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Secret of a Thousand Beauties

Secret of a Thousand Beauties

by Mingmei Yip


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Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting—a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete—betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Praise For The Novels Of Mingmei Yip

"A unique and enthralling style. . .flawless." –Baltimore Books Examiner on The Nine Fold Heaven

"Surprising and often funny. . .Part epic, part coming-of-age story, part modern fairy tale." —Publishers Weekly on Song of the Silk Road

"A serious, engaging story of faith, devotion, and the commingling of cultures." –Booklist on Petals From the Sky

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617733215
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 11/25/2014
Pages: 315
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mingmei Yip was born in China and received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. She has written for major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on many national and international television and radio programs. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, where she now lives in New York City with her husband. Her novels have been published in ten different languages and she is also an accomplished musician and calligrapher. Visit her at www.mingmeiyip.com.

Read an Excerpt

Secret of a Thousand Beauties

By Mingmei Yip


Copyright © 2014 Mingmei Yip
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-322-2


It was my wedding day. I was horrified.

Because my soon-to-be-lawful—and awful—husband was not even a man.

He was a ghost.

Well, a man, but a dead one! A sinister being, his cold hands reaching toward me from the yin world....

When we were engaged, in accord with tradition, I'd never met him. In fact, no one had ever met him, because my ghost husband-to-be and I had been engaged long before we were even born. My mother and her best friend, my ghost husband's mother, lived in the same village and happened to get pregnant around the same time. Following the ancient tradition zhifu weihun, they pointed to each other's protruding bellies, and proclaimed, "If we give birth to a boy and a girl, they'll be husband and wife when they turn seventeen."

So, because of our extremely old and extremely unfortunate tradition, my fate had been decided even before I was born. I was going to marry a man I could never know, not even see, because he'd died before he could make it outside his mother's belly. Like a snake, her umbilical cord wound around his tiny neck and squeezed the tiny breath out of him.

"But, Spring Swallow," said my mean aunt, addressing me by name, "a promise is a promise."

It was my misfortune to have been raised by this very mean woman because both of my parents had died in a bus accident not long after their future son-in-law's failure to enter this life. It was whispered around the village that because the baby could not lure his parents to join him in hell, he dragged down his intended parents-in-law instead.

My heartless aunt went on. "You know, failing to keep a promise not only shames your ancestors, but will bring your husband's ghost back to haunt you. So, you have no choice but to marry him, dead or alive. Also, because not only your future husband but your parents also died, no man will marry you."

Before I had a chance to ask why, she cast me a malicious glance. "No man wants to marry a bad-luck woman!"

But I knew the real reason that Mean Aunt was so eager for me to marry a ghost. Not because I was bad luck, but because I would be good luck for her. My ghost husband's family was one of the richest in the village. Though the wedding would bring me no husband, it would bring her a bundle of cash and a heap of expensive gifts. But, of course, rich people do not give away their money just because they are nice. Once married to their ghost son, I would be obligated to take care of my mother-in-law until she died!

My aunt went on to threaten me. "You think any man would want to marry you? Born under an all-destroying star? Spring Swallow, you really have no choice. So don't even think of escaping. I won't let you destroy my reputation and ruin my life!"

Escape. That was exactly what I had in mind all along. I didn't care about my aunt's reputation and life. Because living in our remote village and being an old maid, she didn't have much of a life to begin with anyway.


Excerpted from Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip. Copyright © 2014 Mingmei Yip. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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