This is my third novel from author Jeannie Lin – fourth story – and I'm happy to say I continue to enjoy myself.
“Concubine” is the story of Yan Ling,This is my third novel from author Jeannie Lin – fourth story – and I'm happy to say I continue to enjoy myself.
“Concubine” is the story of Yan Ling, a tea house serving girl, and Chang Fei Long, the “Professor Higgins” of this take on My Fair Lady.
Here's the back cover blurb of the plot, though I'll give away a bit more: 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...
The reason Fei Long has to deliver a "princess" is because his family promised to do so in exchange for enough money to negate the family's debt. Only the girl they'd intended to use skips town before the book begins. Throughout the book, the reader is intensely aware that Fei Long cannot act on his love for Yan Ling without putting his entire household, family and servants, into servitude forever. Yan Ling, who loves the household as if they were her own family, feels the same way. The tug of duty versus desire is palpable and exquisite.
I'd have to say I was aware while reading that this was a remake of a much later, non-Asian story. The novel doesn't feel as firmly settled during the Tang era as the Dragon and The Pearl – Lin's previous book – but, that did not distract me. Perhaps in large part because Lin's grasp of unattainable heart-rending desire was more realized in this story than in her other novels.
One part of the story's conclusion was given away earlier than I would have liked. It reduced the tension. But there were enough other questions still at large by the end of the story, that one reveal was pretty minor. The competition at the end of the book was pure enjoyment and delight, as were so many other points.
For instance, the first thing our heroine does upon meeting Fei Long is deliberately throw a pot of tea in his face. How can you not love that beginning? Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins, just you wait....
No empires or dynasties were threatened during the writing of this novel and that sort of additional tension wasn't necessary to the story. It's simply a joy to read – with or without Julie Andrews opining about “someone's 'ead restin' on my knee, warm an' tender as 'e can be. 'oo takes good care of me, aow, wouldn't it be loverly?”
Well, it took me WAY too long to buy this book, for which I can only offer my profuse apologies to the author. I had wanted to do a review while the bWell, it took me WAY too long to buy this book, for which I can only offer my profuse apologies to the author. I had wanted to do a review while the book was still in stores, but October escaped me. Obviously, November did, too. Before I tell you about this book, I think I will remind you about my review policies and admit that yes, I know the author and consider her a friend. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the nature of my reviews. I do not hold punches. If I’m uncomfortable posting a favorable review on this blog, I won’t do it. I also try to be honest about likes and dislikes. It speaks volumes for this book that you won’t find any mention of “dislikes” below. So, I’m almost two months late, but the book was worth the wait. “The Dragon and the Pearl “ is a stand-alone novel by Jeannie Lin, however it does pick up where “Butterfly Swords” left off. “Dragon’s” cast includes Li Tao, the antagonist of Butterfly Swords, as the hero of “Dragon,” and his backstory gives us a much wider vision of the author’s Tang Dynasty China. Now I loved “Butterfly Swords” (click the link to see my review), but you can see Lin’s skill as an author has increased since the first book. She has sunk herself into this world, making the characters rounded, fleshed and highly sexual. More than that, her political and social structure is more solid than the Kunlun mountains. She needed that solidity as we find out how both the court and the seedy underground culture of Tang dynasty functioned. Thanks to that background structure, we discover why Li Tao is the stern and unyielding man you met before, but we also find the heart beneath that exterior. That said, he never breaks character. His is one of the strongest, most well rounded characterizations I’ve ever seen. In many ways, Lin’s characterizations and dialogue reminded me of works by my favorite author, Guy Gavriel Kay. Those of you who know me will recognize I mean that as the greatest compliment I can give. If you enjoyed the dainty appetizer of “Butterfly Swords,” you will love the full course spread that is “The Dragon and the Pearl.”...more
It’s 1849, and twelve-year-old Addie lives in the shipbuilding town of Essex, Massachusetts. Her father has left the family to seek gold on the West CIt’s 1849, and twelve-year-old Addie lives in the shipbuilding town of Essex, Massachusetts. Her father has left the family to seek gold on the West Coast, and tragically the flux has ended the lives of her mother and baby brother, leaving Addie all alone. Fearful of being taken in as a servant, Addie flees from her house into the snowy woods, where she endures hunger and bitter cold until Nokummus, an elderly Wampanoag woman, coaxes Addie to her dwelling. Now living under the care of the mercurial old woman, Addie slowly recognizes the truth of her past. Through an intense ancient ceremony and by force of her own wits and will, Addie must come to grips with the facts of her newfound identity – and find the courage to build a future unlike any she could ever have imagined. Daughter of Winter was a heart rending read at times. The book begins:
Yesterday I washed their bodies as I’ve seen the women do
dressed them in their best, and laid them in a crypt of snow…
If that doesn’t catch your attention, for better or worse, you must be the one in the crypt. I was riveted after those first four lines, but I have to admit, Daughter of Winter was a hard read for me because of Addie’s agonizing search for her own identity and “real” mother.
You see, I’m an adoptive mother. My daughter is from China and though she’s still a little young for these questions, she will someday have them. Just like Addie, my child will want to know who her “real” mother is and I will have to contain my tears at the question. Tears for her loss; tears that she has to ask such a terrible thing because I am her real mother. I am just not the person who gave her life. This book managed to touch me in a deeply personal place, for which I’m grateful. I hope it will help me to be a better mother when these questions arise.
The novel’s conclusion is moving and fulfilling, but I hate spoilers and refuse to give away anything else. What I will do is whole heartedly recommend this novel to the general populace, but most especially to those people touched by adoption or foster situations. ...more
The Duke and the Pirate Queen was a fun roll in the hay, the ocean, the sex-fiend infested island and numerous other unlikely locations.
I have to admiThe Duke and the Pirate Queen was a fun roll in the hay, the ocean, the sex-fiend infested island and numerous other unlikely locations.
I have to admit, I won this book from Goodreads and thought there would be more exotic setting and characterizations. I'd have to say those things are not the book's strong points. There was more eroticism than I'd expected and erotic romance is not my normal read. At times I wanted the story to move forward without the interruption of one more sex scene.
However, if you lust after a steamy adventure and voyeurism on the high seas, this book is a must read. Leave a comment and one lucky winner will receive a free copy....more
Hidden Voices is the tale of Anetta, Luisa and Rosalba, three orphaned girls; their desires, their failures and sucHidden Voices by Pat Lowery Collins
Hidden Voices is the tale of Anetta, Luisa and Rosalba, three orphaned girls; their desires, their failures and successes give life anew to Venice and the music of Antonio Vivaldi.
This book is filled with the power of young love, passion and music. Because of Mrs. Collins’ deft characterization skill, as well as my own musical background, I had a hard time putting it down.
The three girls, Anetta, Luisa, Rosalba and several of the lesser characters are written with such telling, pointed dialogue and actions that there was no one in this book who didn’t “pop” into real life. Just as important, Baroque Venice also comes alive. See the Punchinello plays, Carnival, the Commedia dell’Arte, consume fritelle and Italy with these girls. Viva Italia.
Was the book perfect? Perhaps not if one prefers a straight forward, genre-esque plot. There’s no need to save the world or even Venice in “Hidden Voices.” I do not want to give any spoilers, so I will simply say that the hope of requited love is stretched throughout the book for all three characters, though happy ever after is never the point.
Read Hidden Voices and witness a vibrant culture that’s not normally the focus of historical novels. You won’t be sorry, and when you leave this book behind, you’ll say, as I did, “Brava, Maestra. Brava.”
To win a free copy of this book, please leave a comment....more