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The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

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For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr — until she pillories London's best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom — and her best chance for love.

81 pages, ebook

First published May 30, 2012

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About the author

Zen Cho

56 books2,424 followers
I'm a Malaysian fantasy writer based in the UK. Find out more about my work here: http://zencho.org

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5 stars
303 (23%)
4 stars
520 (41%)
3 stars
338 (26%)
2 stars
77 (6%)
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25 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 305 reviews
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,178 followers
February 5, 2022
Reviews have consequences

This is a longish short story, spanning eight months from August 1920, told via Jade’s diary. She’s a young Chinese woman who came from Malaya (as it then was) to London for university, and stayed on afterwards, mainly to avoid a semi-arranged marriage. She scrapes a living writing for journals.

Then she pens a damning review of “a terrible sententious book” that has “sentimental posturing—inelegant language, ridiculous conclusions". It's by a celebrated author...

Image: A silkworm - perhaps the sort of worm that Jade has in mind when she affectionately refers to a worm?! (Source)

The good

What seems as if it might be a run-of-the-mill romance, with a dash of the exotic “other”, quickly takes unexpected turns with plot and characters. It’s historical romance, written from a contemporary perspective, with a humorous slant.

Jade is a minority woman who is unafraid to express her opinion, take the initiative with those more powerful than her, and unashamedly takes responsibility for unconventional life choices. She wants to be “properly bad” and seizes the chance to enhance her “artistic education”.

Subtle racism and micro-aggressions are handled with a light touch:
He looked at me as if he were wondering why I hadn't gone to the traders' entrance.
As an Indian man, Ravi’s experience is similar but subtly different, and of course, colourism isn’t only from white people. Jade’s family have told her:
I'm not the right kind of fair. The Shanghainese girls on cigarette cards are like downy white peaches. I am like a dead person.
I remember from travels in China in 1992, and especially in 2008, that the higher the price of a fashion or cosmetic item, the paler and less Chinese-looking were the models in adverts. So sad.

Sebastian and Diana Hardie are described as being very establishment, and they are (unconsciously?) at ease with the privileges of their position. But they are also on the periphery of the Bloomsbury Set, of whom Dorothy Parker memorably quipped:
They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.
The dynamics of their relationships were fascinating, surprising, and shocking to some, even nowadays.

As in fairy-tales, there is a potency in someone’s true name. Better to use an Anglicised one than taint the magic:
I don't tell people my real name, after the way everyone at university mangled it.

Jade mentions several books and authors that reflect her mood, circumstances, and actions.
I see the source of all my problems: a Bronte was completely the wrong thing to be reading, unless it were an Anne. I should have been reading George Eliot.
They include:
• Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
• Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey
• Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield
George Eliot
• Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day - though this is merely referred to as Woolf’s (new) novel.

The opening sentence introduces a relative who would be familiar to fans of Wodehouse and Saki:
I had tea with the intolerable aunt today.

Image: But that “intolerable” aunt does treat Jade to afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason (Source)

The bad

I cannot forgive a book that has no sense of humour.
Perhaps that was lacking in me as a reader, more than Zen Cho as a writer? Even trying to read this through the lens of satire or outright humour, Jade’s voice was generally annoying and utterly unconvincing to me.

She sounded more like 17-year old Cassandra Mortmain in I Capture the Castle than a literature graduate:
He was so good-looking! It is dreadful when people are good-looking and pay attention to you.
Of all the most absurd heedless silly romantic nincompoops… the addlebrainedest blunderer who ever lived.

Sometimes, it's glaringly anachronistic - though perhaps it’s deliberate:
My grandmother was a second wife and she thought it was rubbish.

At other times, it’s just odd, or maybe intentionally quirky:
His lips were quirked in that daydream smile.
I shall always love him, as I shall always hate custard and find dogs charming.

The other problem was that I didn’t believe that those who thought and said they were in love really were.

I wish it had left me as “happy as ducks in a bakery”.

The enthusiasts

The Teaching My Cat to Read Podcast discussion is lively, intelligent, quirky, and typical of their style, including consideration of gender, class, and race. It covers most of the plot, so if you’re wary of spoilers, read the story first: it’s currently free on Kindle.

• TMCtRP episode on YouTube, HERE.

