I bought Jeannie Lin's novel THE JADE TEMPTRESS on the day it came out, because it featured secondary characters from an earlier book of hers that I really liked. I had just finished reading The Lotus Palace and had noticed that supporting players Mingyu and Wu Kaifeng were the bees knees and the chemistry between them crackled even though they only interacted a few times. THE JADE TEMPTRESS promised to tell me more about them.
Mingyu is a courtesan, not a prostitute. Men paid for the privilege of being around a witty, talented courtesan, but were not able to just buy a spot in her bed. Dudes had to work hard (and bring a shitload of presents) to charm a courtesan into taking them as lovers. Sometimes powerful, rich men would buy a courtesan's contract and she would be monogamous with them. Mingyu's contract is with a big shot general, and when she goes to see him one fine day, only his headless corpse awaits her.
Wu Kaifeng is a constable, a police officer with some status but not a whole bunch so he isn't one of the Fat Cats whom Mingyu is used to hanging with. However, he is trained in forensics and winds up the main man in charge of solving the crime. Isn't CSI a little anachronistic, you ask? Nope. Jeannie Lin herself explained to the reader that:
"Wu Kaifeng's forensic knowledge was based on case records of criminal investigations from as early as the Han Dynasty and through to the Tang Dynasty. The most prominent treatise on Chinese forensics in imperial China is physician Song Ci's "The Washing Away of Wrongs" which was written later in the 13th century. However, given that many of the earlier case records included detail about forensics investigations, I took some liberty and extrapolated that these processes of autopsy and crime scene recreation were likely, or at least believably, in place in some form during the Tang Dynasty."
One of the many reasons I love Jeannie Lin's books is the historical accuracy. Yes, she gave the Tang Dynasty an "alternate timeline" and can stretch the truth a bit for her storyline, but she kept the day-to-day life of 9th century China spot on. I know, because after reading her books I was curious enough to read books on Chinese history. First, the Chinese have a LOT of history. Secondly, most of their technology was so far ahead of Europe during the same time period it would give a self-satisfied WASP a big ol' sad.
Mingyu has been trained since she was really young to do one thing really, REALLY well: to manipulate men via their emotions and lust for her body. It is her only protection, her only armor, and her key to survival. Her superpower meets its kryptonite when she runs into Wu.
I adored Wu. I am pretty sure the guy has Asperger's syndrome, as does my own Sweet Babou. Wu's reactions, his behaviors, his seeming coldness that covers profound feelings -- all of that screamed Aspy to me. Lin either knows an Aspy or has yet again done research out her wazoo.
Anyway, you can image how Mingyu feels about running up against a man that doesn't seem to be moved by her womanly wiles. She slowly becomes…herself. Wu, who has been smitten with her for a long time but unable to express it, becomes one of the few people Mingyu knows who sees her as a human being, not art-on-sexy-legs. Of course, you gotta sleep with a guy like that, right? Like me, Mingyu discovers the delights of having laser-like Aspy attention focused on making you feel real, real good.
More interesting things happen in the book. The murder mystery is good. Character development grows like someone fertilized it. Finally, Wu and Mingyu get to their Happily Ever After, and boy did they deserve it!
I am giving this one a solid 5 stars.
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