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....
Comment: After having read the first book in this author's Pingkang Li duology back in November, I was immediately interested in reading this one only to see if the follow up was as intense as the first one.
This title was also something I think would look well in the Alphabet Soup page, so here it goes the letter J for the challenge.
This is the story of Mingyu, she's the older sister of the protagonist from the first book. Mingyu is a well respected and sought courtesan but she's still trapped with madame Sun, her foster mother and boss.She has a huge debt to pay and she knows she won't be free.
Wu Kaifeng is a constable and his behavior isn't the most well liked because he's serious and reserved. They met in the previous book and the animosity was obvious but Wu Kaifeng is professional so when Mingyu goes to meet her patron and finds him dead, the first person she thinks of is Kaifeng. From then on a mysterious story develops and where are Mingyu's wishes in all this?
If there is one thing we could say about this author's style - note that only based on two books so far - is that she has a serious writing and even in the most loving scenes there's a certain contention I assume comes from her own personality and background and not only due to the story's themes alone. I can't say I remember many Harlequin authors doing this and I guess this is the so called freshness many readers claim this author possesses.
This story is a mix of mystery and romance. The mystery is complex but very simply described and developed. I think this was quite smart because the focus of the romance is too irresistible to think about mysteries at times. Still, the mystery comes from a serious issue and deals with serious things and feelings and I couldn't help but feeling sad for some character's and their challenges. Of course, in the end the resolution was done quite well and it finished all the business we'd hoped for on that level.
Now, as for the romance, I have to say I was surprised by how it ended. The main couple has had a certain animosity due to things in the previous book but there is an attraction between them. Still, I feel glad the author managed restriction in presenting the cultural details of that community and society and not making them reckless or crazy. All their dealings, even th more intimate moments all happened after careful moments and due to serious thoughts and feelings. One could say practical too, but I think we can easily see the hints of emotion behind that so it isn't as cold as we first might think.
Mingyu is a fascinating character and I felt for her troubles. She knows she doesn't have much space maneuvers left but she tries and she acts according to her feelings and it was wonderful to see her act human. She is a great character, she knows her place, her value and the fact she isn't as free as others think. Her role is fascinating like I said. The end for her was both amazing and thoughtful. I think she was brave and fearful closer to the end but there are moments that really made me smile.
Wu Kaifeng seems rather unfeeling but we have good explanations for why his behavior is like that. His relationship with Mingyu isn't simple but in the end I liked how he was the hero she never thought she would get.
The end wasn't an unbelievable fairytale but a take on hopes and dreams and I convinced myself they would make it forever and sometimes that is all that matters.
All in all, a good enough romance, sure it could have been more passionate or detailed in terms of romance, but I think the author achieved a good balance between seriousness and cuteness in a society that didn't lived for an easy life.
Serious writing, style and story all well packed. I liked it.