• For links to the episode on other platforms, see their GR review, HERE.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,618 followers
August 29, 2017
Delightful comedy of manners, with a catastrophically blunt Malaysian young lady coming to London to live it up on the fringes of the 20s literary scene. Very funny, great dialogue, a lovely understated romance in the background (although this is not a romance: it's very much the Jade show), fab female friendship, plenty of satirical bite. Hugely enjoyable.
April 11, 2021

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This is my first book from this author. I've had THE PERILOUS LIFE OF JADE YEO on my radar for years and when it went up for free in the Kindle store, I was really excited and "purchased" it instantly. I'm not entirely to say of this one as it is quite short. On the one hand, it is, as other people pointed out, a comedy of manners told epistolary style, and vaguely reminiscent of the middle grade book CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY because of its cheeky narrator, feminist themes, and the way it kind of captures the spirit of the times through the eyes of the narrator.

On the other hand, it felt like it was really too short to accomplish much. I like how the author explored the ideas of polyamory/open marriages within what felt like a historically appropriate context and I always relish finding historical fiction about PoCs since that is a woefully underrepresented area of historical fiction (it's like some people think PoCs just popped up around the 1960s or something). It's sort of a romance but not in the usual way, although the ending made me smile.

So, overall, not bad! It was a quick read and maybe not as meaty as I would have liked but the narrator was quite fun.

3 stars
Profile Image for Trudie.
544 reviews585 followers
October 22, 2019
In a word, ghastly.

In the books own words :

In ordinary kissing one aligns one's lips with the kissee's lips, and presses them together, but in well - i can't think of a better term - in sex kissing the insides of one's mouth is involved, and it is quite difficult to make it so the respective lips are aligned. One folds one's lips on top of the other's. But caution is required: if everyone's lips stray too far beyond the mouth it gets very damp and one feels as if one is being eaten by an excessively friendly lion

Maybe the most astute observation in the entire book :

Being good-looking and interesting and having the heavy-lidded gaze of a romantic tapir does not excuse writing a foolish book

Nope, never again Read Harder romance task.

151 reviews43 followers
January 3, 2022
i’ll be honest... the only reason i picked this up was because it was free on itunes and because i just recently discovered zen cho. historical romance is so far removed from what i would normally read that i can’t even decide whether i liked this one or not. i didn’t think this was a bad book, it just wasn’t for me. i did love the characters though, especially jade and ravi!
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 14 books318 followers
December 25, 2018
Set in 1920s London, this sex-positive novella isn't quite a romance, but it's a love story with plot beats and an HEA that will please romance readers. Jade Yeo is a Malaysian writer who came to London seeking adventure, but hasn't yet found it when our story begins. It's told through entries from her diary, which are scathingly funny at times, especially when she's messing with her rich Aunt Iris. Jade's friend Ravi, a magazine editor, offers to pay her for a cutting review of the new book by literary darling Sebastian Hardie. Jade and Hardie meet and end up sleeping together with Hardie's wife's blessing, which is the kind of educational adventure Jade was hoping for from her London experience... except that Jade finds she's more concerned than she predicted about Ravi's feelings about it.

After our heroine faces great peril (or at least oppressive boredom), female friendship saves the day, and all ends as it should. Great fun to read.

Zen Cho is a Malaysian writer who lives in London, so yay for #ownvoices.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews158 followers
April 15, 2020
I read this because why the heck not. It’s a short story/novella set in the 1920s. It was fun I suppose though nothing really that special. It is told in a diary format which was a bit weird for me, since I really haven’t read much fiction in that sort of format before. It was just something short that I read in one sitting as a bit of a break between the stuff I normally read. Didn’t love, didn’t hate it, found it to be a bit weird, the end. 6/10
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 70 books999 followers
March 17, 2015
I adored this smart, satirical romance novella set in the 1920s, where young writer Jade Yeo gets sucked into the vortex of a very HG Wells-like cad (with a "very modern marriage", an intense ego and a habit of devouring clever young women, romantically speaking) but ends up finding her (wonderful) true love after all. If you love I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, you'll love the voice and sensibility of this novella - it's resonant of I Capture the Castle in the best possible way (although definitely written for adults, not for a YA audience), but also totally unique and compelling. I enjoyed every moment of it.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
November 8, 2016
This was a fun little novella with the forthright and assertive Jade Yeo navigating life as a Malay immigrant to London. She makes a modest living as a writer, partly for the Oriental Literary Review run by her friend Ravi. When she writes a scathing review of a prominent English writer's latest work, she finds herself in the same social circles as said writer and interesting events ensue.

