THE LOTUS PALACE
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Published Date: August 2013
Source: Received for an honest review from publisher
Book Description (from Harlequin)
It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China…
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, let 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?
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin is fantastic. It had just the right blend of intrigue, history, and romance. But it was the multidimensional characters and their arcs that really make it all come together. On top of all that was an intense, dark, poignant, and incisive social commentary. How Jeannie Lin packs such a visceral punch into such a small space (category romance) I do not know, but pack it in she does.
The story opens with Yue-ying, the servant of one of the most sought after courtesans in the Pingkang Li. Yue-ying might be a servant, but she is also so much more. As the story unfolds she is a sister, a lover, a sleuth, a defender, and few other roles as well. She is an amazing person and her backstory only adds to the person she is. As her arc progresses, it is easy to see what Bai Huang sees in her. She has a quiet courage, a quiet strength, and exudes a calmness that soothes those around her.
Bai Huang, on the other hand, appears to be all flash and bang, empty and shallow. But underneath that surface is a man who is so much more. His life lessons have been different from Yue-ying’s as they come from wildly different backgrounds. Yet they complement each other perfectly.
United in their search for a killer or killers and despite Yue-ying’s protests, they grow together into a single cohesive unit. This gradual coming together is done so well and so completely that it becomes almost impossible to separate the two. Each character arc becomes utterly entwined with the other as they challenge each other to become better people, to fight for what they have together and to find a way to make right the wrongs they uncover.
The supporting cast is outstanding, and several have their own character arcs as well. This adds tremendously to the overall depth of the story because it feels that much more real. It also highlights the importance of family and society. Mingyu, Yue-ying’s mistress, and Wei-Wei, Bai Huang’s sister, are wonderful in their own right. Each have their own strengths and journeys that fit into the overall storyline and themes.
This is not a lighthearted story. Not only is life difficult for both of them but the societal issues they face are grave indeed. When the social commentary really kicks in, it is done so without any preachiness, just a simple outlining of facts.
Time and place, culture and history, were also like characters adding to the overall ambiance of the story and giving it some of it conflicts as well as some of its resolutions. This was the complete package, a must-read, a keeper.
Heat Rating: Mild
REVIEWED BY: Monique Neaves
Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More