“Peking to Paris” – more than a book review: a journey

May 6, 2013

This is the real life story of Dina and Bernard Bennett driving in a road rally from Beijing to Paris in 2007—starting in Beijing, China to the desert sands of Mongolia, braving the potholes of Russia to reach Eastern Europe and eventually Paris, France with endless break downs and repairs to keep an almost 70-year-old car running.

The closest books I can compare this reading experience with is Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia” and Tom Carter’s “China: Portrait of a People“.

The big difference is that Theroux rode the rails, and Carter walked for most of two years across China. In Peking to Paris, Dina and her husband drove a 1940 Cadillac-LaSalle 52 Coupe that Dina named Roxanne.

On page 79, Dina says, “China is full of surprises.” Then she dives into a description of a café that specializes in Mongolian hotpot. She says, “Behind me is a full wall of shelves and bins stuffed with vegetables, fish, poultry, pork, lamb and beef.  I count four sections, each easily five feet wide, divided by eight shelves reaching the ceiling. Every shelf is crammed with ingredient bins …”

With this description, Bennett shows us that China is an eating culture.  Food is important to the Chinese—very important.

In another chapter, she discovers that the Chinese and Americans have more in common than she had thought when they stay the night at a rustic Chinese dude ranch where urban Chinese come to rough it on vacations spending time with Mongolian herders.

In China, the ride seemed smooth and easy, but once they cross the border into Mongolia, a band of boys exercising their democratic freedoms throw rocks at the car and shatter the driver’s side windshield.

However, when they were still in an undemocratic China ruled by one party, the CCP, no one threw rocks at them. Instead, while driving down remote country roads police officers in fancy dress uniforms wearing white gloves waited at intersections to guide them in the right direction.

A few hundreds yard into Mongolia, the paved roads they had enjoyed in China suddenly end and the rest of the trek across this landlocked country is mostly on dirt and sand taking a heavy toll on the mechanical health of the LaSalle. Then they reach Russia’s paved roads where the challenge becomes avoiding horse-trough sized potholes capable of swallowing cars whole.

Because of this experience from Peking to Paris, Dina and Bernard are bitten by the travel bug and they have now completed more than a dozen road trips all over the world—after you read this memoir, you may want to follow them by visiting  the author’s Blog at Dina Bennett.net

I’m planning to.

Oh, and lest I forget, I was contacted by Dina’s publicist and agreed to accept a complementary uncorrected proof, which I read in record time. I have never met or talked to Dina and her husband online or in person.


The LaSalle in the above video is not the one that Dina and Bernard drove in the 2007 rally from Beijing to Paris, but the video gives you an idea of the car they drove 7,800 miles across China to Mongolia, then Russia to Eastern Europe and eventually Paris, France—thirty-five grueling days.

It has been some time since I read a book that I wanted to wake up early in the morning to read and eagerly waited to read before I slept. For me, reading Peking to Paris was an adventure, and I highly recommend it.

Discover Country Driving with Peter Hessler


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review: Part 3/6

March 22, 2013

View as Single Page

Amanda Roberts’s second reckless and false statement: “What the book is actually about, though, is the one year of Robert’s life in China when he had two concubines – sisters.”

Actually, My Splendid Concubine covers a span of two-years and four months, and Hart meets Ayaou for the first time during the summer of 1855 near the end of Chapter 3 on page 59—19,665 words into the novel. It isn’t until Chapter 12 at about 50,000 words that Hart, Ayaou and Shao-mei come together as a family of sorts. By then we are 44% of the way into the novel.

Roberts’s third reckless, false statement: “The overall structure of the book is also severely lacking. The book opens with Hart, in his 80s, going to see the Dowager Empress Cixi.”

In fact, when Robert Hart meets with the Dowager Empress in 1908, he’s seventy-three—not 80, and he will die by age seventy-six in 1911.

Roberts’s fourth reckless false statement: “Almost every single page describes Hart’s erection in some manner. Only a quarter of a way through the book I knew far more about Robert Hart’s erections than any woman should, even his concubine(s).”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00034]

3rd Edition: April 2013

In fact, a quarter of the way into the first 112,538 words is about 88 pages, and the word “erection” appears five times or on 5.7% of the first 88 pages. It is a reckless false statement to claim that “almost every single page describes Hart’s erection in some manner” when more than 94% of the first 88 pages do not refer to his erection.

