The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin
Book 2 of The Pingkang Li Mysteries
Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter. She has all men wrapped around her finger—except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.
Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu. But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail. Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences...
My first thoughts while reading The Jade Temptress were about how much development there has been for Mingyu since the events of the first book in this series. She was cold, untouchable, and as high on a that Empress pedestal her Lotus Palace sisters accuse her of placing herself on.
But even as the book begins, and progresses, Mingyu shows a different side of herself that is different than her first introduction the Lotus Palace--she is the elder sister that Yue-ying loves, who wants nothing but to survive her life and see her sister happy and safe. She's just a woman trying to make it in life, with what little opportunity being a woman allows her during these times in China; and she's a woman who begins to dream that maybe there could be more for her than eternal servitude to the foster mother who owns her, and the men who pay for her company.
I think I loved this book more than the first book, though, if only because of the complexities of both our main characters. This is not to say that Yue-ying was not a complex character, because she was definitely so much more than the standard romance novel heroine. And Bai Huang never truly showed his complexities until nearing the ending, but even then I was hard-pressed to truly appreciate them.
In contrast, Mingyu has so many layers to her that it was quite interesting to watch her progress through her few self-revelations.
And while Wu Kaifeng seems like he's only got one personality--upstanding, blunt, aloof--his layers are also quite interesting to witness as they peel away.
While the attraction between Mingyu and Kaifeng felt a little too fast to be credible, their subsequent interactions were sweet. It was nice watching both of their exteriors chip away, a little at a time with each meeting or chance meeting between them. And even while they knew that they both lived in two different worlds, and that their romance would be hard to attain, they didn't spend too much time languishing in the angst that could have come up in the beginning of their courtship.
The murder mystery of The Jade Temptress was quite well outlined, and certainly, for a moment in the book, I followed the wrong red herring, even as I had kind of touched upon the actual truth behind General Deng's death already. Either I'm slipping, or the twists in this mystery had been clever enough to confuse me.
The Jade Temptress is a historical romance with intrigue and mystery, and is rather quiet and tame compared to the events and high drama of the previous book. I don't know if it's because our couple are both rather settled, quiet individuals, while the previous book's couple were young and exuberant. But somehow, this is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Jade Temptress a bit more than The Lotus Palace.
Nonetheless, enjoyment was had.