A brightly colored brocade of 19th century China has its slim basis in the story of its Empress Dowager, while the author's many years there and knowledge of its Forbidden City sharpens the spectacle of court ceremonial and obeisance and tabu. This is the story of Nala, defiant and determined as a girl, and only occasionally acceding to Jung Lu- to whom she had been affianced as a child. Chosen, reluctantly, as an Imperial concubine, her love for Jung Lu could not stay her destiny and she was to bear the Emperor's first son- while hoping it would be Jung Lu's. The Emperor's death, and some highhanded, underhanded manoeuvering enabled her to secure the Regency and she allowed no one, not even Jung Lu, to chasten her whim of iron. The growing dissension within the country, and disaffection of the people, the army, found her reluctant to yield, led to her forced flight from Peking, but at the close it is as a woman- not an Empress- that she exacts her retribution from Jung Lu. History- with the gloss of romance and elegance for a popular audience.