Jeannie Lin has once again knocked it out of the park with this riveting tale of love and the fulfillment of desire with An Illicit Temptation, the sequel to My Fair Concubine. Lin’s mastery of the flower language coupled with fantastic, travel worthy narratives have pulled me deeper into the romance genre.
The first chapter left me flustered with all sorts of images clouding my ever fertile imagination. I was terrified for the protagonist Dao, who’s only too eager and happy to have left her lowly station as a household servant behind to assume the role of Princess An-Ming – a role vacated by her half-sister Pearl.
Dao is on her way to an arranged marriage to a Khitan chieftain and what she believes will be a much better future than she could have hoped for. Yet by the end of the first chapter, Dao has broken so many rules, I feared for her life. You don’t just up and kiss a total stranger while on your way to your own wedding!
Unbeknownst to Dao, she is being escorted by the very man who’d arranged this marriage in the first place. As a gesture of goodwill, the young Khitan prince Kwan-Li was sent to the Imperial Court where he spent his formative years learning the ways of the Empire. Now he’s not only “bound by honor to escort the Princess safely across the wild and untamed steppe,” but he’s caught in the middle of his own personal struggle of either adapting Han Chinese culture or maintaining his own identity.
Eventually Dao finds the life of a Princess less appealing as she is besieged by her strong attraction to Kwan-Li. In an effort to fight her feelings, she doesn’t make Kwan-Li’s journey easy, as she makes demands that inevitably slow down the traveling procession.
Saved from an attempted kidnapping, Dao gives in to her passion, thereby altering the relationship between herself and Kwan-Li. Overjoyed to find her amorous feelings returned, Dao is desperate to find a way out of the arranged marriage.
This tale had me on the edge of my seat and I certainly didn’t see the twist coming. But I’m quite pleased with the end result. Lin is a wonderfully, gifted storyteller whose vivid and compelling descriptions serve as a wonderful backdrop for her riveting tales of honor, love, conflict, and desire.