Joely Sue Burkhart
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Carina Press
Release Date
August 2011
BDSM, Erotic Romance, Historical Romance

Bred for him…and for his bed.

Golden-eyed Jin has spent her life preparing to be the Emperor's consort. She knows her destiny is to serve the Emperor by indulging the dark desire that he has buried deep inside his heart—the desire to give pain.

Only she can take the pain he yearns to give, and transform it into the most unimaginable pleasure. But to enjoy all the Emperor can give her, she must survive assassination attempts from those who would keep them apart.

Seducing the Emperor is risky…but it's the only way to fulfill her destiny.

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Aug 29, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
267 people found the following review helpful

Within 70-odd pages, Joely Sue Burkhart penned a powerful and captivating story of love and pain set in an Emperor's court in what could be Ancient China.

Ever since Jin's golden eyes were spotted, she was recruited and prepared to become concubine to the Emperor, to serve his special needs as no concubine was able to do. The Emperor has kept his dark needs hidden deep inside him, and one day, he finally allowed Jin to assuage them, thus setting in place a game of betrayal, political intrigue and a jostling for power. Will Jin come out of this alive? Will she be able to protect herself and her unborn child from the Empress's machinations?

Court intrigues come alive in this book, where the women in the Emperor's harem fight for the Emperor's favor and jostle for the highest power a woman could attain--that of being the Empress. Told from the first person point of view, Jin was a girl whose needs were tied closely to pain, and she trained that way to serve the Emperor's hidden needs. She was clever and cunning, and with her nurse, she plotted and schemed to keep herself alive in a court that was treacherous and where betrayal lurked at every turn. She also possessed a core of steel that enabled her to do what needed to be done.

Much of what we know of the Emperor was through Jin's eyes, and here we see a man who, all too often, has to weigh things from the standpoint of the Emperor. He couldn't take sides, lest he stir up the waters of his harem, yet he allowed Jin to plot as she would and indicated he would be interested to see whatever transpired. He was also protective, as far as he could allow his favor to be revealed. Though he seemed to have all the power in the land, most often, his hands were tied. I like that the author shows us this dichotomy, leading us to a better understanding of the Emperor's character as the male lead in this novella.

I need to qualify though that the Emperor is not the kind of hero you'd usually see in romance novels. Instead of "hero", I used the phrase "male lead", because that was what he is, in so far as Jin, our heroine, is concerned. To that, I don't think I can qualify this as a romance novel in the full sense of the word. For one, the Emperor has a lot of other women at his beck and call, all of whom are his "wives". Though the situation would be frowned upon in this present day and age, that is very much the norm in the story's time period, but especially with the Emperor, who is expected to have a harem. So here, we see historical integrity. That also lent a realistic air to the story.

In addition, there was one other matter that would/may strike at the heart of romance readers. (Okay, sorry, a mild spoiler here, but I'm not sure if it would be a spoiler as other reviews have mentioned the matter of adultery.) Readers would be divided on the matter, but for me, the way I read it is this: Jin was faithful to her husband and she was a good wife to him, forsaking others, even the man she loved (the Emperor). But her husband doesn't appreciate her, and he also had carnal relations with lots of other women. In present day and age, those would be grounds for divorce, leaving Jin free to seek other men. However, there wasn't any divorce in those days. That Jin would seduce the Emperor bothered me at first, since I don't condone adultery, but in the context of the story, it doesn't bother me as much.

We don't see much romantic fiction in this unique setting, so this was very interesting for me! Enough flavor was given to make the setting and atmosphere of an Imperial Court realistic without overwhelming the reader.

Tension--sexual and otherwise--pervaded almost every page in the book. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Though the Emperor succumbed to Jin's charms early on in the book, the tension of Jin's situation at the palace, being the lowliest concubine, ratcheted up with every assassination attempt. Take note though that there are bondage and scenes of Domination/submission, with the heroine experiencing pain and hurting enough to bleed (though it's pleasurable for her). I can't speak for everyone, but for me as a non-hard core BDSM reader and my first time to read about pain and blood, I wasn't all that much disturbed, because mainly, the heroine enjoyed them, and I think it helped that the descriptions were not very detailed.

GOLDEN is not an easy read, but it is unique and intriguing. More than a romance, it is the story of a woman's journey to serve the lord of her heart and to claim a place by his side, no matter the cost. Well worth the read.
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