Genre: Historic Romance, Asian Romance
It is incredible how lucky I have been with choosing reading material, and it’s only the second month of the year. This wasn’t supposed to be my next read, but after mentioning in my Forbidden post that I wanted to actively ready more diversely in the romance genre, I took the plunge. Plus, I already broke free from Recency England, so I figured I’d continue the trend so that I’ll actually miss it when I come back.
I actually only chose to request Butterfly Swords to start with because it was one of the few Jeannie Lins available at my library, but thankfully I accidentally picked the start of the Tang Dynasty series.
It’s hard for me to mention much of the plot outside of what is on the back cover without giving anything away. At the start of the novel, Princess Ai Li, the heroine, is running away from her wedding and betrothed armed with her butterfly swords and a few guards. Days later, disguised as a boy, she attracts the attention of the nearly starving to death hero Ryam, a blonde haired, blue eyed “barbarian” (Russian maybe?) , who by the magical power of romance novel can totally tell she’s a girl in disguise (and is baffled no one else can, much like all the readers I’m sure). Ai Li shows him the first act of kindness he has seen in months by giving him her rice, so when he realizes she is in danger with a traitor in her group of guards, he does not hesitate to save the beautiful disguised stranger. With her determination, her admirable sense of honour, and her swords, Ai Li manages to convince Ryam to become her new escort, and the journey these two take is so moving. The physical journey is grueling and full of adventure. Ai Li’s personal journey is heart wrenching as she realizes the changes in her family from their humble beginnings to her father’s rule as emporer and as she struggles to find her place. Ai Li and Ryam’s journey makes you feel their struggle right along with them as you watch a princess and a barbarian fight against falling in love knowing they can never be together; the beauty of the romance genre is that we are guaranteed Happily Ever After, but getting there for them was so hard. The last few chapters left me in a constant state of teary-eyed frustration in the best way possible. The final chapter left me all grins.
Until this point, I’ve only read Western historical romances, so the allure of an ancient Chinese one was irresistible. If you are a stickler on historical accuracy, you probably need to calm down when it comes to these novels. The story takes place only a few centuries A.D. (sometime in the 700s), so liberties obviously need to be taken. That said, I am always blown away by how advanced and civilized Chinese culture was in such an early time. It’s a perfect settings for a romance novel. Lin paints the backdrop well without bogging us down, which is always an impressive skill for non-Regency England historical writers.
Whether you want a break from the stereotypical or you just want to read a great love story, I wholeheartedly recommend Butterfly Swords. I can definitely say Jeannie Lin has become a new favorite author for me. I hadn’t even finished Butterfly Swords, and I purchased the prequel novella about Ai Li’s grandmother Mei Lin for my Nook (my library didn’t have it, but Jeannie Lin’s writing is so wonderful I didn’t mind spending the money).