This second book in the series returns to ancient China and to the Pingkang Li pleasure quarter to explore the story of Mingyu, the sister of the first book’s protagonist and one of the most celebrated courtesans in the city. It took me a while to get into this book, I started it right after finishing the first one but I kept putting it off because it couldn’t hold my attention. Eventually, though, the interactions between the two leads got me hooked.
I liked this book way better than the other one, overall. I’ll admit that for me only two things really matter in regard to romances: writing style and protagonists. In this case I felt as if both were better compared to The Lotus Palace. For the writing, it might be simply that this time I already knew in advance that the plot would be too convoluted to try and guess the murderer and so I just focused on the romance part. But I also felt as if there were less loose strands at the end, less last-minute all-changing revelations. This made it much easier for me to focus on the personal aspects of the case.
As for Wu Kaifeng and Mingyu, it really boils down to personal preference: I found their romance much more believable, and their obstacles much more realistic. I’m also a fan of love-hate relationships (or hate turning to love as in this case) so this book was right up my alley. I still don’t understand while M/F authors write series about different couples linked by family or friendship ties, as opposed to M/M authors who write series about the same couple evolving over time; but I do enjoy getting to spend multiple books in the same world, and in this case having Mingyu’s backstory from the first book definitely helped because this book could start in the middle of things without having to setting up the scene.
I don’t know if Jeannie Lin is planning to write more books in this series, but if she did I’d definitely want to read Wei Wei’s story!