Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Harlequin Historicals
Released on October 1, 2010
Years ago, I picked up My Fair Concubine which is book three in the Tang Dynasty series. I fell in love with this colorful and culturally rich Asian historical romance. I went on to read each new release from the author, but never went back for the earlier books in the series. Until now…
Butterfly Swords is the debut book in the series and maybe for the author as a whole, but it didn’t read like an early effort. It was as tight and lavish with setting, historical backdrop, characters, and plotting as any of the later ones. The Tang Dynasty is a series that can be enjoyed in any order though there are faint trails of connection from book to book.
This story opens with a young princess who was all set to do her duty by family and the empire in going into an arranged marriage with a powerful political rival of her father’s to secure him as an ally. All that ends abruptly when she learns that he was involved in the death of one of her brothers and he’s an enemy of her father for the Chinese imperial throne. She has to warn her family of this betrayal so skips out on her wedding journey. Right when she’s about to be captured by bandits, she is rescued by none other than a blue-eyed barbarian from outside the kingdom with his own issues. The unlikely pair team up and have harrowing adventures and forge a connection on their journey to return her to her family.
Ai Li is a highborn Chinese Imperial princess in a time when any foreigner is considered an uncouth barbarian and lower than their lowest class. After the betrayal of her fiance’, she doesn’t know who to trust so keeps secret about her status from Ryam, the barbarian, even if she comes to trust him with her life. Meanwhile, Ryam is from the Lost Legion who were given a place on the border near the Great Desert to guard the Jade Gate into the Empire. He got mixed up in a betrayal that has him down on himself for being a poor leader that got good men killed and made him an enemy of the empire. He really shouldn’t be headed to the heart of said empire and was on his way back to his leader and the relative safety of the Lost Legion headquarters when he can’t help, but rescue and keep a beautiful young aristocratic woman (no matter how much she tries to disguise herself, otherwise) safe.
There is action when Ai Li and Ryam get busy with their swords and calm moments when this pair learn to understand and appreciate each other’s ways a little more and develop an attraction, respect, friendship, and an agonizing want for more though they know its not possible. There is exciting political intrigue swirling around them as rivals for the control of the empire since the last Emperor’s demise left a power void that has the wolves circling. China may be torn apart if General Chen who steps in as Emperor can’t hold it together. It was fascinating reading about this tumultuous time in Chinese history on a grand scale, but also the detailed cultural and social differences for the people themselves.
The romance was conflicted for many reasons, but I did enjoy this pair as individuals and together. They brought out the best in each other. They didn’t jump on their building attraction because of their class differences, the cultural norms, but also because she is an innocent and he respects her while she is suspicious of someone with that much experience. Yes, there was some humor moments mixed into it all. But, they do eventually tumble into bed and there are some nice spicy scenes there.
In summary, this was a treasure of a read for those who enjoy historicals set in Asia, class difference romances and lots of adventure and intrigue tossed in for good measure. I will definitely be finishing up with the series backlist sooner rather than later and can heartily recommend this series and any others the author has penned.
Mt. TBR #89
COYER Summer #29