Ling Suyin was the Emperor’s favorite concubine, renowned across China for her seductive ways. But now the Emperor has passed on, and Suyin hopes for a quiet life of retirement. Suyin isn’t destined for peace, though, as her life is in danger from assassins. She’s rescued by the warlord Li Tao, a harsh man who knows he’s trapped in a world of relentless politics and fighting but isn’t sure how to get out of it. The empire is starting to fracture. The threats to Suyin make him a pawn and put him at risk, but he’s still compelled to protect her, especially as they start to fall in love.
Jeannie Lin’s historical romance novels are so refreshing. I love Regency England as much as the next romance reader, but it is so nice to escape and focus on somewhere else for a change. Tang dynasty China is certainly a drastic change, and Lin’s ability to weave historical detail in with a genuinely romantic love story makes me incredibly hopeful that other readers seek them out and appreciate them as much as I do. I am not personally well acquainted with the period, but these books give a very different feel that I find refreshing and enjoyable – they certainly make me curious to learn more.
It was difficult to imagine, going into this particular book, how Lin was going to redeem Li Tao, who was actually the villain of her previous book, Butterfly Swords. Amazingly, she manages it, and quite well too, as we get a peek inside his head and start to process the many motivations that drive him. Suyin and Tao don’t start out trusting each other; in fact, Suyin mostly wants to be free, and views herself as a prisoner. She really does want that peace and quiet, and even as she starts to fall for Tao, she isn’t sure she’s actually going to get it. The last thing she wants is to remain in the political spotlight as she has for most of her life.
In fact, as I approached the end of the book, I started really wondering how on earth these two were actually going to end up happily together. I knew they had to, but the number of obstacles stacked up against them becomes truly forbidding. The ending, however, wraps up neatly – if a little bit too much – but left this reader satisfied with the romance and looking forward to much more from a talented author who is still relatively new. I’d recommend The Dragon and the Pearl to any historical romance reader – but start with Butterfly Swords to better understand the backstory.
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