Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jayne S

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

Posts by Jayne S:

REVIEW:  The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin

REVIEW: The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin


“The thief who stole his heart

Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law–a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past,even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all….

Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life–and love–as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he’s faced with an impossible choice: betray the elusive sword dancer he is learning to love, or trust his long-disregarded heart and follow her to dangerous, tempting rebellion….”

Dear Ms. Lin,

I liked what I’d heard about this book: a Tang Dynasty road romance featuring a woman who knows how to handle a sword and a man who needs to loosen up a bit. Yet, it’s a lot more than that. There are rebellions, warlords, jade stealing, salt smuggling, filial duty and the role of family in China, revenge, Chinese political spin doctoring and the triumph of true love. The story shows the nitty gritty of working class life in Tang China with lots of interesting historical angles, details and characters which come together to give the book its sinew and muscle.

The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin

The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin

Still, there is so much plot happening here that at times I forgot parts of it due to the shear number of different elements being juggled, pieces being put together and stuff to remember. In spite of all this, or maybe because of all of it, the book still seemed to move very slowly at times with an almost disjointed feel. One subplot would seemingly wander off while another was introduced leaving me adrift about how on earth they were related or how they’d come together at all.

But the image of Li Feng dazzling with her sword dancing made up for a lot of this. The first Chinese sword dancing I recall seeing was actually in a production of the Puccini opera Turandot that was staged in Beijing in 1998. All of a sudden this lithe young woman in red was spinning and twirling across the stage and then – hot damn! – she had a sword and was doing all these amazing acrobatics. I zipped the DVD back and watched this woman again it was so awesome. Perhaps it is not what the heroine was actually doing in the book but I kept this what I kept in mind while reading about Li Feng.

I need more than athletic heroines expertly manipulating sharp, pointy objects and gracefully leaping across rooftops to keep my interest. Li Feng is driven to find the family she lost as a child and from this I can see how important family is to being “centered” as a person. She feels adrift and incomplete and also envious of Han who – though he’s quarreled with his father – still has a family to go home to. It’s not until she’s finished her quest and found what she’s looking for that she can be satisfied being still, allow someone into her world and reaching for her personal happiness.

Han is a man initially driven by the need to see the law upheld. Up until now this has been a right/wrong black/white distinction to him. But, as he discovers, justice should be for everyone not merely those who are rich and in power. His truncated training for a civil service job has made him a thinking man’s thief catcher. Li Feng and her situation open him to shades of gray and unable to turn a blind eye to the system anymore. The law is still worth fighting for but justice depending on the people in charge and the way it’s meted out can be flawed.

“The Sword Dancer” seemed to have a darker feel to it than “My Fair Concubine” or any of the novellas of yours I’ve read. With the tragedy in Li Feng’s past and the profession that Han pursues, that’s not surprising. As the book wound to a close, I was getting a bit nervous though as I remembered comments that has been made about how Chinese audiences expect their romances to end tragically. “She wouldn’t,” I thought. “No, no she won’t. This is a Harlequin Historical and it’s got to have a HEA.” You took it right to the final few pages but the ending is one of the sweetest I recall in a long time. B


‘I will marry you,’ she whispered, finally allowing her heart to speak. He kissed her again, deeply, with his hands framed about her face. Thief-catcher Han, the man who would not let her get away.
Their hands remained linked as they sat on the roof, side by side, to stare at the sky above. The first stars were out and a stream of lights formed overhead as the night descended.
‘I’m dreaming,’ she said to the heavens.
‘So am I,’ Han said warmly.
‘I hope I’ll make a good wife.’ She didn’t know much about being one.
‘You will,’ Han promised. ‘I hope we can both be content remaining in one place.’
‘Let’s try it. Starting now.’
Han put his arm around her and she nestled close into that perfect spot on his shoulder. For a long, long time they remained there, watching the rise of the moon and counting the stars. Sitting still. Together.


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REVIEW:  Thinking of You by Jill Mansell

REVIEW: Thinking of You by Jill Mansell

When Ginny Holland’s daughter heads off to university, Ginny is left with a severe case of empty nest syndrome. To make matters worse, the first gorgeous man she’s laid eyes on in years has just accused her of shoplifting. So, in need of a bit of company, Ginny decides to advertise for a lodger, but what she gets is lovelorn Laurel. With Laurel comes her dangerously charming brother, Perry and the offer of a great new job, and things begin looking up…until Ginny realizes that her potential boss is all too familiar. Is it too late for Ginny to set things right after an anything but desirable first impression?

Dear Ms. Mansell,

When I read the blurb for “Thinking of You,” I liked the idea of a slightly older heroine finding love later in life. I didn’t realize this was a reissue until I started to read it. I have no idea if it’s been changed any since 2007 but then there doesn’t seem to be much that might influence the plot that has changed between then and now.

thinking-of-youThe book kicks off with quite an opening set up of different characters, their relationships and the plot threads. It’s often funny in an amusing, ironic sort of way with some LOL moments mixed in. This is intercut with a bit of darker shadings which round out the main characters and further the plot. Still everyone is distinct and I never lost sight of who they all were and how they fitted into the story.

The plot threads are believable and not twisted into pretzels of WTFery. Often I can’t get past some bizarre set up an author employs to use a certain setting or a have characters hold certain jobs or interact in such-and-such a way. Not so here. Empty nest syndrome, adultery, broken hearts, ladies men, first year of college – all are plausible and not eye rolling.

That being said, I could tell in which direction a lot of the plot was headed and how the characters would behave and react. When this or that occurred, I wasn’t all that surprised.

“Actually I caught her shoplifting,” said Finn. This is far from a meet-cute beginning for Finn and Ginny. In fact, he makes his – loud – public accusation, which reduces Ginny to tears and that worst of all things for the English – public embarrassment. This couple was going to have a lot to work out before their HEA

Except, I didn’t get enough of that. I needed a bit more romance. Yes, I can see this is a times more women’s fiction and with the number of characters involved it’s hard to get in depth with all their stories but for Ginny and Finn I wanted more. One cattus interruptus – which is hilarious – and one completed sex scene and that’s it? I did like that they talk a bit and discuss their lives outside of how they feel about each other but I would loved to have more of them together.

Then comes the come-upppance and payback period. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted all these outcomes. I was hoping to see the villains get served with their just desserts and the protagonists triumph over them. But it was just all too neat and tidy. Like a list being checked off and bows being wrapped too tidily. Each asshole gets hoisted on his or her own petard, generally publicly and often with the assistance of the person most wronged. It’s very satisfying and there’s little of the martyr – I must be nice and not gloat over my enemy because I’m the heroine or hero – involved. But it’s almost too much that this many wronged people will get justice 1-2-3 one after another as the book winds down. It’s too clockwork-y, too assembly line-ish.

I enjoyed getting to know these people and peeking in on their lives. I felt good when the villains were taken care of and the protagonists found happiness. But the first aspect felt too perfect and the second felt lacking. C


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