This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Indie/Self Published
Released on August 27, 2020
What jubilee and excitement I felt when I learned of The Hidden Moon’s release! I have been wanting this story since meeting Wei Wei and Gao in The Liar’s Dice novella. Set in the historical Tang Dynasty of China, author Jeannie Lin masterfully weaves an enchanting forbidden romance and a clever mystery that make one reluctantly set down her book for mundane matters.
The Hidden Moon is the fourth entry in the Lotus Palace Mysteries (sometimes referred to as the Pingkang Mysteries). The Hidden Moon does work best if it follows The Liar’s Dice novella and all the main side characters were introduced in the previous books so I think a reader would get more out of them if they are read in order.
A jade chop with the Emperor’s etching on it turns up at the same time an aristocrat and his entourage are found assassinated. Not long after, another body turns up at the river. Life in the capital city in some of its wards can get dicey, but this is something else. Gao is not one who draws attention to himself, but if it means spending any time with the lovely, untouchable Lady Bai Wei Ling, he will put his street skills and cunning mind to tracking the assassins and those who sent them right along with her. He aches for their fortunes to be different- to not be nearly destitute and rough and for her not to be an aristocrat’s daughter with a clever mind and high education. He tells himself to leave be and to move on, but his heart yearns and their intertwined fate leads them on a dangerous investigation.
Wei Wei finds each encounter with Gao stimulating and exciting. Her caged existence behind the walls of her family’s mansion and stifling expectations that she marry well when she wishes to remain free and not forced into a certain mold of dutiful wife and mother. Slipping out disguised as her younger brother in the night when the Pleasure District is lively and seeing so much is nearly as exciting as tracking a killer and the conspirator behind it all. She knows his vicious reputation and is warned away from him, but it only with Gao that she can be herself and he respects all aspects and not just the part approved by her class. She knows her duty to family, but her heart cries out for something- someone- else.
The Hidden Moon paints an exotic world of the past and it feels authentic from setting to characters. It is obvious the author does her homework down to rituals and customs or clothing, for that matter. I was rather taken with the full-sleeved silk robes that have a hidden pocket up the sleeve.
But, where the heart of the story is are the complex and engaging characters. Family and friendship define these stories behind the romances. Even if this means sometimes an unlikely association like Wei Wei and Gao or her brother, Huang, and his low born wife or her extended family who were a former constable and courtesan. This group are loyal and rely on each other for help when called upon. But, it’s not just the main group, even the bit parts offer some colorful bit of description or personality.
This romance is not a case of do they feel, but the knowledge that it doesn’t matter because it can’t be. There is even the arranged suitor who is a good man and an honorable one. I loved this pair together and ached for them to find a way because they were equals in all the ways that really count. The sensual attraction was always there and built in the background of other aspects of the story in just such a way that it felt natural when it surged forward.
The suspense element had a few twists and was full of political intrigue and exploded with excitement on the streets of the city. I liked the build of tension and felt some breathless moments. Once they had the answers and even a big fight moment, this side of the story was wrapped up offset.
I got the impression this was the last book, but I do wish there could be a story for Song Li and a certain someone, pretty please. I’m not ready to leave this series behind, but then I say that about all the author’s series. Those who love historical romance in an Asian setting should snatch this series up and get lost in the Tang Dynasty.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
New Release #139
Historical Fiction #88
About the Book
A well-bred lady and lowly street hustler team up in a historical murder mystery set during China’s glittering Tang Dynasty. Part of the best-selling Lotus Palace series.
Impetuous and well-educated, young Lady Bai has always been the forgotten daughter between two favored sons. However, when Wei-wei’s older brother is tasked with investigating a high-profile assassination, he turns to his clever younger sister for assistance.
Gao is a street-wise scoundrel with a checkered past and a shady reputation. He knows better than to set his sights on the high-born Lady Bai, but when she asks for his help, he can’t refuse.
As the unlikely pair chase down a conspiracy that reaches from the gutters of the capital to the imperial palace, Wei-wei is intent on seeing justice done, while Gao is determined to solve the mystery just for her – even if the attraction between them can never be more than a moment’s longing.
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