Friday, March 14, 2014

REVIEW: "My Fair Concubine" by Jeannie Lin

My Fair Concubine (Tang Dynasty, #3)
My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin
(Tang Dynasty #3)

Goodreads -- Amazon
Author Website

For Ages 18+
Historical Romance -- Imperial China

Harlequin -- May 2012
Mass Market Paperback, 280 pages
Received thru Paperback Swap

Unique Setting, Retelling

Yan Ling tries hard to be servile—it's what's expected of a girl of her class. Being intelligent and strong-minded, she finds it a constant battle.

Proud Fei Long is unimpressed by her spirit—until he realizes she's the answer to his problems. He has to deliver the emperor a "princess." In two months can he train a tea girl to pass as a noblewoman?

Yet it's hard to teach good etiquette when all Fei Long wants to do is break it, by taking this tea girl for his own.

"Fei Long faced the last room at the end of the narrow hallway, unsheathed his sword, and kicked the door open."

I have been reading historical romance for almost ten years and, while I still adore books set in Regency/Victorian England, I am always excited to see a unique setting/time period.  I think that is one reason that I continue to enjoy Jeannie Lin's work.  Her Tang Dynasty series takes place in Imperial China and she makes it come alive even for those of us who are ignorant about the finer historical details.  It also doesn't hurt that she is very skilled at creating memorable characters (main and secondary) and some pretty steamy romance.

My Fair Concubine is the third installment in the series, but I think it can easily be read a stand-alone.  The story basically follows the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady theme with the hero (Fei Long) being a military man who is forced to train a tea girl (Yan Ling) to behave as a princess in order to comply with a royal decree.  Readers get the joy of seeing these two become friends as they work together to complete the ruse and then deal with the unfortunate consequences of falling in love.

Both of these characters are fascinating people that I connected with pretty well.  Fei Long is striving to deal with the aftereffects of his father's death and the disappearance of his sister who was supposed to be part of a peace marriage or heqin with one of China's allies.  He was a proud, straight-laced man who takes his responsibilities to his family and his household very seriously.  Yan Ling is a vibrant young woman whose mysterious past led her to living as a servant in a tea house (not a concubine...misleading title alert!) yet she has a strong will and plenty of confidence once she becomes comfortable in the situation.

Together I thought Fei Long and Yan Ling were just adorable!  Jeannie Lin showed the development of their relationship very well and provided plenty of important "getting to know you" moments that made the transition from strangers to friends to lovers seamless and believable.  My favorite parts of their relationship was just the time that they spent talking to each other about their pasts and their dreams during the lessons.

There were also quite a few interesting side characters that helped provide alternate story lines in the book.  My favorites were Dao, the servant girl who helps teach Yan Ling how to write and seems to have a story to tell of her own, and Fei Long's best friend, and cross-dressing dancer, Bai Shen.  I also liked learning a little bit about each of the servants in the household since they were such an integral part of why Fei Long is going through so much drama.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot mainly focuses on Yan Ling's training and, while I enjoyed most of it, I did feel like the story dragged on in the middle.  I wanted something external to happen and it took until the last third for that to occur.  There is a very minor suspense plot which deals with some trouble with a money lender.  While I liked some elements of that plot point, I didn't think it meshed well with the rest of the story.  But, overall, I thought the plot of My Fair Concubine was interesting and kept me reading late into the night especially the ending.

So, if you are a historical romance fan who is looking for something a little different or someone enjoys learning about unique historical settings, I suggest you look up Jeannie Lin's novels.  Her writing is impeccable and her stories are such a breath of fresh air in a market that is often over-saturated with dukes, balls, and grand house parties.


Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic. 

0.5. The Taming of Mei Lin
1. The Butterfly Swords
2. The Dragon and the Pearl
2.5. The Lady's Scandalous Night
3. My Fair Concubine
3.5. An Illicit Temptation
4. The Sword Dancer




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