The Lotus Palace
by Jeannie Lin, historical (2013)
Harlequin, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77773-0
The Lotus Palace is one of the more upscale houses of pleasure in Pinkang li, the red light district of Changan. It's 847 AD, and our heroine Yue-ying is the maidservant of the popular courtesan Mingyu. She shouldn't attract attention, but somehow, Lord Bai Huang decides that she's clever and feisty. When someone starts killing the courtesans in the district, and Lord Bai starts poking his nose into the matter, Yue-ying finds herself swept up in the mess.
That's basically the plot of Jeannie Lin's official single title debut with HQN - her last few books were with the Harlequin Historical line - and, I'm not sure whether this heralds a change in direction, but this one has a mystery subplot that puts the romance to the backseat considerably. I personally find the mystery pretty dry and uninteresting, so I find The Lotus Palace too easy to put down.
The romance isn't much of a diversion. I don't see why Bai Huang should be attracted to Yue-ying, I'm just told that he finds her refreshing, clever, et cetera. This is a romance that started with the author going "I tell you, it's like this!" and I keep waiting to be shown that this is the case. Eventually, Yue-ying talks about her sad past and her looks that made life hard for her, but Bai Huang's reaction is basically, "Aw, that's so sad, but it only reinforces why I think you are awesome. You are so strong, on top of being awesome!"
Because he is of the upper class and, therefore, unable to just marry Yue-ying without facing some repercussions to his social standing, I need to see why he's so much into her. I can't, so there's a problem right there. Also, the author wraps the story up a bit too neatly after having the main characters, especially Yue-ying, mope and whine a lot about the issues between them. The obstacles standing between the hero and the heroine ring true, so the author casually sweeping aside these issues in the end and having the characters achieve a happy ending without even a small taint of social repercussion trivialize these obstacles and make the characters seem like big babies all this while for moping so melodramatically about them.
Simply put, The Lotus Palace is a readable book, but I find it rather boring compared to the author's previous books.
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