My Fair Concubine
Harlequin / $6.25 print, $4.79 digital / May 22, 2012
Yan Ling tries hard to be servile—it’s what’s expected of a girl of her class. Being intelligent and strong-minded, she finds it a constant battle.
Proud Fei Long is unimpressed by her spirit—until he realizes she’s the answer to his problems. He has to deliver the emperor a “princess.” In two months can he train a tea girl to pass as a noblewoman?
Yet it’s hard to teach good etiquette when all Fei Long wants to do is break it, by taking this tea girl for his own….
Jeannie Lin continues her streak of bold, passionate, and exciting romances set during the Tang Dynasty with My Fair Concubine. Obviously by the title, this book draws its premise from Shaw’s Pygmalion, but a more apt comparison would be the Fox 1997 animated film, Anastasia, which paired a strong and dynamic heroine with an honorable rogue.
Lin’s lyrical prose weaves the setting of 5th-10th century China seamlessly into the romance, strengthening her already appealing characters. The book soars when describing the capital city of Changan, and smolders when describing the chemistry between Yan Ling and Fei Long:
If Yan Ling had been asked to describe in one word how the imperial capital differed from her home town, she would have said it was the colours. She’d grown up in a muted world of greys and browns. Their clothing was of the plainest cotton, without the indulgence of special dyes. The buildings were erected from stone and wood. Even the river was murky as it wound through the forest green.
Now that she was in the capital, wealth didn’t look like the gleam of gold and silver. Wealth was in the red banners cascading from the balconies of the wine-houses and restaurants of Changan. The rainbow bolts of silk in the marketplace. Even the fruit piled in the stalls sparkled like jewels: rosy peaches and startling pink dragonfruit with green-tipped scales.
The buildings were all ornamented and painted. The structures climbed ostentatiously upwards, reaching towards heaven. The citizens themselves walked side by side in luxurious brocades. Their sleeves hung to the ground, enough material for an entire new garment, yet used for mere adornment.
The pear in her hands had been kissed warm by the sun. Fei Long’s fingers had brushed inadvertently against hers when he had handed it to her. For all his rigid manners, he was good at heart and kind in the most unexpected ways. She bit into the pear, enjoying the crisp sweetness as she wondered what other surprises the city would bring.
What made me fall in love with My Fair Concubine is that it is absolutely fun and passionate. Yan Ling and Fei Long are well-matched, and one thing I appreciate in Lin’s novels is that they are intelligent. The protagonists may be at odds, but they are never silly or irrational in their conflict. But the best element of all—the food! My mouth salivated at the descriptions of the delicious meals eaten by the characters, and I dare you to read them without your stomach rumbling in appreciation.
I highly, highly recommend My Fair Concubine to readers desiring a book filled with elegant prose, humor, and amazing protagonists.
Evangeline Holland is a writer of historical romances, an amateur milliner, and a really great cook. When not writing or reading, you can find her blogging about the Edwardian era on her website, the aptly titled Edwardian Promenade.