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The Lotus Palace Mass Market Paperback – August 27, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Lin's Tang Dynasty romance excels at the slow relationship build, despite a tacked-on mystery plot. Courtesan turned serving maid Yue-ying is certain that scholar and socialite Lord Bai Huang's pursuit of her is just a drunken whim, especially considering the undesirable red birthmark that covers part of her face. But Lord Bai can't stop thinking about Yue-ying, and when both become entangled in the investigation of another courtesan's murder, they turn to each other for help, ignoring the social gulf between them. Yue-ying's efforts to overcome the mental scars of her past are well balanced with a bittersweet realization that she could never settle for being Lord Bai's concubine. As Lord Bai's family demands that he submit to an arranged aristocratic marriage, the murder mystery eventually solves itself. Though the resolution to the class problem is artificially convenient, Lin (Sword Dancer) makes it feel emotionally true. (Sept.)
Everyone in Pingkang Li believes Lord Bai Huang is nothing more than a pleasure-seeking wastrel and silly flirt, but Yue-ying is beginning to wonder if everyone might be wrong. On the surface, Bai would appear to be yet another bored nobleman vying for the romantic attentions of Yue-ying’s mistress, Mingyu, one of the Four Beauties of Pingkang Li, but Yue-ying senses a sharp mind beneath Bai’s foolish facade. Yue-ying’s intuitions about Bai prove to be correct when the murdered body of Huilan, another of the Four Beauties, is discovered in her room at a rival pleasure house. Not only is Bai determined to locate Huilan’s killer, he shows no hesitation at all about dragging Yue-ying along with him. Lin once again effortlessly evokes the colorful, intriguing world of Tang dynasty China in her latest dazzlingly different romance, and the book’s mystery-rich plot and exotic historical setting also make The Lotus Palace an excellent read-alike suggestion for fans of Laura Joh Rowland’s mysteries. --John Charles
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Top Customer Reviews
Now I think I didn’t buy enough of them.
So what took me so long? Part of it was the fact that I’ve let myself get into that writer-funk where you think you don’t have time to read. A recent convention where I heard Sylvia Day speak convinced me that was foolish. Writers don’t just write. They need to read. It’s the fuel and the tool that opens up our minds to new techniques and approaches.
And THE LOTUS PALACE does all that not just with its artistry, but by smashing romance genre expectations and drawing the reader into an extraordinary historical fiction world. This is a love story between a man and a woman, make no mistake. But the loving brushstrokes with which the author paints the bright world of courtesans and scholars in Tang Dynasty China speaks to a different kind of passion.
THE LOTUS PALACE pulls the reader into a murder mystery in a forgotten time that is both alluring and painful. I loved every detail. The lamps, the flowers, the tea, the pots of cosmetics, the silk sashes, the dragon boats. The way this world came alive was as sweet and surprising as a mouthful of pop rocks.
And that’s to say nothing of the pleasure of learning all the cultural details that are woven effortlessly into the fabric of the plot. The heroine, Yue-ying, is a woman with a marked face who wants to save her sister from being convicted of a crime she didn’t commit. She is helped in this endeavor by a supposedly hapless scholar who is smitten with her.
You probably think you have heard this story before. Or that you know how it will unfold. You don’t. Yue-ying isn’t a fiesty romance heroine with a wit that makes men forget about her marked face. Neither is she a sad mopey cinderella in the ashes, in need of rescue by a hero who sees her true beauty.
She is actually a rather quiet person of majestic dignity, housed in the body of a lowly serving girl. Reading about this former prostitute as she holds onto an innate belief in her own worth–in spite of her own cynicism about the world and her place in it–is captivating. In truth, even love itself, freely offered by a patient and earnest man of position, is a challenge to her sense of worth.
These are people who work hard for their happy ending.
I know Jeannie Lin–have worked with her and read her books before–so I know that she’s talented. I knew I would enjoy the book when I read it. What I didn’t know is that it would be a new level of awesome from her. Be smarter than I was. Read this book right away.
I studied Chinese and medieval Chinese History for almost a and the setting was well handled, though much of the flavor was more Song than Tang, the outright anachronisms were remarkably few, and not at all distracting, and thankfully it never felt at all like a history or cross cultural lesson, while remaining very Chinese in feel, you can tell the author is an enthusiastic devotee of the romantic source material.
The setting is well drawn, with good characters and an engaging, if unsolvable to the reader, mystery bringing the attractive hero and heroine together. The hero was attractive and clever, but not too clever, and the heroine possessed both considerable charm and depth, the romantic obstacles could have felt forced but Lin made them seem to flow naturally from the heroine's combination of genuine self effacing virtue and her unwillingness to compromise her true self. The romance flowed from the hero and heroine's ability to recognize each others value and talents when others didn't, a very powerful and very Chinese theme, and the romance was far stronger for it.
One thing in particular I liked was that while our heroine's outward disability was not what it was made out to be, her inward difficulty was articulated very well. As a male reader, who only reads a few genre romances a year, I am usually far more annoyed when the internally generated obstacles in a two POV novel are very one sided, in this case the contrast between the talented and noble hero's callowness and the heroine's bitter past felt very real. Thematically the imbalance was justified and it really worked.
My only real reservations were the unsolvable mystery and more importantly an important fact about the heroine that was pointlessly hidden until the middle of the book. I felt both these issues could have been avoided and fixed by a better editor.
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