I actually enjoyed this much more than Sorcerer to the Crown. Jade and Prunella have a lot in common, particularly in their bull-in-a-china-shop social graces, but this one was without an analogue to the stuffy Zacharias from that book.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,253 reviews182 followers
June 21, 2016

While waiting for Zen Cho's novel Sorcerer to the Crown to be published in paperback, I found this short-story and thought 'why not'.

The plot revolves around amateur writer Jade Yeo in the Roaring Twenties. Her scathing review of a famous author's latest work as well as her enquiring mind precipitates her into new and tricky situations.

For a romance (label as such), our heroine is particularly un-romantic, to great effect. The charm in this story is indeed not the plot, but the voice. Jade is one interesting young woman with a refreshing, and often hilarious, outlook on life, partly due to her Oriental origins. She also suffers from having no mental censorship, resulting in her saying whatever comes to her mind, and indeed her writing - the story is told through her journal entries.

I see the source of all my problems: a Bronte was completely the wrong thing to be reading, unless it were an Anne. I should have been reading George Eliot.

Of course, I'd liked him enough to kiss him before. But one may like someone enough to kiss them without liking them enough to confide in them. The two are quite different emotions.

Bad news today. At breakfast Margery was looking like a squirrel that had discovered the existence of peanut butter.
Profile Image for Pear.
17 reviews13 followers
July 3, 2012
Late C19th/early C20th interactions between Asia and Western Europe is a special area of interest for me, as is woman (or at least non-dude!)-centred literature, so I was looking forward to reading this.

It's largely fun, light reading - and a fairly short read at that - but that doesn't mean it is superficial. It's sort of like Georgette Heyer with more wanton face-sucking, non-Western people of colour, and critical consideration of colonialism.

Things which I liked included the fact that it is Geok Huay's voice and decisions we follow. I can identify with having Asian parents who truly valued an education, who loved me greatly and allowed me my freedoms but was still a bit coddling. On a more risque note, I can also identify with being a bookish Londoner who decides they wish for an altogether more debauched education.

Geok Huay's sexual identity, agency, and decisions toy with the whole ambivalent 'Oriental Lotus Flower' stereotype. This runs the gamut through the utterly desexualised Asian nerd, the fresh school-girl to be rescued and deflowered, and the calculating Dragon Lady who destroys everything and feels nothing. They never have a happy ending on their terms. In Western literature they mostly end up married to the Thrusting White Dude protagonist, killing themselves over said protagonist, or are murdered because morals, you know, morals!....

But Geok Huay gets an education, earns a living, does naughty things, and has a happy ending. That's good enough for me.
Profile Image for Bubu.
315 reviews337 followers
July 16, 2017
Thank you so much for your recommendation, Georgie. Without it, I would have never come to read this little gem of a story which kept me smiling throughout, only interrupted by some serious laugh-out-loud-moments. As Georgie so perfectly put it in her review, The Perilous Life Of Jade Yeo is full of memorable and clever observations for future use with a most peculiar but utterly loveable Heroine.

I think I've marked more passages in those 81 pages than I usually ever do in a normal full-length novel. And there, I usually avoid novellas as much as possible.
Profile Image for Teachmycat2read Podcast.
54 reviews16 followers
April 12, 2021
Great short story, really enjoyed the complexity of the characters in such a short space of time!

We read this book as part of our book review podcast, check out the links below to listen to our review of this book:

Apple podcasts

Podcast addict


Or check out our website for all the links to listen:
Profile Image for Punk.
1,510 reviews250 followers
March 29, 2015
Fiction. Geok Huay—otherwise known as Jade Yeo because westerners can't pronounce her name—keeps a journal to practice her writing, but after she publishes a scathing review of a popular new book, the author invites her to attend a party at his home, and her life, and her journal, get a lot more exciting.

Jade's voice is charming, and her writing is full of surprising metaphors. At one point she describes a man as "having the heavy-lidded gaze of a romantic tapir," and it was so unexpectedly perfect I had to sit in baffled joy for a moment.

