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Butterfly Swords

(Tang Dynasty #1)

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,002 ratings  ·  239 reviews
During China's infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding.

Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior.

Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value.
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Harlequin
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Was hoping for this to be more "historical". My bad, of course and most of it was...

Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
As I read Butterfly Swords- I felt I was on a balancing act with likes and dislikes. Not that I didn’t enjoy this book, but at the same time I felt there was some glaring weaknesses that made this book falter.

With the old saying of opposites attract. Princess Ai Li and Ryam truly come from different walks of life. One of the glittering royalty and the other of just fighting to survive. Sparks truly fly when these two meet, only burns brighter. With Ai Li needing to get back to her family to war
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of historical romances in unusual settings.
Recommended to MBR by: None
5+ Stars for this breathtaking historical

With only two historical novels published to her name, Jeannie Lin has shot into my list of favorite authors after being totally and utterly captivated by the tale of love, Tang Dynasty politics and the beautiful sensuality that she wields in her stories. I picked up Butterfly Swords right after I was done with The Taming of Mei Ling which was just a teaser into Jeannie Lin's capability in keeping readers enthralled by the magic that she creates with th
Sep 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Butterfly Swords is set during a unique time period in the Tang Dynasty in 758 AD China. Ai Li, the daughter of an emperor, is betrothed to marry, Li Tao, a warlord. This is an arranged marriage and one that Ai Li doesn't want because she has found out that her husband-to-be has plotted against her family and may have killed one of her brothers. Ai Li has always been the dutiful daughter, but in this case she will defy her parents' wishes and return to them and tell them what she knows, regardle ...more
I've had mixed luck with Jeannie Lin's writing. I either highly enjoy it or can't get into it at all. This wasn't terrible but it couldn't keep my attention either. I would still recommend her as an author but I would suggest some of her other works first.
Tara Chevrestt
I rarely read romances, but when I caught the words "Tang dynasty, butterfly swords, and woman warrior," I decided to give this a go. And thankfully, there were no damsels in distress in this one. Well, the damsel has distress, but nothing she can't handle with her butterfly swords and just a little bit of help of a blonde barbarian.

Ai Li (aka Ailey)is on her way to marry Li Tao when she discovers that her fiance is planning an uprising against her own father. She runs away with hired bandits t
3.5 stars.

I loved the first half of this story. It's a great road romance in an unusual setting with unusual characters (for historical romance). Ai Li is escaping from an arranged marriage because she's discovered that her groom had her brother murdered and is plotting against her father, who is a powerful leader in the Tang empire (which leader exactly isn't revealed until much later). She is helped by Ryam, a mercenary barbarian from the West when the groom's henchman track her down. Ryam and
Sep 23, 2010 rated it liked it
I just love the cover for this. It’s just so sexy. I mean, how often do you see a full frontal picture of an Asian woman doing an action instead of just merely giving off some blank, vacant expression in the background, or looking pretty for some “exotic” value? Not much I can tell you.

The world building/historical facts of her time felt genuine enough. The author put in some amount of effort and it paid off – although don’t take my words as gospel because I am really not that familiar with Chin
Fani *loves angst*
I really loved this until the last 50 pages where some of the hero's/heroine's decisions started not to make much sense for me. Still, a very nice book and so much different from other romances.

There is another book that deals with the relationship between a Chinese and a foreigner, that's not pure romance but is SO much more realistic, especially with how a foreigner would be treated in Medieval China:
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka. Compared to this, I found Ryam's easy acceptance as unrealistic to say the least, especiall
Taryn Pierson
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, poc-author
Butterfly Swords is set during China’s Tang Dynasty and follows Ai Li, a princess who escapes an arranged marriage. Along the way, she meets Ryam, a blue-eyed barbarian warrior. Their romance is unlikely in the extreme, considering their different cultures, but if reading romance has taught me anything, it’s that love conquers all. Also, how can you turn down a strong heroine skilled with swords?
K.J. Charles
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Total romp. Kick-ass (within reason) sword-wielding Emperor's daughter and white barbarian mercenary on a cross-China flight from a warlord. Tangle politics, interesting culture clash, fabulous detail, sexy romance. Hugely enjoyable, highly recommended, and this was her first book as well. Looking forward to reading more.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Years ago, I picked up My Fair Concubine which is book three in the Tang Dynasty series. I fell in love with this colorful and culturally rich Asian historical romance. I went on to read each new release from the author, but never went back for the earlier books in the series. Until now...

