|Kindle // eHarlequin // Jeannie Lin|
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....
Like Lin's other historical romances this is set during the Tang Dynasty, but unlike them this has nothing to do with the military or Imperial family. Luo Cheng is a farmer's son given a chance to become something more by taking the Civil Service exams while Jia (aka Rose) is musician reaching the end of her youth. Basically this is about two average people, with an ambition to carve a better life for themselves.
This is a languid story. It takes its time unraveling itself and once there doesn't feel a need to rush into conclusions. In Rose, Cheng finds inspiration, something worth feeling passionate about that has nothing to do with his wish to give his family back home a more comfortable existence. In Cheng, Rose meets someone who is as genuine as he seems. There's no deceit or conceit in Cheng--he is as he presents himself, a hard-working young man who spends most of his time studying.
This is one of those times that I wish this had been a full novel. The central story--needing to retrieve a precious journal by a celebrated courtesan--would not have held a full novel length story I don't believe (unless Lin added way more action then the two characters warranted or needed in their lives) , but I would have liked to see more of Jia's life as a pipa musician, seen more of her and Cheng growing to know one and other.
For Jia's part I can see why her 'dream' (or wish really) would change from wanting freedom for herself from her Troupe (an abstract notion in which she never thought beyond what would happen once she had that freedom) to wanting to help Cheng. For a jaded girl like her, Cheng was a breath of fresh air. He defied every expectation she had of a civil servant student and continued to surprise her.
Cheng I'm a little more vague on--initially I think it was attraction, but something about Jia clicked for him. He's a decisive guy so going from zero to sixty didn't surprise me that much, but I would have liked to see more of how Jia inspired him.
I'm also wondering how this ties in with Lin's forthcoming book My Fair Concubine (already on pre-order, want it now). Previously her Historical UNDONE! (yes I had to put the emphasis they always do) novellas have tied in with her novels. Whether its a character mentioned, or shown briefly, something ties them together. Reading the back of the cover for My Fair Concubine I can't see how they tie together (if they do, I could be making an assumption here that's baseless). Either way I can't wait!