong, I developed the idea of an antique makeup case that had, at one time, belonged to the most successful concubine in Hong Kong. Inside the makeup case was a jar of face powder with magical properties, the secret to the concubine’s success. When Bernice buys the case, it becomes her Pandora’s Box and her downfall!
At first, I couldn’t decide where to begin the novel so I wrote the middle and the end. But then I remembered an abandoned whorehouse in my hometown in Colorado and decided to use its colorful history. I created a fictitious town for Bernice Babbitt called Valentine, Nevada (not too surprisingly, it looks just like my hometown) and started the novel there.
The reactions to The Concubine’s Gift have been very positive with readers laughing all the way through. A few people have been shocked that I wrote such a sexy novel. Luckily, most people seem to understand that The Concubine’s Gift is a very positive novel. What I would like readers to gain is the idea that sex is a positive, happy part of a normal adult life. The novel is also very non-judgmental towards sex. What is healthy and fulfilling sex for one person may be very different for someone else, as Bernice Babbitt learns all too well!
The Concubine’s Gift
by K. Ford K.
Things begin to change when Bernice buys an old, black-lacquer makeup case in an antique shop. The case once belonged to Blissful Night, the most famous and powerful concubine in Hong Kong. According to legend, Blissful Night could give a man more pleasure in one night than he would have experienced in an entire lifetime.
Inside the makeup case, Bernice discovers a forgotten jar of face powder with magical properties, the secret to Blissful Night’s success. Thinking the face powder is an herbal concoction that will beautify her skin, Bernice begins to use it, only to find that the powder causes her to see visions of other people’s sex lives.
Bernice is horrified to discover that the only way she can rid herself of the visions is to blurt out sexual advice. Soon the entire town is in an uproar. But it isn’t until she learns more about Blissful Night’s past that she knows what she must do. The Concubine’s Gift is a delightfully sexy novel in which Bernice is drawn into a seductive world she never knew existed. A provocative and entertaining Pandora’s Box of a tale!
Mrs. Lin’s latest find was an antique black lacquered make-up case that had been the prized possession of Blissful Night, the most famous concubine in Hong Kong.
Mrs. Lin, who sold her antiques with the flare of a circus ringmaster, held the make-up case up so that it caught the light. She took her time opening the tiny lacquered drawers. Each one was decorated with a single symbol: a peony, a lantern and double dark butterflies that Mrs. Lin assured Bernice were actually good luck bats. The last drawer was hopelessly glued shut with the natural swelling of time and humidity. On the bottom of the case was a mythological golden songbird in flight. Inside, the drawers were lacquered bright red and unlike the black lacquer outside, the red showed no signs of age or fading. It gleamed as wet as the day it was first crafted.
Mrs. Lin leaned closer to Bernice and almost whispered in her ear. “I can’t believe my good fortune in attaining this treasure. My cousin in Hong Kong bought it from the concubine’s only granddaughter, a wealthy woman by the name of Elizabeth Chan. She doesn’t want to own anything that reminds her of her grandmother’s lowly status as a concubine, something she considers the shame of her family. Everything is being sold quietly outside of Hong Kong.”
“Do you know the concubine’s story?” Bernice asked. To Bernice this was not an idle question for she savored the antique stories more than the objects themselves.
Mrs. Lin, who loved Bernice’s almost insatiable curiosity, smiled. “Of course, I know the story.”
“Why is this last drawer stuck? Can we get it open?” Bernice asked.
“You can try to pry it open but it might damage the make-up case. Elizabeth Chan had the whole case X-rayed just to be sure her grandmother didn’t hide any money or jewels in the drawer. Most concubines in the old days were from very poor families and whenever they got a little money or jewelry they were famous for squirreling it away in odd places for safe-keeping. But the X-ray revealed nothing but a squat wooden jar stuck inside. It’s probably just some old makeup since that is what she usually kept in this case.”
Bernice examined the stuck drawer as Mrs. Lin told the story.
“The concubine’s original name was a very inauspicious one. Peony was the name her family gave her. But they couldn’t have thought very highly of their little daughter for they sold her to a rich man who was well over fifty when she was only thirteen. Poor little Peony has a very strange history. But it’s late and you probably don’t have time to hear it now.”
“Oh, but I do,” Bernice said.
Mrs. Lin opened the lid to reveal a mirror that was gilded with age. “After Peony became a concubine, complete with the newly-elevated social position of belonging to a rich family instead of a poor one, her patron changed her name to Blissful Night. Blissful Night, a woman who was not famed for her beauty but for something even more precious, looked at herself in this mirror as she applied make-up before entertaining her patron who would be more like a husband to her than any other man. Women used herbal, almost magical makeup in those days. It enhanced the beauty of the skin instead of covering it, but no one remembers how to make that kind of thing anymore.”
Bernice squinted at her own round Germanic face in the mirror. The make-up case had an odd smell, like old roots, half-dried flowers and the medicinal incense of superstitious grandmothers. “Why was the concubine famous?” Bernice asked.
“Blissful Night was famous because she knew what her lovers wanted in bed better than they did.”
Bernice giggled and blushed, a reaction that Mrs. Lin was accustomed to and that usually meant the sale was almost closed. “Wasn’t she afraid of what others would think of her?” Bernice asked.
“I don’t think Blissful Night was ashamed of anything,” Mrs. Lin said.
-Author Bio: Childhood memories that ended up in the novel.
Part of my childhood was spent in a Colorado mining town that had seen better days. Abandoned buildings were everywhere, left over from the gold and silver rush days. In the summer time, I walked to the swimming pool every day with my friends. As we walked, we sang pop songs girl-group style. We were always in search of an adventure such as taking turns almost drowning in the river (accidentally, of course) or trespassing into abandoned buildings where the floor boards could give way any second and send us to our death. If we were feeling really brave we might see who could walk the farthest into an abandoned mine before running back outside to safety. I was definitely not the winner at this game. Dark, creepy mines full of hidden shafts and rotting timbers terrified me.
To get to the pool, we took back alleys where there were even more abandoned buildings than on the main streets. One building in particular had been locked up tight. Whoever had left the building didn't want anyone to go in it ever again. But the boards, nails and locks that had been put on the building long before I was born were no match for the dry rot that summer. It caused the entire front of the building to fall right off and into the dusty yard.
From then on the building was open like a dolls house and my friends and I were fascinated. On the first floor was a stage with wine red velvet curtains and painted backdrops. There were tables with chairs stacked on top of them as if they had just cleaned the floors and were ready to open again the next day. Upstairs there were twenty tiny rooms, each one with a small iron bed frame and room for little else.
Of course we climbed inside and danced on the stage. We went up the dangerously rickety staircase too but each of the twenty rooms was locked up tight. We loved the stage so we played there often. Then one day an elderly neighbor walked by. “This was The Cribs. It was called that because of all the tiny rooms,” she said. “Lots of young women worked here in the old days. They sang and danced every night for their customers. You could hear the music all over town.”
“What happened to them?” I asked.
She just shook her head. “I don't know. A few of them stayed and married. I don't know about the rest.”
I had forgotten about the Cribs until I started writing The Concubine's Gift. Suddenly the Cribs came back to life and I created a whole town around it called Valentine, Nevada. The town lives and breathes in the pages of my novel, and so does The Cribs, the abandoned whore house at the end of town.
K. Ford K. now lives and writes in Hawaii.
Author website: http://kfordk.com/