Butterfly Swords is the debut book in the series and maybe for the author as a whole, but it didn't read like an early effort. It was as tight and lavish with setting, historical backdrop, characters, and plott
It has taken me WAY too long to read a book by Jeannie Lin. I believe this was her debut, and (if I'm not mistaken) what a fucking fantastic first book. It's set during the Tang Dynasty (of which I admittedly know very little) and she brought the setting to life so vividly that I didn't want to put the book down.

Princess Ai Li meets Ryam as she's escaping from an arranged marriage; he saves her from bandits, and she convinces him to accompany her back to her father, the Emperor, so she can warn
Liz Mc2
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
Really good, well-paced first half with the warrior (secret) princess and “barbarian” mercenary on the road and falling for each other. They are complementary but I love how they respect each other’s skill in sword fighting. They feel equally matched. I have no idea if the Tang Dynasty setting is accurate, but it feels plausible and vividly realized.

The second half is more uneven, with the politics not fully worked out and the “how can they ever be together?” kind of dragged out and a bit too m
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dangerous-dudes
I have never read a book with this particular setting, but when it was chosen for a Pick-it-for-me Challenge, I was intrigued by it. First by the beautiful cover, and second by the description of the book.

I am so glad I decided to read it. What a beautiful story! It's one of those forbidden love stories...she's daughter to the Emperor on the run from an arranged marriage, and he's a barbarian Turk trying to reunite with his band of warriors. They are an unlikely pair, but the love that grows bet
Look! A historical romance! That's NOT set in England! Or America! It's not a Regency, or a Georgian, or a Medieval! It's set in CHINA!!!

I guess you can tell I've been really excited about this book.

The heroine is the daughter of a warrior who's family has been assigned for generations to guard the frontier of the Chinese empire. This story takes place in what were the Dark Ages in Europe, and the era of a lot of turmoil in China. When the story opens, she escapes from the sedan chair carrying
I listened to this series out of order, which doesn't affect the stories. They're stand alones. Book 2 was so much better than this one that I'd recommend skipping right to My Fair Concubine. Narrator is fantastic. Lost interest in the story at around 70%, which says something about he pacing of the romance. I love reading about the Tang Dynasty, Jeannie Lin does a great job of bringing everything to life. This just wasn't a favorite.
Kungfu adventure! White barbarian romance in ancient China! Princess running from marriage, and powerful, scary cool warlord chasing after! Princess who fights, and cares about family and honor and isn't too stupid or whiny or some other tragic character quirk that Asian female heroines are always afflicted with!

There are all sorts of things that are right about this book, at least concept-wise, that I cracked open this book with a lot of goodwill left over to forgive the unmistakeable romance b
Donna Alward
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Maybe it was my frame of mind when I started reading but I wasn't quite as gripped as I expected. I think I felt that there was a certain amount of set up and action going on, but it didn't take long for that to change. You know what sticks out for me with this book? Pacing. The pacing was really well done. There was a lot of traveling - really this was one big old road trip for Ai Li and Rayam - but because of the changing situation and locations it didn't feel monotonous. In fact, each leg of ...more
Caroline The HEA Lover
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(This was originally posted on Book Lovers, Inc.)

This is a good example of why I should keep on trying books I think are out of my comfort-zone. I really doubted I could love a historical romance set in China. Why not? Because I knew next to nothing of China at that time (I hate feeling stupid). And I was scared of reading about a very different culture I was afraid I wouldn’t understand. Prejudiced much? heh! Well I read Butterfly Swords and I’m glad for it. There isn’t anything not to love in
Given that this was published by Harlequin, I wasn't really holding out very much hope of it being a good book. Still, when it was mentioned during the discussions of the cover of Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix, I decided I'd give it a try when it was out, and have finally got round to it. It does have an Asian woman on the cover, and she is indeed holding a butterfly sword (though she should have two, I'm told). So it's winning there, at least.

From her author bio on Goodreads, though:

"After four ye
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much of a romance reader, this was my attempt at trying to get more involved in the genre, in the traditional sense rather than diving into all this new erotica and new adult that seems so popular at the moment.

I knew I had wanted to read historical romance, but I dreaded the thought of a regency romance. Victorians and corsets and garden parties, no thanks.

