Harlequin | August 2013 | 384 pgs
I enjoyed Jeannie Lin's The Sword Dancer so much so that I sought out her other books from the library. I decided on The Lotus Palace, since it features a world of the imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with the courtesans set during the Tang Dynasty, 847 AD.
The story opens with our heroine, Yue-ying as a maidservant at the Lotus Palace which is one if the larger establishments in the pleasure quarter of the North Hamlet, also known as the Pingkang li. There are courtesans, courtesans-in-training along with their "foster mother" who make sure all things are properly care for; and of course there are also maidservants for the most well-known courtesans. Yue-ying is one to Mingyu, and she has served as her personal attendant for the past four years. Yue-ying might be a servant, but she is street-smart, practical and of course, loyal to her mistress.
Bai Huang, an aristocratic playboy frequents the Lotus Palace and although Mingyu is a beauty and is well versed with poetry and words, it is Yue-ying who has caught Huang's attention. Although Yue-ying is born with a birthmark on her face, she is by no means ashamed of her appearance for beneath her flawed mark she exudes courage and strength. After seeing countless beauties and enjoying their company, Huang knew at first glance that Yue-ying is a different girl and the more he sees her living in the shadow of the infamous Mingyu the more he finds her intriguing. When a murder happened not far away from the Lotus Palace and a well-known courtesan is killed, Huang knew something is amiss especially seeing Mingyu is fretful and that she has disappeared shortly. Huang approaches Yue-ying for her help since she is the best person to know the inside-out of the courtesans' world, but also there is this hopeful wish that he would get to know her alongside their investigations.
Once again I found myself enticed with Jeannie's storytelling and the characters she had created in this book. The Lotus Palace has all the right blend of history, romance and mystery that would satisfy readers who enjoy historical and romance genres. I think what made this a fantastic read is aside from what mentioned above, there is the incisiveness of the social commentary and the difference of class which add some interest to the story. Most of all, I was moved by Huang's persistence and the way he sees things differently from others. He has flaws and his past might not be glory, but seeing about his progress not only raises Yue-ying's hope in him but also satisfy the readers' expectations as well.
I think the most satisfying moment was about them working together to gather information while searching for the killer and anyone who is suspicious on their radar. This gradual unity allows them to see many things beyond them; challenging each other and making the other a better person through the different things they each encountered and sharing about their experiences. Family values are also part of the element in this story, as we see the relationship between Huang and his family and the struggles he has to go through with his father for being with Yue-ying due to their different background. I enjoyed The Sword Dancer, but I liked this book even more. Needless to say, I'll continue to seek the rest of Jeannie Lin's books.
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