May 6 2012
“Tang Dynasty China, 759 A.D.
Yao Ru Jiang, known as River, has woven many romantic dreams of honorable swordsman Wei Chen from her brother’s stories. Their meeting should have been a happy event; instead, Chen arrives to tell River he is duty bound to kill her brother for rebelling against the warlord they both serve.
River would do anything to distract the handsome, conflicted warrior from his mission—even take him as a lover….”
Dear Ms. Lin,
Though it’s an offshoot of “The Dragon and the Pearl,” felt I could follow “The Lady’s Scandalous Night” without having read the other. The story starts quickly with a pencil sketch to fill in the background of the action plus each character’s thoughts and feelings and intentions. I didn’t feel lost even though I don’t know who Governor Li is or anything about the rebellion.
Reading your intro note about marriages of the time – especially the bit about marriages being complex arrangements of families -helped a lot to enable me to believe in the HEA here. I could feel that Ru Jiang and Chen would already have some feelings for and about each other and with a story this short, they needed them. Chen continuing to offer for her out of a sense of loyalty and duty would be understandable, though not very romantic as needed for our purposes. I required the fact that Chen had heard about her and her family from her brother for so many years to build up and color in the love necessary for this outcome to fly for me. There’s a nice balance here between each person feeling the love and the need for the other. In historicals, it can be a fine line to walk since men usually have most or all of the power. But early on, Chen’s inner thoughts reveal his vulnerability and wish for something deep with Jiang. Even if she doesn’t know it yet, I do and that allows me to patiently wait for their relationship to work out.
“She prepared now for battle with jeweled hairpins and perfume. With silk.” Jiang is as much a warrior in this battle as is Chen. Her weapons are just a little different. Yet when they come together, it feels more like love than practiced seduction, more heart than cold calculation, sweet yet spicy interactions between the two. Jiang is the river who must wind her way around Chen’s heart in order to save her mountain brother.
The inclusion of the background details about Chen and Ru Shan’s sense of honor and why Chen potentially being the one who might end up delivering Ru Shan’s ultimate fate could be seen as the final act of friendship from Chen helps me to understand how such a man as Chen could go after Ru Shan – that he would do it as much for the deep bond they once had as out of duty to the warlord. This is so totally needed in a romance book of today since usually a man killing the heroine’s brother would be a deal breaker for their HEA.
When Chen realizes Ru Jiang’s actions have lead to Ru Shan’s escape, he is understandably angry. The man would be inhuman were he not pissed off. And so with less than half the book left, I was on pins and needles to find out how you would work something out so that this couple could be together with honor still served – because I knew they would never enter a relationship with the matter unresolved. And this is where the book falters for me. Ru Shan is saved by actions off page and not elaborated on in this story and POOF! it’s over. Literally a deus ex machina let-down. Perhaps when I eventually read the other book, things will be clearer but since this serves as both the source of both internal and external conflict, the muddied waters in this book let me down.
The ending is too bad since despite all the obstacles and the short length of this story, you had managed to convince me of a true love and HEA for Chen and Ru Jiang. Still, this is another enticement for me to finally get off my tuchus and get caught up on your full length books. B-/C+