Review of “The Lotus Palace” (The Pingkang Li Mysteries #1) by Jeannie Lin

Lin, Jeannie. The Lotus Palace. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin HQN, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-0-373-77773-0. $7.99 USD. 

4.5 stars

Despite my initial (incredibly misguided) misgivings based on the blurb, I found that I loved The Lotus Palace. Not only was it a great romance, but it was chock-full of rich historical detail about the environment of the Tang Dynasty, with a strong focus on the pleasure quarter, Pingkang Li. And while some of the practices concerning courtesans do vary from their Western counterparts that I’ve read about, I was glad the story also touched on the fact that many of these women, including Yue-ying and her sister, Mingyu, did not enter the trade by choice, but had it forced upon them.

I was also skeptical about whether this cross-class romance would work, given that on the surface, Yue-ying and Bai Huang are so different. But even if it does run to some of the familiar cliches, like her being different than any other woman he’s been with, I did feel like the romance was a genuine one that goes beyond the sexual component, despite the fact that she spends quite a bit of the book in the role as his mistress. And in exploring the complexities of the relations between Chinese men and their wives and concubines, this adds a new perspective that does not exist in Western cross-class romances.

I was intrigued by the mystery element, but I did feel like there wasn’t as much time spent on it as I expected there would be. Even though it is more a romance than a mystery, the chapters after the solving of the mystery felt a little tedious, and I only read on for the sake of finding out how Yue-ying and Bai Huang would get their HEA. It was ultimately rewarding, but it was a little too long.

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