Set in 1920s London and Paris, this piece is what Cho calls "fluff for postcolonial booknerds," meaning it's got the manners and the nostalgia, but none of the narrative-sponsored racism or exoticism. It's fluffy, but not shallow, and focuses on characters of color, queer and poly people, and tries to treat them all with respect.

Three stars. Jade's no-nonsense, sensible and independent, but she's got a wild streak and a sly sense of humor, and it makes this epistolary novella a delight to read.

eBook: I bought an epub from Smashwords and it has a cover and one or two minor errors.
Profile Image for Rafa Brewster.
257 reviews21 followers
May 20, 2017
I absolutely adored this book. I must have highlighted half of it. The memoirs of a Malaysian girl in 1920s London looking for excitement and adventure and doing her darnedest to avoid returning to her homeland and readymade life complete with future husband. Nearly a century later and I can still relate. I loved her sharp wit and her even sharper tongue, but most of all I just loved how earnest she was about wanting to live life by her rules.
Profile Image for Meredith.
329 reviews32 followers
July 20, 2020
Funny and sweet epistolary tale of a young woman in 1920s London. Jade Yeo is Malayan and of Chinese descent which informs her experiences and opinions on them. She is funny and smart and her reflections in her journal are a treat to read. It winds up feeling quite Austenian. (It is not a fantasy tale, though the author also writes fantasy.)
Profile Image for Rachel Brown.
Author 20 books159 followers
October 28, 2014
A charming novella about Geok Huay (Jade Yeo), a young writer living in London in the 20s. When she writes a scathing review of a prominent novelist's latest book, he responds by inviting her to a party and flirting. A writer needs life experience, so how can she decline the opportunity for the learning experience of an affair?

The book has elements of romance, but it's more of a coming-of-age story; the affair is not particularly romantic, and includes a hilarious, deliberately non-erotic sex scene in which Geok Huay earnestly tries to mentally describe a penis for future use in her writing. The actual romance is plausible but sketchily developed.

There's not much real conflict and it seems implausible that it never occurs to Geok Huay that but the book isn't really about the plot. It's about Geok Huay's voice. And her voice is a complete delight. I really, really enjoyed reading this book. It's the sort of book where you keep wanting to read funny bits aloud to any companion you might have on hand while you're reading it. The humor and meta-commentary on story and writing reminded me a bit of Cold Comfort Farm.

I reproduce an excerpt below, so you can get a sense of the writing style. If you like the excerpt, you will almost certainly like the book. (If you don't, you probably won't.) It's only $2.99 - well worth the price.

Saturday, 7th August 1920

I had tea with the intolerable aunt today. Aunt Iris, the one who is so rich she has a new fur every year, and so mean she has installed a tip box by the door of every WC in her house, so you have to pay a charge every time you need to go. And so sinfully vainglorious I remember she came to visit us at home once and wore a wonderful glossy black mink fur. She sat on the sofa with a fixed grin on her face, sweating gallons in the heat. Ma had to send Koko out to get the doctor. It was just before New Year and Ma was terrified Aunt Iris would go into an apoplexy in our drawing room–which would have been such bad luck.

I had my angle of attack all planned out today, though. On Wednesday I’d found out how much a piece of chocolate cake cost at the restaurant, and I went in with the exact change in my purse. When the waiter asked me what I wanted, I said: “Chocolate cake, please”, and I counted out my coins and paid him right then and there.

“I haven’t got any more money than that,” I explained.

Aunt Iris was furious: she looked like an aunt and she was wearing her furs, of course. Even the English must have thought it peculiar. But even so she didn’t offer to pay. She ordered two different kinds of cake and a pot of their most expensive tea, just to show me. But I profited in the end because she couldn’t finish even half of one of her slices of cake. I whipped out my notebook and tore out a page and wrapped the other slice in that.

“I’ll save you the hassle of eating it, auntie,” I said. “You must be so full now! I don’t know how you stay so slim at your age.”

I hadn’t meant the reference to her age as a jibe. My mother is a very modern woman in most ways, but she would still be offended to be accounted any younger than she is. Her opinion is that she did not struggle her way to the august age of forty-three only to have the dignity accorded to her years snatched away from her.

But Aunt Iris has become quite Western from living here so long. She has a passionate hunger for youth. It is especially hard on her to be thwarted in it because the British can never tell an Oriental’s age, so she’s been accustomed to being told she looks ten years younger than she is.

