Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin

From Amazon - 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….

I am not a big fan of “My Fair Lady”.  There, I said it.  All Audrey Hepburn fans can send me hate mail if they wish.  I can handle it.
I figured a book called My Fair Concubine would have the same downtrodden girl meets teacher/trainer/superior pain-in-the-butt teacher theme.  I was right—sort of. The teacher in My Fair Concubine was much  hotter than Rex Harrison in  “My Fair Lady”! 
I have not read many books set in China—especially not romance books.  So, I was intrigued with the setting and culture in this book.  Yan Ling is a servant girl who works in a teahouse.  She is expected to be servile, quiet, and respectful.  In her heart, however, she has not acquiesced to her station in life.  She has spunk. 
When Fei Long comes to the teahouse, he tries to retrieve his runaway sister, Pearl.  Fei Long’s family, to seek favor with the imperial family, has agreed to have Pearl pretend to be a princess and wed a foreign lord in the province of Khitan.   Pearl has run away with her lover to avoid this arrangement., and she is unwilling to return.  When Fei Long realizes that the plan has gone to ruin, he sits down to consider his position.  An offhanded remark raises the ire of his server, Yan Ling, and gets her fired from the tea house. 
Fei Long makes an agreement with Yan Ling.  She will train to be a lady at his home and she will pass herself off as Pearl and save face for his family.  Fei Long turns out to be an honorable, but demanding teacher.  I really enjoyed his character.  While he was motivated by honor, he was not cruel.  His focus on family pride sometimes makes him seem cold, but there is a great deal of controlled passion under the surface.  His character was so well done.  
Fei Long has to overcome other circumstances that threaten to ruin his family’s honor.  There is the matter of his father’s debts and his run-ins with a local gang lord. He also must keep up the ruse about Yan Ling in order to satisfy government officials.  These twists and turns were very revealing in terms of Fei Long’s character.  In each scenario, he tries to make the right choice.  That made me like him even more.  
Yan Ling is revealed to have more than just spirit.  She is kind, thoughtful, and diligent.  Thank goodness for a heroine who is not a simpering idiot.  The secondary characters, particularly Bai Shen, an actor who helps train Yan Ling, are well done also. 
This was not a fast read for me.  It was more of a slow simmer sort of romance. I genuinely liked each one of the characters and when they finally came together, they each made reasoned decisions.  Because they loved each other, they were willing to accept the consequences.   Neither one of them has to be redeemed from great character flaws—they just need to find a way to be together within the frame of their lives.  What a delightful story.  Now I have to go find other books by Jeannie Lin.  I think she is now an auto-buy. 
Highly recommended.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

1 comment:

  1. I love Asian-themed historical fiction! Thank you for reviewing this: now I MUST read it. :)


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