|Jeannie Lin’s best book so far
When Chang Fei Long tracks down his sister, Pearl, who is assigned to be a treaty bride that should marry a lord from a neighboring kingdom. He finds out she ran away with her lover, and realizing that she wasn't kidnapped, but found refuge in someone who helped her to escape, Fei Long doesn't kill her partner. Instead, he let them both run away.
Afterward, Fei Long is devastated, knowing that the salvation of his entire household, and the honor of his family depend of this arranged marriage. He sits down on a tea house to ponder the situation and concludes that what he needs is a woman to take the place of his sister.
Meanwhile, Yan Ling, an orphaned servant, serves Fei Long tea in the very moment he mutters his need for a woman, even someone as humble as her. Yan Ling misinterprets his intentions, and throws a pot of tea at him. Because of this, Yan Ling finds herself on the streets homeless, and while trying to convince Fei Long of talking to her masters to accept her back in the tea house, he instead proposes the deal of coming home with him, and training to act as a princess in order to take the place of his sister, marrying the lord from a neighboring kingdom, in behalf of the imperial court.
During the arduous process of transmuting from servant girl to princess, Yan Ling would make new friends, visit places she'd never dreamed of before, and of course, fall in love with Fei Long, who is conflicted between his family's honor and Yan Ling.
I've read all of Jeannie Lin's historical romance books; I loved the first one in this trilogy, and enjoyed the deep emotions of the second one. Compared to the previous books, My Fair Concubine is perfect, from the development of the characters to the breathtaking ending. Never before had Jeannie Lin captured the spirit of the Tang Dynasty better. I read on the author's website that the setting is based on an alternative history she created inspired by the Tang Dynasty's true history. However, while reading My Fair Concubine, the world the characters inhabit feels authentic as well as the culture and the social system of the times.
All the secondary characters are well developed, and my two favorites are Bai Shen, Fei Long`s theatrical friend and later Yan Ling's teacher. And Dao, who serves in Fei Long's household and becomes Yan Ling's best friend.
There aren't sex scenes until the very end, and the romance is rather sweet, but the sensual tension is intense. One interesting detail I noticed, specially during the last part of the book, is that there is a lot of romance in it, built with little tender moments, that ironically are so unusual in romance books nowadays.
I loved the way Fei Long admits his feeling for Yan Ling without saying I love you. And absolutely love the ending, which I guessed halfway the book, but still loved it. I also enjoyed the beautiful way the author described the used of the Chinese calligraphy in the story. While reading My Fair Concubine I laughed until I cried, and there were moments I got really misty-eyed too.
My Fair Concubine might have been inspired by My Fair Lady, which was based on an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. However, in my opinion, it has little similarities with those stories. My Fair Concubine is a complete satisfying story, while the original play and the movie are kind of ambiguous about the happy ending part. Besides, there is no true romance in My Fair Lady or Pygmalion.
I think that Jeannie Lin created an original work, where the characters are all unique. I highly recommend this book if you love historical romances with diverse characters and settings.