Review – The Jade Temptress (The Pingkang Li Mysteries #2) by Jeannie Lin

The Jade Temptress cover image

Publisher: HQN
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Welcome to the infamous Pingkang Li—home of the celebrated Lotus Palace courtesans, and a place of beauty and treachery…

Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter. She has all men wrapped around her finger—except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can’t resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.Wu Kaifeng’s outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu. But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail. Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu’s fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences…
This blurb came from the author’s website.

I first discovered Lin’s writing back in 2010 when Dear Author had a lot of discussion over Butterfly Swords. You can take a look at the posts here and here. I have been fascinated with historic and present Asian culture since I discovered Shogun and Tai-Pan as a child. My fascination continued throughout my formal schooling and I was lucky enough to live in South Korea for 2.5 years. When I saw the discussions on Dear Author, I had to give Lin’s books a try and I found them enjoyable.

Pingkang Li, an area that should only be known for beauty, culture, and politics has expanded to include high profile murder cases. Mingyu was involved in the murder investigation at the center of The Lotus Palace and was hoping to relax back into her customary life until the regular flow of events was upset once more. She first discovered Constable Kaifeng, the one man she had been unable to manipulate, appearing frequently during her outings. He made her uncomfortable, yet she also found herself drawn to him. Constable Kaifeng at the same time viewed Mingyu as someone completely untouchable who made him wish his life circumstances were different. Then they were thrown together with the discovery of another murder.

While The Jade Temptress used the murder of a high profile official as the catalyst to draw a series of characters into interaction with each other, it really wasn’t the central point of the story. What I noticed the most was the struggle between remaining within traditional roles regardless of the discomfort or deciding to experience unknown aspects of life outside the customary role. The struggle was not limited to Mingyu’s character, even if her life appeared the most constrained, but was experienced in varying degrees by most of the characters and how their choices impacted the whole. I did enjoy the subtleties and political obstacles involved in the murder, and found the overall answer both very fascinating and very telling of the importance placed on traditional roles.

Both Mingyu and Constable Kaifeng displayed certain aspects of their characters in The Lotus Palace so it was fascinating to see other facets emerge as they became the center of attention. Mingyu moved between reinforcing her traditional distance from Constable Kaifeng, asking him for assistance, using the power that came with her position, and dealing with unsettling complicated emotions. It was very interesting to watch the transitions and wonder if the next event would bring Mingyu further out of her shell or push her back into her role. Constable Kaifeng was usually able to easily distance himself from his investigations, but he found that ability challenged since his first encounter with Mingyu. Watching him slip between a dispassionate investigator capable of doing anything in his pursuit of justice to a man longing for something he couldn’t posses but unwilling to settle for scraps was very moving. It also spoke of the impact Mingyu had on his worldview.

I enjoyed the setting, and political and cultural intricacies woven throughout The Jade Tempress as much as I enjoyed the slow growing romance between Mingyu and Constable Kaifeng. The glimpses into the inner workings of Mingyu’s life and the politics amongst the girls and their “Mother” did a lot to explain how Mingyu behaved. Likewise, watching the relationships Constable Kaifeng had and the effects of politics on both his investigation and his career colored the meaning of justice. And even though the murder seemed more of the triggering event, I was very satisfied with how things played out and how the solution fit the subtle undercurrents and coincidences that complicated the investigation to begin with. Lin once again provided me with a vivid entertaining read that nicely fed my desire to become immersed in a non-Western culture.

I give The Jade Temptress a B+

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