Olivia Waite is a romance author, practicing feminist, and wide-ranging dilettante.
I've had The Lotus Palace sitting around since October, when I was privileged to meet Jeannie Lin at the Emerald City Writers' Conference. I've been a fan of her Tang Dynasty romances for a while now, so it was saddening to read her blog post about how she's struggled to find a readership in the white, white world of print historical romance. I've spoken before about my desire for romance to diversify its color range, so it seemed like it was time to put my money where my mouth is and do a review of a non-white, non-European romance.
Luckily, The Lotus Palace hit several of my favorite romance buttons. It has a lonely heroine, shy but steely underneath. It has a charming and somewhat flippant hero, who is human enough to make mistakes both in and out of the bedroom, and who is totally and completely smitten by the heroine. It has the long, slow burn of accumulated trust. Sex in this book does not guarantee intimacy -- have I mentioned how much I like bad sex scenes in romance? -- and trust is broken and repaired several times over the course of the story. Jeannie Lin's novels always have a particular sweetness, a quiet nobility that is the Harlequin brand at its best, and that sweetness is in full force here. The stakes feel real. The problems aren't easily solved.
But really, all you need to know about this book is that it gives you that sweet little kick to the vitals that is all I want from a romance. That little unf moment. The scene where you tear up on behalf of a character. The complete inability to put the book down unless forced by exigent circumstance.
Read now, thank me later.