Tang Dynasty – China AD824
Heat rating of 2.5– Moderate
Rating: 3.5 STARS
THE NOBLEMAN WHO TURNED A TEA GIRL INTO A PRINCESS…
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….
Review by LadyOfMisrule
My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin is a reinterpretation of ‘My Fair Lady’ set in imperial China during the Tang Dynasty. The story is centred around Fei Long, a gruff and introverted noble with a strong sense of duty, and Yan Ling, an headstrong and impulsive young woman who was abandoned at a provincial teahouse as an infant, and has known no other life since. Fei Long is serving with the imperial army at an outpost when he finds out his father has passed away suddenly, leaving a mountain of debt, and upon returning home he also discovers that his sister Pearl has eloped, rebelling against her arranged hequin (peace marriage) and running away with her lover. Fei Long chases the couple to a teahouse room they have rented, but cannot bring himself to condemn her to a life she does not want, and so he gives them his purse, and lets them leave. He rashly recruits the tea house girl as a replacement for Pearl, and Fei Long has 2 months to train her to be a lady before the hequin. He summons Bai Shen, an old actor friend, and Pearl’s handmaiden Dao to help train the servant girl to be a perfect princess in time for the marriage.
Lin has a flair for illustrative prose that immerses the reader in the the ‘golden age’ of China – Yan Ling’s scattered glimpses of the imperial capital Changan is a perfect example of this. The orphan servant girl’s genuine delight at the richness and luxury of her new surroundings is conveyed well, evoking excitement in the reader by proxy. The traditions, superstition and culture of the time are brought to life throughout the story with numerous, thoughtful small touches, from a wedding gift of embroidered felt shoes to a performance of ‘The Maiden of Yue’ at the theatre, showing it to be a well-researched text.
Fei Long and Yan Ling have to deal with their growing feelings towards one another whilst maintaining a respectable distance and keeping up the facade of Yan Ling as Pearl. Fei Long attempts to remain brusque and distant, knowing that the Hequin is the only way he can stave off the circling debtors and keep his family honour intact. Yan Ling tries to contain her feisty spirit and become a demure, skilled princess. Inevitably, this becomes more and more difficult for each of them as the novel progresses, and the barriers between them begin to break down. The relationship between the two main protagonists, although a somewhat forgone conclusion, is in a constant state of fluidity which keeps the reader guessing at possible plot developments up until the very end. An enjoyable light read.
** At time of review My Fair Concubine is available from Amazon.com in ebook format for $6.17**
LADY OF MISRULE
Hi, I’m Bek , a twentysomething bookworm, but I prefer to call myself a member of the Literati. I have been a big fan of Historical fiction for almost a decade. I am a proud Yorkshire rose, and my interest for history was initially sparked by the War of the Roses, but has from this seed bloomed into a full on passion! I am a person who is never satisfied unless they are learning, or working towards something. Books set in a historical setting help me to scratch that itch, and my lengthy commute to work and back every day means that I often get through them at a good pace! I’m also a sucker for a good, tasteful love story 🙂