“My dear Jade,” she said in her plushest voice–her voice gets the more velvety the crosser she is–“I know you don’t mean to be impolite. Not that I’m saying anything against your dear mother at all–your grandmother wouldn’t have known to teach her these things, of course, considering her circumstances. But as an aunt I do feel I have the right to give you–oh, not a scolding, dearest, but advice, meant in the most affectionate way, you know–given for your sake.”

The swipe at my grandmother’s “circumstances” made me unwise. Aunt Iris is not really an aunt, but a cousin of Ma’s. Her mother was rich and Ma’s mother was poor. But my grandmother was as sharp as a tack even if she couldn’t read and Aunt Iris’s mother never had two thoughts to rub together, even though she had three servants just to look after her house.

“You should call me Geok Huay, Auntie, please,” I said. “With family, there’s no need for all this ‘Jade’.”

I spoke in an especially Chinese accent just to annoy her. Aunt Iris’s face went prune-like.

“Oh, but Jade is such a pretty name,” she said. “And ‘Geok Huay’, you know!” She looked as if my name were a toad that had dropped into her cup of tea. “‘Geok Huay’ in the most glamorous city in the world, in the twentieth century! It has rather an absurd sound to it, doesn’t it?”

“No more absurd than Bee Hoon,” I said. “I’ve always wished I could name a daughter of mine Bee Hoon.”

A vein in Aunt Iris’s temples twitched.

“It means ‘beautiful cloud’,” I said dreamily. “Why doesn’t Uncle Gerald ever call you Bee Hoon, Auntie?”

Aunt Iris said hastily:

“Well, never mind–you’d best take the cake, my dear. Are you sure you don’t want sandwiches as well?”

I was not at all sure I did not want sandwiches. I said I would order some just in case, and ordered a whole stack of them: ham and salmon and cheese and cucumber. Aunt Iris watched me deplete the stack in smiling discontent.

“Greedy little creature!” she tittered. “I would rap your knuckles for stuffing yourself, but you rather need feeding. You are a starveling little slip of a thing, aren’t you? Rose and Clarissa, now, have lovely figures. They are just what real women should look like, don’t you think?”

“You mean they have bosoms and I don’t,” I thought, but did not say. It didn’t seem worth trying to enunciate through a mouthful of sandwich.
Profile Image for Kara-karina.
1,666 reviews253 followers
July 27, 2015
This is my first time reading Zen Cho, and the reason I picked it was because one of the big blogs raved about this novella a few months back. I downloaded an excerpt, forgot about it, and only started reading it last week. Ladies and gents, few paragraphs in I knew it would be excellent, so I went back and bought it.

Fantastic, witty and blunt language, funny and super smart, - the voice of Jade is an absolute delight. If you're coming out of a very badly written book, this is your remedy to put you back on track. Highly recommended!
437 reviews128 followers
October 23, 2016
The reviews for this were so fantastic I got a sample off Amazon to try. All right, so I didn't know it was a novella going into this, and that the whole thing was only some 23,000 words. I loved the sample. I was blown away. It was written in first person, MC was a writer-wannabe who did reviews and little articles -- essentially, all trite setups, but it was smart, amusing, cute. It even had me, this old cynic, anxious for the inevitable romance between Jade and Sebastien Hardie. Yes, that would have been trite beyond anything. That would have been exceedingly predictable. It also, somehow, would have just hit the spot. And just before the meeting with Hardie was where the sample stopped. Eeeeeeeee!

So I had to read it. And then? And then, dear readers, I really hate to spoil it for you, but I do want to get this off my chest. And then the book, up until then, went slightly askew. I suppose, it's called the Perilous Life of Jade Yeo for a reason. It's not called the Magical Princess Life of Jade Yeo. But soon after the first meeting with Sebastien Hardie (a damn good name for a hero), you soon find out that She goes off to Paris. He follows. She lets him fondle her while her aunt's out. I have to say that at that point, I was a bit shocked at the quite strange turn this book had taken. It somehow didn't seem like something that should have popped up amid all the YA book recommendations. It was a bit more purple than I expected, with a bit more lurid description of his, ahem, genitals, than I had prepared for. I mean, it is a novella. And amid all the increasingly multiplicity of unflattering descriptions of Sebastien, I was expecting them to sort of work it out.

