Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: The Concubine by Jade Lee

Title: The Concubine
Author: Jade Lee

Read copy: eBook
Published: February 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 1426827504
ISBN-13: 9781426827501

Requirements for being a royal consort:

1) Exemplify purity.

2) Pass all demanding tests.

3) Gracefully withstand petty backstabbing.

4) Be chaste. Very chaste.

Check to all! Chen Ji Yue is on her way to empress superstardom in nineteenth-century China. She only has to vanquish 300 rivals to bring her family great honor. Oh, and she may not find the deliciously sexy Sun Bo Tao—the emperor's best friend—at all delicious. Or sexy.

Damn. Ji Yue is in big trouble.

Because Bo Tao is definitely very sexy....

And Ji Yue is about to discover that chastity is overrated...

My rating:

A forbidden love in the Forbidden City.

Chen Ji Yue is one of the hundreds of virgins flocking to the Forbidden City in hopes of becoming the new empress of China. The road ahead of her is rocky. She has to shine among the other girls to even get into the final cut of 28 emperor's wives, among which he'll choose his consort and four head concubines, while the others will be relegated into the middle and lower harems, probably never to see their husband again.

The task ahead of Ji Yue should be a piece of cake, she's been raised to be a politician's wife, she knows what she's capable of, she knows her family's expectations, and she's prepared to do what it takes to bring them all honor.

To even get into the final and attempt to become the empress, she has to impress the Master of the Fertility Festival, the emperor's best friend and consultant in the shadows. But this is easier said than done, since Sun Bo Tao is the same man she's kicked out if her palanquin on the way to the Forbidden City. Ji Yue's fate seems pretty grim indeed.

This was a wonderful read, albeit a bit heavier than what we're used to from a Blaze title. It's a story of a young girl's struggles as she navigates the intrigue, hypocrisy, and treason of the Forbidden City in the times of Imperial China, where women are mere objects, sitting on the lowers tung on the imperial food chain.

Chen Ji Yue was wonderfully portrayed, combining the decorum and shyness of the time of her upbringing with a more modern vibe of outspokenness and determination. Her inner struggles between her family and her heart was heart-breakingly well-written. She knew what she had to do, she knew the possible punishment if she decided to stand against the protocol, yet her heart didn't want to be denied. The author did an amazing job in maintaining the fragile balance without inconsistencies.

Sun Bo Tao was Ji Yue's perfect counterpart. Although he was often relegated into the background to make her shine, he had quite a bit of an inner struggle to battle as well. Just the fact the emperor was his best friend, yet he had to defer to him as his leader, hating the fact his best friend was responsible for taking Ji Yue away from him, yet never acting on that anger gave Bo Tao depth and realism, elevating his character from the sidelines.

The romance between the two grew slowly and steadily, resulting in a wonderful love-story that brought tears to my eyes. The magic they felt when they were together, the love that was almost palpable, the hopelessness of it all. It was amazing.

This is the second book by Ms. Lee I've read so far, but it certainly won't be the last. The pace was wonderful, the story flowed effortlessly, the court intrigues spiced things up just perfectly, and the characterization was the absolute best. And the final twist...Nicely done.

It almost made me forget the "jade stalk". Almost.


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