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Butterfly Swords

(Tang Dynasty #1)

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  1,207 ratings  ·  288 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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Average rating 3.45  · 
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Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

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DNF @ 45%

That cover. Please, let's make one of the new romance trends to have kick-butt ladies with swords gracing the covers. It's a great aesthetic. I think we can all agree. *chef's kiss*

I've read a couple of Lin's books before, the Pingkang Li mysteries, and a collection of short stories that are all set in and loosely connected to her Tang Dynasty series. I gravitated to this book because of its premise (a girl running away from he
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
Was hoping for this to be more "historical". My bad, of course and most of it was...

Lacey (laceybooklovers)
This was my first Jeannie Lin book (and first Asian historical romance) and it won’t be my last!
Joanna Loves Reading
I tried to read this sometime last year, but my head was in the wrong place and I couldn’t get started. This time I was hooked after a few pages in. Overall, it was a fun read that soothed my desire for geographical and cultural diverse HRs. No Dukes here!

Ailey was a wonderful fierce heroine. Brave, confident and believed in her and her family’s honor. Ryam was an interesting hero, a skilled fighter, though he was a “barbarian” from land far away. I did not feel like I got a great picture of his
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
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.
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.
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, especi
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
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
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bipoc-author, fiction
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?
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
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
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
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 foreign 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 adored
Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)
I recently realised that there hasn't been a lot of cultural diversity in the historical fiction/romance books I have been reading lately, so when the lovely Lydia suggested that we read Jeannie Lin together, I pounced on the opportunity like my dog pounces on the food I accidentally drop on the floor.

I have read one other Jeannie Lin book and she is a great writer! I liked Butterfly Swords; the story was unique and I liked Ai Li as a character although I wish the male MC Ryam was fleshed out a
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
Laura Jean
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thank you Book Riot! They had an article with a list of 10 Excellent historical romance series. This was the first one in the list. The list was heavy on the regency romances, however there were some gems like this on the list as well.

Book Riot article 10 Excellent Historical Romance Series

I loved the fact that it took place in 8th Century China and featured an interracial romance. Plus, Ai Li is BADASS! No damsel in distress this one. Just a fun good read.
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.
Sep 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Stopped reading at 28%.

I suspect, though I am not 100% certain, that a lot of my problems with this book come from the fact that the author had to smoosh all her material within the constraints of a category-length romance. I really felt like a lot of context was missing, particularly when dealing with the historical period. In the same way I don't like it when a book says "This is the Regency!" and expects me to feel that's enough, I don't like the way Butterfly Swords says "This is Tang Dynast
So I complained to my friend Anya that nobody ever read Jeannie Lin, even though her writing was really great and deserved more attention. So she was like, okay, let’s read a book of hers together. So we read the first book in her Tang Dynasty series.

And it was okay! It was about Ryam, a pale barbarian and Ai Li, a princess and a swordswoman. Ai Li does not want to marry a traitorous lord, so she escapes but is hunted by her groom-to-be. Then she meets Ryam, who decides to protect her.

It was my
Diane Peterson
I have wanted to read Butterfly Swords for a long time and am delighted that I finally got the chance to read it. The book is lush in its scope as well as suspenseful and sentimental. Chinese Princess Ai Li is on the run, escaping an arranged marriage. On the way she meets Ryam, a swordsman and foreigner. This road trip takes them through one type of intrigue and danger after another. All the while the two are building a deep, loving relationship. There are a million reasons why they should not ...more
annabelle (on our shelves)
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
ngl sometimes the characters’ decisions made zero sense but it was still a good time
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was good but not did.knock my socks off. I am just not in a historical romance set in ancient China mood. Even though this is book one of the series, it felt like I had missed an earlier book or series that gave more context to people and events referred to in this book.
Darbi Bradley
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved this! Will say it felt like it ended like 6 times, but that’s my only critique. I wish I knew more about Tang Dynasty to place all the intrigue but that’s what google is for
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
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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)

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“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.”
“None of us deserves the things we have been given. We can only spend the rest of our days earning them.” 2 likes
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