The sequel to this, The Dragon and the Pearl, popped up as a suggestion in an article and me being a bit book OCD had to start wit
Darynda Jones
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
More later, but right now I just want to say this book took my breath away. I loved every minute of it. So sensual and well-written. LOVED IT!!!!!
I wanted to like this one more than I did. I've like Jeannie's other stuff, but this one didn't grab me. I realised late in the book that some of the trouble I was having with it might actually be formatting errors - mostly headhops from paragraph to paragraph that not only jumped POV characters, but also time and/or place. I think they should actually have been page breaks that never showed up. As far as I remember, there weren't any page breaks at all, which made me think that was the cause. B ...more
Kat Coffin
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I've always been a sucker for a historical romance novel--the steamier the better! I didn't even realize "Butterfly Swords" WAS a romance novel (I didn't notice the glaring HARLEQUIN on the spine). I found it quite randomly and thought it would be a fun read about a warrior princess. Well, I was right--but it was also pure Harlequin and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I grew up reading Johanna Lindsay novels (in all their problematic glory) so it was refreshing to see a historical romance with Chi
Anne Boleyn's Ghost
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I adored this. And I ain’t too proud to beg for more sword-wielding heroines in historical romance...

I'll say it again: I adored the story of Ai Li, the Emperor's daughter fleeing an arranged marriage and intent on foiling a plot against her family, and Ryam, the white "barbarian" warrior haunted by his past and aimless - until Ai Li takes aim at his heart. I adored the clash, the banter, the longing between Ai Li and Ryam. I adored the cross-country adventure. I adored the sword fighting. I ado
Cindy Eliza
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This would make a really good period drama! I love how the heroine is so strong, and can hold an entire sword fight and duel on her own, yet can’t help but fall in love with a barbarian, an outcast. Another good series from Jeannie Lin.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Eh, I just wasn’t totally into this book. More than likely it is because I read the books out of order and then I spend most of the book trying to figure out how they all fit together.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 09, 2010 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: arc, netgalley, reviewed
DNF - Please note that I skimmed the latter half, and thus, feel wrong giving this book a rating.

I wanted to love the world and the characters in BUTTERFLY SWORDS. Because of the setting, I believed the story had a lot of potential to be rich and the adventure exciting. Instead, the story fell flat; the writing did not fully draw me in -- which I think was one of the primary problems for me -- and the hero was not all that impressive.

Usually with adventure stories, they're either full of excitem
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USA TODAY Bestselling author Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic fantasy and Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set. Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. After four years of trying to break into publishing with ...more

Other books in the series

Tang Dynasty (5 books)
  • The Dragon and the Pearl (Tang Dynasty, #2)
  • My Fair Concubine (Tang Dynasty, #3)
  • The Sword Dancer (Lovers and Rebels, #1; Tang Dynasty, #4)
  • A Dance with Danger (Lovers and Rebels, #2; Tang Dynasty, #5)
“What else do you want to know?’ he asked. Possessed by morbid curiosity, her eyes darted to the scar that cut just over his ear. She’d found it shortly after they met, while he lay unconscious in the grass. He didn’t need to ask what had caught her attention. ‘I got that in a fight against imperial soldiers. Ask me why.’ She shook her head, unable to bring herself to do it. The cocoon of warmth that had enveloped the entire afternoon unwound itself in an instant. ‘Are you having second thoughts about being here with me?’ He planted a hand into the grass, edging closer. ‘No. I trust you.’ He was giving her all the time in the world to shove him away, to rise, to flee. Her heartbeat quickened as she watched him. Moving ever so slowly, he braced an arm on either side of her, his fingers sinking into the moss. ‘I asked you to come with me.’ Despite her words, she dug her heels into the ground and inched backwards. ‘I feel safe with you.’ ‘I can see that.’ He affected a lazy smile as she retreated until her back pressed against the knotted roots that crawled along the ground. His boldness was so unexpected, so exciting. She held her breath and waited. Her pulse jumped when he reached for her. She’d been imagining this moment ever since their first duel and wondering whether it would take another swordfight for him to come near her again. His fingers curled gently against the back of her neck, giving her one last chance to escape. Then he lowered his mouth and kissed her.

