Publication Date: 3 September 2009
Format: Paperback, 515 pgs
Source: Personal Library
The Concubine's Secret (aka The Girl from Junchow) is the sequel to The Russian Concubine (my review here). Our heroine, Lydia has since moved on with her life, leaving China and her Chinese lover, Chang An Lo, to search for her father back in her country land, Russia. She is still somewhat in shock to learn that her father had survived from the Bolshevik army so many years ago and is now captive in a prison camp. Together with her half-brother Alexei, they began their search for their father. Lydia couldn't bear the thought of leaving Chang, but she knew that the Chinese Communist Party needs him and that someday they would reunion again.
Chang, on the other end, is adamant over their mission in driving out the Nationalists Party, but deep inside his heart he still felt for them whenever he succeeded in destroying the troops. He thought about the families and loved ones who are waiting for all of them. After all, they are all the same. And then, there are his doubts in their leader Mao Tse Tung, as he isn't sure if he is the right person to rule China, given his corruption, his lust for power and his ruthless actions. Would Mao bring to China the justice and equality it craves? And finally, would fate allows him to reunite with Lydia again should he travel to Russia as part of a Chinese Communist Party delegation to meet the Russian leader on Communism exchanges?
Back in her country land, Lydia has never felt any closer to her half-brother although her Russian is rusty. Though she isn't familiar with the land anymore, her hope in finding her father is high. But, danger looms in Moscow as in Junchow, China. In fact, the danger doubles as not only she has to thread carefully with the Commandant and his wife (who may hold some information to the prison camp where her father might be) but also Alexei being a member of a criminal brotherhood, after an incident which almost had him killed.
Despite this is the sequel to The Russian Concubine, this book could read as a standalone (there are flashes of some main scenarios like how Lydia and Chang was acquainted and so forth so readers get a gist of the background). While I think The Russian Concubine was a great read, this sequel gives us a more in-depth view of the two lead characters' struggles and dilemmas as not only they have to face the consequences of being caught if seen together but also the unforeseen circumstances that lies ahead should they choose to be together. We see a more matured Lydia in this sequel, in terms of her thoughts and her fiery determination still remains as strong as ever. Chang, on the other hand, became more sentimental as compared to Lydia, which I thought is a romantic notion since he felt so many emotions of both China and Lydia in The Russian Concubine. In fact, I'd seen him as a man who treasure sentimental values aside from his loyalty, and these make him more charming underneath his cool, calm demeanour.
Once again, I found myself engrossed in this historical fiction. Filled with adventures and romance, it had me captivated throughout the story as I found myself rooting for Lydia and Chang, hoping that their relationship would conquer every obstacles which are thrown into their ways. And the same goes to finding her father. All in all, it was an intense and satisfying read.