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REVIEW: Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin

“Tang Dynasty China, 823 A.D.

Musician Jia needs a valuable book of poems by a famous courtesan to buy her freedom…and she believes Luo Cheng has taken it. Her attempt to steal the book from him fails, but the tall and powerful scholar unexpectedly offers to help her quest! But when they finally find the book–and the arousing poems and artwork inside–Jia’s longing for freedom is replaced with a new kind of desire for Cheng….”

Dear Ms Lin,

This is the first book of yours I’ve read. I think I’ve bought all the others, with the exception of the other Historical Undone novella – something which I will remedy soon, but have managed to totally F up and not read them. Shame on me and I will correct that.

Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie LinI like the detail here. There’s a lot for me to catch up on and get oriented to since I don’t know this period or place well. But the story makes me want to learn more and it avoided feeling like a total info dump for newbies. The sector of the city, ink stick writing, the musical instruments, the household with a professional peony tender, the scholarly studying with its correct ways of doing things to advance, what the actual exams consist of, how different Cheng’s experience is from a rich man’s son, how he needs a sponsor with influence and money to get him through the doors… It’s amazing just how much thumbnail background detail is provided in the short amount of space.

Despite the fact that Cheng is a scholar and Jia/Rose a musician, they have significant similarities which helps me believe in the future of their relationship. Both are from poor backgrounds and ask only for a chance to rise in the world and be someone. They are hardworking and willing to play by the rules of the system. I like the image he has of her as a tigress in getting what she wants. Jia/Rose is practical – and thus a heroine close to my heart – willing to work hard for years to learn to play the pipa and get ahead in life. She’ll take a night or two from Cheng and savor the memory but is initially planning on that being it and for her to buy her freedom and do as she wants. She does get the book and leave with it, then sells it and only THEN does she go back and experience what Cheng and she can do for each other that night. Cheng is as much a planner as Jia/Rose is – he studied for the exams and when he initially failed, he put in three more years of effort for the chance to retake them. But in the end, it’s Jia/Rose who helps Cheng triumph during the exams. Her example of being fearless in going after what you really want spurs him on. Thus there is more than just hot sex that brings them together and I feel will keep them together.

Two questions though. I never understood where she initially got the pillow book she planned to sell or how Zhang Guo stole it from her. Is Xue Lin a real person/courtesan? If I watched “Flowers of Shanghai” would I understand her better?

Usually these Undone stories feel just that to me – too short, little nuggets that need more space in order to work. I didn’t feel that way about this one. The time to “I love you” is short but you show enough of how similar in temperament and personality these two are that I’m satisfied. B

~Jayne

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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.

18 Comments

  1. Dabney
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 14:08:33

    I don’t think she had the book. I think it was kept in the Pavilion and Guo stole it. She, once it was stolen, decided to steal it and sell it to enrich her life.

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  2. Jeannie Lin
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 14:26:18

    Thanks for the review!

    I do wish there was room for historical footnotes on my stories, but unfortunately there isn’t:
    Xue Lin is a fictional courtesan, but was based on an actual courtesan Xue Tao, a famous female poet of the Tang Dynasty. The actual passages in the pillow book are a nod to a much older work, The Classic of the Plain Girl, a Taoist text that contained sexual instructions.

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  3. SonomaLass
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 14:35:01

    I need to read this novella; I read the first chapter and wanted the rest right away, but it wasn’t available yet. I love when authors can tell a story well in shorter lengths — it has to be the right story, but it also has to be told well. I’ve enjoyed Lin’s other short Tang Dynasty pieces and think she has a good feel for what fits in a novella.

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  4. Ella Drake
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 14:44:45

    I so agree that this story does well as a short. The hero and heroine fit together so well, it’s hard not to imagine their story having a HEA. And the details are amazing. I really enjoyed this story for the details as well as the romance.

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  5. Laura Florand
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 17:20:20

    This sounds fascinating. Thanks, Jayne, for the review.

    ReplyReply

  6. Violetta Vane
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 18:10:29

    Wow, this looks awesome!

    I love wuxia, and I love the way this seems like a twisty non-fighting thread of a big wuxia tapestry. Going to check it out.

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  7. library addict
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 18:16:38

    Sounds good. Adding to my “to buy” list (I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more books until I read at least a few of the ones I already have).

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  8. SHZ
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 22:45:56

    This sounds interesting – I hate picking something like this up only to find infodump after infodump, so it’s good to hear that’s not the case here.
    HOWEVER I’m completely creeped out by the cover. It looks like she has dislocated her neck! I can’t tell whether we’re looking at her back or her front!

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  9. Jayne
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 03:37:10

    @Jeannie Lin: Thanks. Off to Google now.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jayne
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 03:41:42

    @SonomaLass: @Ella Drake: There is an art to doing a short piece well and when I find one, it’s such a treat to read. And I love books that make me want to learn more the things or people in them. So this one is a good job all around.

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  11. Jayne
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 03:46:11

    @SHZ: Now that you’ve got me looking at it closely, I think this is a front view – though I had to sit and turn my head to see if my shoulder would round up like that under my clavicle. ;)

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  12. Jayne
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 03:51:18

    @Violetta Vane: Definitely no fighting here – though some soldiers do show up at one point.

    @library addict: But it’s a short story. You can enjoyably zip through it and then be ready to start a longer book. See, I’ve solved your worries.

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  13. cleo
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 10:08:03

    Thanks for the review. I bought this and read it yesterday, after reading the review. I love a good short story, and this was really good.

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  14. library addict
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 15:36:06

    @Jayne: Okay, twist my arm. Off to buy it…

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  15. Laura Florand
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 09:16:31

    This was a real pleasure. I read it last night, after your review. The world, and the hero and heroine, are so engaging, and so different from the run-of-the-mill. I agree with you, too, at how vividly the world is drawn, so that we understand it and see it so well in such a short space, but without any info dumping. Thanks for recommending it!

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  16. Jayne
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 09:36:44

    @cleo: @Laura Florand: Great! I’m so glad the rec worked for you both.

    ReplyReply

  17. Dear Author Recommends for April
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 10:02:15

    [...] the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin, reviewed by Jayne and recommended by [...]

  18. REVIEW: An Illicit Temptation by Jeannie Lin
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 12:02:09

    [...] your other books and enjoyed them—I liked your novella “Capturing the Silken Thief” (reviewed here). I also liked “An Illicit Temptation” but didn’t love it—it felt incomplete [...]

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