The Lotus Palace
Author: Jeannie Lin
Rating: A, 4.5 Stars
What I’m Talking About:
The Lotus Palace is the first novel in a new Tang Dynasty series by Jeannie Lin. Ms. Lin is a new-to-me author, and I am so excited to have volunteered for The Lotus Palace. Suffice to say, I was enchanted, engaged and enthralled, the three E’s to which lead to me absolutely loving a new book. This story reminds me in a way of Pretty Woman crossed with L.A. Confidential and yet is solely its own. A hauntingly beautiful love story crossed with a fascinating detective drama, all of which seems impossible and yet still finds its happy ending. I warn you, it is absolutely impossible to put down!
Firstly, I know very little about Chinese culture, mores and customs; current let alone historically. However, from what I have learned from school and movies and the like, it is very different from my own culture and yet, historically speaking, enchanting and similar. I admit there were terms I did not understand, but thanks to technology (I read this on my e-reader) the definitions were easily found. It was so seamlessly done that I didn’t realize how much I was learning as I was completely consumed and lost in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the novel.
This time period is stunningly beautiful, enchanting and yet the the beauty is hiding some very ugly and painful layers in society. The rich descriptions of the locations and people allow the reader to be completely immersed in the world. It is fascinating to learn how hurtful, ugly and hopeless the pleasure district is under such extraordinary beauty and charm. The contrast between what is seen by the aristocracy and the life of those within the walls is staggering. What allows us to see both sides of this world well is that we are granted the point of view from not only Yue-ying but Huang as well. The dichotomy between then and the seemingly endless divide which separates them is surreal. How they can hope to have a relationship seems so impossible and yet, Ms. Lin gives us the hope even when it seems only the darkness will remain.
Our heroine of the story is from this more painful and ugly layer. Yue-ying is the servant of a courtesan (I believe this is the correct term) for the famous Lotus Palace. She has little hope of being anything but a servant, but considering her horrific past, she is content to be a dependable, smart and loyal maidservant. Besides an awful past, Yue-ying is considered deformed – she has a wine colored birthmark on a substantial part of her face. Because of this mark and her place in society, she is virtually invisible. This societal invisibility with her keen mind and sharp eyes allows her to be a fount of knowledge about so much in the pleasure district. If anyone had their thumb on the pulse of that section of China, it is Yue-ying. However, Yue-ying’s world is turned upside-down when a noble not only sees her, but pursues her.
Bai Huang is a aristocrat cultured, educated and wealthy. He is the first born and heir to the family and is expected to pass the great exams. If he passes the exams, he will be eligible for an esteemed position in the government. Per the norms of society – once he obtains his position in government, he will marry and settle down to prepare for when he takes over leadership of the family – continuing to bring honor to the family name. However, he seems to be not too clever nor interested in honor as he is a somewhat steady presence in the pleasure district. Huang is publicly wooing Yue-ying’s mistress and yet when he is in her company – his eyes stray to her invisible maidservant, so much so that Mingyu notices and “punishes” him for it. Huang takes the ridicule but Yeu-ying suspects there is more to Huang than meets the eye. However, can she trust him when no man has ever given her reason to trust.
A celebrated courtesan is murdered and Yue-ying finds herself aiding Huang – the so-called aristocratic fool – in discovering the murderer. As Yue-ying assists Huang, she finds that there is more to him and his story. Not only that, but she finds herself being drawn to him – in a way that is strictly forbidden and, if she is honest with herself, has absolutely no future. The only hope she could have with him is to be his concubine (a lesser wife / acceptable mistress) and she refuses to live that life. But as Huang and Yue-ying dig deeper into the darker portions of life and society to find the killer, they also find themselves falling closer and closer together.
I cannot say enough about The Lotus Palace and considering my typical nit-pickiness about historical romances, this is seriously an outstanding novel. It is completely engaging and difficult to put down. Not only does the romance between Huang and Yue-ying keep you glued to the pages, but the mystery will keep you biting your fingers as well. As the story progresses, twist and turns keep you on your toes and cannot help but keep you engrossed. If you are interested in historical romance and mysteries, and are interested in something new, please pick up The Lotus Palace. It is just simply enchanting! I eagerly look forward to the next novel in this series, The Jade Temptress (which seems to feature Mingyu as the heroine!).
4.5 stars: Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)
About the Book:
Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she’s content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress-until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.
Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang’s position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine-will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Series: Lotus Palace #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Format(s): Paperback (384 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
The Lotus Palace (Lotus Palace #1)