In fact, the word “erection” is used only nine times on six pages in the entire novel. In addition, Ayaou calls his erection a “sun instrument” and that word is used six times. Together, “erection” and “sun instrument” appear 15 times or 0.013% of the time.

I think it is safe to say that Roberts was very uncomfortable with the sexual themes of this novel for her to exaggerate nine of 112,538 words into “almost every page describing Hart’s erection in some manner.”

Continued on March 23, 2013 in Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review: Part 4 or return to Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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“The Concubine Saga” Web Tour Schedule – June 2012

May 30, 2012

So Many Precious Books May 30 Review & Giveaway

Broken Teepee June 1 Review & Giveaway

My Little Pocketbooks June 30 Review

My Little Pocketbooks June 4 Interview & Giveaway

Bookish Dame June 6 Review

Bookish Dame G & GP June 6 Guest Post & Giveaway

J.A. Beard June 8 Interview

My Devotional Thoughts June 8 Review

My Devotional Thoughts June 9 Guest Post & Giveaway

Book Dilettante June 11 Review

Book Dilettante June 12 Guest Post

Joy Story June 12 Review

Books, Books, & More Books June 13 Review & Giveaway

Live to Read June 14 Review

Peeking Between the Pages June 14 Guest Post & Giveaway

Col Reads June 15 Review

Celtic Lady’s Reviews June 18 Review

Ink Spots & Roses June 18 Guest Post & Giveaway

The Readers Cafe June 19 Review

Knitting and Sundries June 20 Review & Giveaway

Sweeps 4 Bloggers June 21 Review & Giveaway

The Reading Life June 22 Review

The Reading Life June 21 Interview

Historical Fiction Connection June 22 Guest Post

Layered Pages June 25 Review

Layered Pages June 26 Interview
Historical Tapestry June 25 Guest Post

Peaceful Wishing June 26 Review

To Read or Not to Read June 27 Review

To Read or Not to Read June 28 Guest Post & Giveaway

M Denise C. June 28 Review

Succotash Reviews June 29 Review & Giveaway
Moonlight Gleam June 29 Guest Post & Giveaway

Jayne’s Books June 29 Review & Giveaway


FOR RELEASE before June 1, 2012
Lloyd Lofthouse, author


WALNUT CREEK, CA (3/2/12) — Robert Hart (1835 – 1911) was the ‘Godfather of China’s modernism’ and the only foreigner the emperor of China trusted. In fact, Hart played a crucial role in ending the bloodiest rebellion in history, and he owed this success largely to his live in dictionary and encyclopedia, his Chinese concubine Ayaou. In Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave wrote that Ayaou “was wise beyond her years”. In Entering China’s Service, Harvard scholars wrote, “Hart’s years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations.”

With sales in the thousands, award-winning author Lloyd Lofthouse brings My Splendid Concubine (2007) and the sequel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine (2010) together in The Concubine Saga (2012).

My Splendid Concubine was the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

In the sequel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, he was the only foreigner the Emperor of China trusted.

Soon after arriving in China in 1854, Robert Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Christian upbringing and almost break him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese and soon finds himself thrust into the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest rebellion in human history, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier.

My Splendid Concubine earned honorable mentions in general fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, and in 2009 at the Hollywood Book Festival and San Francisco Book Festival.

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine earned honorable mentions in general fiction at the Los Angeles Book Festival, Nashville Book Festival, London Book Festival, DIY Book Festival and was a Finalist of the National Best Books 2010 Awards.

In addition, The Concubine Saga picked up an Honorable Mention in Fiction at the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival.

Lloyd Lofthouse served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine and lives near San Francisco with his wife and family with a second home in Shanghai, China. As a former Marine, Lloyd earned a BA in Journalism and an MFA in writing. His Blog, iLook China.net, currently averages 600 views a day with more than 200,000 since its launch in January 2010. My Splendid Concubine.com, his Website, has had 72,000 visitors since December 2007. At Authors Den, his work has been viewed 336,000 times.

Virtual Author Book Tours.com arranged the June 2012 book tour of 27 book Blogs.

In addition, in 2008, following the launch of My Splendid Concubine, Lofthouse appeared as a China expert on more than 30 talk-radio shows from The Dr. Pat Show on KKNW 1150 AM in Seattle to The Smith and Riley Show on WFLF 540 AM in Orlando Florida.

The Concubine Saga
ISBN: 978-0-9819553-8-4