The Dragon and the Pearl
Harlequin, September 20, 2011, $6.25
Former Emperor’s consort Ling Suyin is renowned for her beauty; the ultimate seductress. Now she lives quietly alone—until the most ruthless warlord in the region comes and steals her away....
Li Tao lives life by the sword, and is trapped in the treacherous, lethal world of politics. The alluring Ling Suyin is at the center of the web. He must uncover her mystery without falling under her spell—yet her innocence calls out to him. How cruel if she, of all women, can entrance the man behind the legend....
The Dragon and the Pearl is not my usual fare. Set during the Tang Dynasty in China (AD 759), it is a far cry and a fair distance from Regency England. But a romance is a romance, and I was interested in learning how this varied from those I was used to reading.
And I am glad I did; this book is worth reading for the language alone.
The narrative is evocative of the era without being in any way stereotypical, and the environment is surely different. The heroine is a former concubine to the late emperor and the hero a street rat turned military governor due to his prowess with a knife and his icy practicality.
Times are perilous, and Tao essentially takes Suyin into custody to prevent her from being killed. And, as in all romances—no matter the genre or time period—one thing leads to another.
As the specter of war edges closer and her own battles with Li Tao continue, Suyin calls on the cunning she learned as a courtesan.
The survival instinct returned to her, encasing her like a second skin. She sharpened her senses and became aware of everything around her. Li Tao prepared for war with swords and soldiers. She had her own weapons.
It is very nearly poetry.
As Suyin inches toward a relationship with her captor, he is equally confused by what has happened to bring her to his home and what has happened since she arrived.
She tilted her gaze at him and he detected the steel beneath her elegant demeanor. A flash of armour amidst the softest silk. Endlessly elusive. No wonder men tried to capture her in paintings and flowery words. He, for reasons he couldn’t clearly discern, had simply captured her.
When they finally come together, Suyin is stunned by the reality.
The pillow books spoke of coupling in vague, poetic phrases. It was none of that. This was wet flesh and heated skin, sweat and salt, vulgar and beautiful.
Once she and Tao make love and start to understand one another, her longing is manifest.
Once again, the earth element in her reached out to absorb everything around her, seeking an anchor. She yearned to stay and belong somewhere. A place where life could take root and grow.
While Li Tao succumbs to her charm and his own need
The door burst open and Suyin flew towards the bed in a peach-coloured blur. His heart leapt as she settled against him, soft curves and silk and perfume. He folded her into his arms, and the heavens curved inwards, shrinking to encompass the space around them.
I could go on. The story is not unusual for a romance except in its setting. But the language in which the romance is given to us is beautiful and compelling and very much in keeping with the story.
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website,www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta