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The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure

A group of foreigners in the northeastern town of Shishan finds the status quo upset when Helen Frances, a young woman with a middle class upbringing but a fatal flaw, arrives and falls in love with the Hon Henry Manners.The most astonishing range of characters awaits you in this novel; the wicked brothel-keeper Madam Liu and her sadistic son Ren Ren, the pragmatic, rational missionary Dr Airton, the American zealot Septimus Harding, the equivocal Mandarin. Not to mention the wonderfully complicated anti-hero Henry Manners, the prostitutes Fan Yimei and Shen Ping, the bandit Iron Man Wang, the Mongolian shaman. And the ingenue, Helen Frances herself, whose innocence covers an unorthodox curiosity.
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Epic adventure, grand passion and historical intrigue in the bestselling tradition of Wilbur Smith.

About the Author

The son of a Hong Kong Taipan, Adam Williams was born and raised in Asia, though educated in the United Kingdom. His family has been in China since the 1880s and he has fulfilled his destiny by joining Jardine Matheson and rising to head its operations in China as well as those of Jardine Fleming. He has undertaken an expedition by camel into the heart of the Taklamaken Desert to seek the lost cities of the Silk Road, and having survived this, competed in the 'Rhino Charge'. He is also an OBE.


Lavish in the manner of James Clavell and Leon Uris, this capacious and compelling saga centers on the Boxer Rebellion, a peasant uprising against the foreign colonization of China in 1900. More specifically, it follows the sensuously detailed love affair between Henry Manners, a Victorian secret agent, and Helen Frances Delamere, a convent-educated daughter of a local British soap merchant in the invented northern Chinese city of Shishan. The rest of the massive cast is headed by Dr. Edward Airton, a Scottish physician, who runs a hospital and mission in the city. Airton has become a philosophical sparring partner to the Mandarin, a local magistrate who holds absolute power. Airton's family and friends round out the foreign presence, and a host of Chinese characters bridge the cultural gap. The villains of the piece, apart from the bloodthirsty Boxers, are Mother Liu, madam of the exclusive brothel that gives the volume its title, and her sadistic son, Ren Ren. As the rebellion develops from dubious rumor to frightening fact, the Westerners in Shishan are forced to place themselves in Manners's intrepid but amoral hands. Williams's mastery of language and plotting keeps contrivance and coincidence at bay, although he crosses the line into melodrama from time to time. In all, this is a first-rate story, peopled by passionate, believable characters and rich in historical and political detail. Agent, Araminta Whitley. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'A sweeping, old-style historical epic set in China at the end of the 19th century . . . Romance, danger and murder are interwoven in this enthralling yarn.' - Woman & Home 'Both an epic adventure and a love story . . .' - SHE MAGAZINE All the requisite romantic entanglements, political intrigues, and culture clashes ensue when East meets West in this superbly executed thriller set against the bloody backdrop of the Boxer Rebellion in late-nineteenth-century China. Featuring a huge cast of intricately interwoven international characters, the fast-paced narrative fairly leaps off the pages as the action takes on a breakneck speed. Caught in the throes of the understandably brutal peasant rebellion are the cosmopolitan residents of the fictional city of Shishan, including a fanatical American missionary, a compassionate Scottish doctor, the beautiful daughter of a British businessman ensnared in an unfortunate love triangle, a smooth but ethically questionable British nobleman, and a suitably inscrutable Chinese mandarin. Poised directly above the execution grounds stands the Palace of Heavenly Pleasure, a notorious brothel that plays a pivotal role in the lives of both the local and expatriate residents of Shishan. Epic in scope and execution, this ambitious first novel opens a window between two worlds poised on the brink of extinction. * Booklist * 'If you like derring-do, murderous characters, interesting sexual practices and intrigue, this is for you . . . indulge in a heady, passionate drama.' - Daily Express Intrigue, adventure and romance await, but it is Williams's vivid knowledge of China and the complexities which lie within the sleeping dragon that make this a worthy read * The Straits Times * Storytelling of the epic kind - this 700 page tale about sinners and lovers in 1900s China will have you gripped * Heat * 'An epic historical and romantic story as well as an impressive first novel.' - Sunday Mirror 'James Clavell left a huge gap in Far Eastern epic storytelling . . . it looks as if he finally has a successor with the appearance of Williams's novel on the Boxer rebellion of 1900. . . Williams intermingles romance, peril and murder in the old China and spikes it with emotion and a spirit of adventure. Heavenly pleasure indeed' - Publishing News 'It is hard to believe that THE PALACE OF HEAVENLY PLEASURE by Adam Williams is the work of a first-time novelist. Set in 1900, this is a sweeping epic that explores life in China prior to the Boxer Rebellion, weaving a vivid cast of characters into the political and geographical landscape.' - Sainsbury Magazine 'This is the essential summer read for anyone who enjoys a well-written, colourful and meaty historical novel of epic proportions with a long cast of vivid, engaging and diverse characters.' - Choice 'With his colourful characters and Boxer Rebellion setting, Adam Williams has created a scintillating adventure polished by a dash of history . . . What Williams makes of his characters is a rattling good read. Full of love and loss and guts and gore and derring-do, this is as good as an adventure story gets. Some novelists are adept at driving a story on through dialogue, while others find narrative more natural. Williams is a master of both. Ths is his first novel, yet technically accomplished. Beyond a cracking story, well conceived and executed, is there more? Yes, much. ... He excels in communicating China's simultaneous similarity and strangeness.Entertaining, engaging and informative,this book deserves to do well.' - The Times 'The blockbuster of the summer, set in 19th Century China.' - Good Housekeeping An epic historical and romantic story as well as an impressive first novel. * Sunday Mirror * 'An epic tale pulsing with intrigue,adventure and romance.' - Live Wire Storytelling of the epic kind - this 700 page tale about sinners and lovers in 1900s China will have you gripped * Heat * 'Absolutely wonderful - that very rare thing, a spellbinding novel which really draws the reader into its world' Penny Vincenzi * Called us direct with quote * Absolutely wonderful * Penny Vincenzi * If you like derring-do, murderous characters, interesting sexual practices and intrigue, this is for you . . . indulge in a heady, passionate drama. * Sunday Express * The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure is a great epic, sweep of a book, driven by such a powerful cocktail of history, passion, plot and character that you will be drawn completely into the world created by Adam Williams and will not want to leave. This is a story told not only with brilliant imagination, but also with the knowledge and authority of an author steeped in the traditions and environment about which he writes. 'A fantastic read about the tensions and people in a forgotten corner of Britain's empire. * Humphrey Hawksley *

The plot of this first novel is as intricate and multilayered as the interactions between Westerners and Chinese in Shishan in 1899. In this city in northeastern China, the Palace of Heavenly Pleasure, a brothel run by Mother Liu, holds secrets of torture and delight. Shishan's missionaries and businessmen have heard rumors of Boxer violence against Christians, but danger seems remote. Unfortunately, they cannot escape the rising anti-Western frenzy. Mother Liu's brutal son joins the rebels, using skills he honed breaking the spirits of male and female "recruits" for the Palace. Central to the cadre of Western characters is Henry Manners, ostensibly working for China Railways but spying for the British. His affair with Helen Frances Delamere, betrothed to another, scandalizes medical missionary Edward Airton. Yet they must join forces and compromise principles to escape certain death. Williams does not shy away from the Boxer Rebellion's violence, including many beheadings. Yet amid the graphic depictions Williams also conveys the differences in philosophical outlook that divide East and West as surely as the sword. The reader churns through the pages, trusting no one and fearing for everyone, and emerges breathless from a novelistic whirlwind. Recommended for most collections.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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