But then, another doozy appears. She is in love with someone else.

Then another doozy. She's

I would really have liked to rate this 1 star, just because it was over so fast and it had hit me with multiple blows and not the good mind-blowing type. For all that, it was well-written. I did appreciate her fresh voice. I suppose I'll give the extra star for the set-up that had me craving more, and the fact that, well, it certainly followed a different recipe than normal romances.

Just as an aside. I'm wondering if the change in heroes was because the writer is raised in GB. I feel like most British chicklit like to have a "character growth" in which the majority of the book is spent with the MC with the Wrong Man for about 40% of the book. It's also a formula. But one I particularly detest.

Demoted the rating to 1 star because in retrospect, the whole affair with Sebastian Hardy (who in the blurb seemed the perfect romance novel hero) turned into a gross cheating affair with a nasty and kind of dumb dude. Wish someone could have warned me. Thoroughly grossed out.
Profile Image for Pam Faste aka Peejakers.
176 reviews45 followers
May 27, 2017
This is adorable! Such a charming story & I love this clever, witty heroine with her sharp humor & insightful observations. And she's a book reviewer, which I kinda got a kick out of :)

The story is told through the medium of a series of journal entries & one letter to a friend, which had a confidential tone I liked. I also liked that characterizations are very nuanced portrayals. There are no real villains, just people with flaws & weaknesses & vulnerability, even the worst of them likable at times.

Something else I appreciated was the story's nuanced portrayal of the racism which is simply organic in the heroine's life. I thought it was an excellent representation of the unconscious & very normalized face of racism. We see it internalized; we see people making racist assumptions who are otherwise fairly decent people. Even the heroine, a marginalized person herself, says something thoughtlessly offensive about the religion of a very good friend.

I'm probably making this sound like more of a thing than it was by focusing on it so much. This is not at all heavy handed or the focus of the book. It's subtle, yet ubiquitous, like background level radiation, but that's what struck me about it. Jade or Geok Huay (her real name) notices it, remarks on it with wry humor, but its also just part of the fabric of her life, & the way the story almost silently shows us that pervasiveness sort of makes a point without making a point of doing so, if that makes sense.

Beyond all of that, this was a lovely story of a young woman determined to "be true to oneself, and taste as much as one can of the varied buffet of life". How she indulges in a scandalous affair, gets a bit more than she bargained for, finds friends in surprising places along the way, and surprises herself most of all by falling in love. And that love story itself I found very endearing, funny & sweet.

All in all there's a lot packed into this rather small package. I've read one other thing by this author & really enjoy her work, so I definitely plan to read more.
Profile Image for Dorothea.
227 reviews66 followers
July 1, 2012
This is the novella that made me smile and laugh out loud in the waiting room of the car repair place today, even though I knew that I was about to spend a very unpleasant amount of money on my wheel alignment. If you have an e-reader of some sort, I highly recommend getting The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo for the next time you're in a similar situation. It is short and fluffy enough to be appreciated in a public waiting room with the TV on, containing plot twists more unexpected than the average romance novel's, and sweet and especially hilarious enough to distract most pleasantly from the anticipation of a painful dental, medical, or financial procedure.

Jade Yeo (who's really Geok Huay, but has given up on Londoners pronouncing that) is a witty young woman on the edge of the Bloomsbury literary scene. The story is contained in her diary entries, in which she writes her incisive, sometimes insecure, sometimes very very funny thoughts about books, clothes, chocolate, families, sex, and love.

I was very impressed by how Zen Cho managed to keep this so short and light and still include the following rather heavy subjects: -- but she did, very successfully.

