Book Review: A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin

Title:  A Dance with Danger

Author: Jeannie Lin

Publisher:  Harlequin Historical, April 21, 2015, 281 pages

Copy Source: Won in a giveaway on http://www.jeannielin.com/

Jin-mei is 19 and the only daughter of the local magistrate, raised to be a proper young lady in Tang Dynasty China.  Bao Yang has wealth and status, but as the leader of a rebellion, he is an outlaw  bent on revenge against a local warlord, General Wang.  When their unplanned encounter threatens her honor, Yang asks Jin-mei’s father for permission to marry her.  So a little flirtation leads to marriage and adventure.

Jin-mei soon learns that those she trusts are not always honest and hopes that Yang can put aside his plans for revenge for her sake.   Yang is slowly falling more in love with his clever and outspoken wife, but he cannot and will not stop the plans he has set in motion.

I first became aware of Jeannie Lin when I was looking for Steampunk novels written with non-European settings.  I enjoyed all of “The Gunpowder Chronicles” series available so far (one short, one full-length novel Gunpowder Alchemy) and when I saw she had a giveaway for A Dance with Danger on her website, I entered and was very pleased when I won a copy ahead of publication. If I had not won it, I could easily see myself buying it partly due to the cover.  It being published by Harlequin, however, gave me pause as I had not read a Harlequin romance since the late 1980’s.  But this is not the Harlequin I remember.

Jeannie Lin’s historical novel is well-written, the characters have depth, the relationships are believable, and the adventure is interesting.  Fitting so much adventure, and a touch of the politics, in 281 pages does not leave much room for depicting life in the Tang Dynasty, but there is enough here to give a western reader the feel of another time, culture and place.  The depiction of China and Chinese culture in AD 848 felt authentic while being rendered in a very accessible way by the author.  The reader is not subjected to a history lesson, but is treated to some intriguing details (I’m thinking in particular of certain things mentioned in passing – the five punishments, the nine exterminations, the three obediences and the ten abominations).

3.5/5 stars – A well done historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China.  Recommended for those who enjoy romance and adventure (with the caveat that this is a Harlequin and not from their Love Inspired line, so there are several scenes of adult content after Jin-mei and Yang are married).

This was a difficult review to write without it being full of spoilers.  I really just wanted to give an entire outline of the book in synopsis form, but I prefer to stay spoiler-free.  But… as I read, there were two couples I thought should have stories of their own.  The first, it turns out, does.  The story of Li-Feng and the thief-catcher is told in The Sword Dancer.  As these two books are the start of a series, I am hopeful that the next will feature Li-Feng’s brother, the former bandit Liu Yuan.  And I wouldn’t mind more of the ship’s captain, Lady Daiyu.

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