It was as natural as breathing to wrap his arms around her and lower her to the ground. He settled his weight against her hips. The perfume of her skin mixed with the damp scent of the moss beneath them. At some point, her sense of propriety would win over. Until then he let his body flood with raw desire. It felt good to kiss her the way he wanted to. It felt damn good. He slipped his tongue past her lips to where she was warm and smooth and inviting. Her hands clutched at his shirt as she returned his kiss. A muted sound escaped from her throat. He swallowed her cry, using his hands to circle her wrists: rough enough to make her breath catch, gentle enough to have her opening her knees, cradling his hips with her long legs. He stroked himself against her, already hard beyond belief. He groaned when she responded, instinctively pressing closer. ‘I need to see you,’ he said. The sash around her waist fell aside in two urgent tugs while his other hand stole beneath her tunic. She gasped when his fingers brushed the swath of cloth at her breasts. The faint, helpless sound nearly lifted him out of the haze of desire. He didn’t want to think too hard about this. Not yet. He felt for the edge of the binding. ‘In back.’ She spoke in barely a whisper, a sigh on his soul. She peered up at him, her face in shadow as he parted her tunic. She watched him in much the same way she had when they had first met: curious, fearless, her eyes a swirl of green and gold. He pulled at the tight cloth until Ailey’s warm, feminine flesh swelled into his hands. He soothed his palms over the cruel welts left by the bindings. She bit down against her lip as blood rushed back into the tortured flesh. With great care, he stroked her nipples, teasing them until they grew tight beneath his roughened fingertips. God’s breath. Perfect. He wanted his mouth on her and still it wouldn’t be enough. Her heart beat out a chaotic rhythm. His own echoed the same restless pulse. ‘I knew it would be like this.’ His words came out hoarse with passion. At that moment he’d have given his soul to have her. But somewhere in his thick skull, he knew he had a beautiful, vulnerable girl who trusted him pressed against the bare earth. He sensed the hitch in her breathing and how her fingers dug nervously into his shoulders, even as her hips arched into him. He ran his thumb gently over the reddened mark that ran just below her collarbone and felt her shiver beneath him.”
“His eyes flickered with amusement, reflecting sunlight and shade. The rough beard on his chin gave him a wild, dangerous look. Stiffly, she lifted herself onto her toes, bracing a hand against his shoulders. He was steel beneath her grasp. Did he have to watch her so intently? She closed her eyes. It was the only way she would have the courage to do this. Still he waited. It would be a brief meeting of lips. Nothing to be afraid of. If only her heart would remember to keep beating. Holding her breath, she let her lips brush over his. It was the first time she’d ever kissed a man and her mind raced with it. She hardly had a sense of his mouth at all, though the shock of the single touch rushed like liquid fire to her toes. Her part of the bargain was fulfilled. It could be done and over right then. Recklessly, after a moment’s hesitation, she touched her lips once again to him. This time she lingered, exploring the feel of him little by little. His mouth was warm and smooth and wonderful, all of it new and unexpected. He still hadn’t moved, even though her knees threatened to crumble and her heart beat like a thunder drum. Finally he responded with the barest hint of pressure. The warmth of his breath mingled with hers. Without thinking, she let her fingers dig into the sleek muscle of his arms. A low, husky sound rumbled in his throat before he wrapped his arms around her. Heaven and earth. She hadn’t been kissing him at all. The thin ribbon of resistance uncoiled within her as he took control of the kiss. His stubble scraped against her mouth, raking a raw path of sensation through her. She could do nothing but melt against him, clutching the front of his tunic to stay on her feet. A delicious heat radiated from him. His hands sank low against the small of her back to draw her close as he teased her mouth open. His breath mingled with hers for one anguished second before his tongue slipped past her lips to taste her in a slow, indulgent caress. A sigh of surrender escaped from her lips, a sound she hadn’t imagined she was capable of uttering. His hands slipped from her abruptly and she opened her eyes to see his gaze fixed on her.

‘Well,’ he breathed, ‘you do honour your bets.’ Though he no longer touched her, it was as if the kiss hadn’t ended. He was still so close, filling every sense and thought. She stumbled as she tried to step away and he caught her, a knowing smile playing over his mouth. Her balance was impeccable. She never lost her footing like that, just standing there. His grip tightened briefly before he let her go. Even that tiny, innocent touch filled her with renewed longing. In a daze, she bent to pick up her fallen swords. Her pulse throbbed as if she had run a li without stopping. In her head she was still running, flying fast. ‘Now that our bargain is settled…’ she began hoarsely ‘…we should be going.’ To her horror her hands would not stop shaking. Brushing past him, she gathered up her knapsack and slung it over her shoulder. ‘You said the next town was hours from here?’ He collected his sword while a slow grin spread over his face. She couldn’t look at him without conjuring the feel and the taste of him. Head down, she ploughed through the tall grass. ‘A good match,’ she attempted. He caught up to her easily with his long stride. ‘Yes, quite good,’ he replied, the tone rife with meaning. Her cheeks burned hot as she forced her gaze on the road ahead. She could barely tell day from night, couldn’t give her own name if asked. She had to get home and denounce Li Tao. Warn her father. She had thought of nothing else since her escape, until this blue-eyed barbarian had appeared. It was fortunate they were parting when they reached town. When he wasn’t looking she pressed her fingers over her lips, which were still swollen from that first kiss. She was outmatched, much more outmatched than when they had crossed swords.”
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