I won't say anything about the plot; it's such a short novel that it would be far more efficient for you to just go read it yourself. You shouldn't regret it.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,210 reviews189 followers
April 23, 2020
I’m back on the novella train. They’re quick and fun and often super cheap (there’s a joke there, but I’m going to leave it alone)--perfect pandemic reading. The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo is one of the quirkiest books I’ve read in a while--not exactly a romance, maybe, but a fun, kind of rompy story of a young woman finding her way in 1920s Britain. It’s told in a series of diary entries chronicling Jade’s romantic conquests, burgeoning writing career, and search for love and fulfillment. There are tons of funny one-liners that had me snorting; Cho has a whimsical way with words. A frothy little dessert of a book.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
August 7, 2020
I don't usually get on well with books that are meant to be funny, or books described as satirical, but The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo was great fun. Jade (or Geok Huay, but Jade is a translation and the name she uses in Britain) has a great voice: it took me ages to decide what it reminded me of, until I saw someone else mention I Capture the Castle. Yep, really quite like that, though I think also I'm being reminded of Mori from Jo Walton's Among Others... there's something in the curious, practical, analytical tone (not divorced from dreaming, but approaching things with a sort of scientific curiosity) that is both endearing and entertaining.

The story does feature one moment of the sort of horrible miscommunication that makes me writhe with second-hand embarrassment... but Jade's voice carries it beautifully, and though I wasn't passionately interested in how things turned out for her (actually, I felt it could be entertaining no matter what), I was glad that she had her happy ever after. And in the meantime, I thought the descriptions of kissing with the guy she doesn't really have any feelings for were quite hilarious:
In ordinary kissing one aligns one's lips with the kissee's lips, and presses them together, but in well - i can't think of a better term - in sex kissing the insides of one's mouth is involved, and it is quite difficult to make it so the respective lips are aligned. One folds one's lips on top of the other's. But caution is required: if everyone's lips stray too far beyond the mouth it gets very damp and one feels as if one is being eaten by an excessively friendly lion.

And that is exactly why french kissing baffles me quite a bit, on a personal level, though I know very well that others don't see it in quite such mechanistic bodies-are-silly ways. It's such a great way of showing both the lack of emotion between the two characters involved (at least on Jade's side), and Jade's general attitude to sex.

All in all, very fun, and often funny -- even to me, and I hardly have a sense of humour.
Profile Image for hiba.
259 reviews379 followers
November 1, 2020
Set in the 1920s, a young Malaysian writer comes to London to take part in the literary scene there and finds herself in situations she could never have predicted.

This is such a masterfully written little story; it does more in 81 pages than most full-length novels can ever hope to accomplish. Even when I felt uncomfortable or unsure whether I was liking the direction of the story, the writing is so compelling that it hooks you in and never lets you go until the book's over. Jade Yeo (or Geok Huay) is such a fascinating protagonist; sassy, sharp-tongued, earnest, just wanting to live life on her own terms, and when she ends up making horrible mistakes, she fully owns them.

Highly recommended!

Rep: Malaysian MC of Chinese descent
Profile Image for Linguana.
313 reviews29 followers
December 25, 2014
A cute little story that left me a bit underwhelmed.

Told in the form of Jade's diary, what I missed the most in this story was a sense of place and time. The language is really rather pretty but if the blurb and the titles of each diary entry hadn't said so, I would have had no idea that this was set in the 1920s.

What I did like was Jade's view of the world and relationships. She is a practical woman who doesn't fuss around with romance much. Telling you more would be spoiling, so I'll keep it at that.

I enjoyed this well enough, I liked Jade and the way she told her story. In the end, things fell into place a bit too neatly and there wasn't enough build-up for the romance, at least for my taste (then again, I either go for the doorstopper-kind of romance stories or for bickering couples, so I'm hard to please).

A bit more drama or action or just problems for our heroine to overcome would have made this more interesting. But there is no doubt that Zen Cho can write, and I'll be glad to try something else she's written.
Profile Image for Kristen.
353 reviews57 followers
May 24, 2017
I kind of really want to give this novella 5 stars, but it needed to be just a smidge longer to earn that extra star, I think. I might break down and change my mind though, as it was thoroughly charming, and addressed some subjects - like racism, colonialism, and mental illness- that I don't think I've seen be properly dealt with in many other pieces of romantic historical fiction, which automatically earns it some bonus points.
Definitely recommended! Can't wait to try some of Cho's other works!
Profile Image for Maija.
587 reviews165 followers
May 13, 2020
I'm torn! Cho's writing is so likable: this is told in the form of a journal by the titular Jade Yeo, and Jade's writing is marvelously tongue-in-cheek. But then again this novella features a trope/plot point that I dislike in romance stories! So yes, I'm a bit torn, but I would still say this was an enjoyable reading experience, so I'm leaning towards 4 stars.

Trope in spoiler tags:
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