It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China
Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistressuntil she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.
Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, let alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?
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Tang Dynasty China, 847 AD
An unseen force threw Yue-ying from her pallet. The entire building shook around her and the rafters groaned until she was certain the Lotus Palace was going to be torn apart. Too startled to move, she crouched low with her hands over her head. They were all going to die.
Suddenly the shaking stopped. With her heart thudding against her ribs, Yue-ying gradually came back to herself. It was dark and she was on the floor in her sleeping area. The walls of the pavilion creaked around her as they settled.
Before she could catch her breath, the shaking started again. A cry of alarm came from outside the chamber.
It was Mingyu. Mingyu needed her.
Yue-ying struggled onto her hands and knees, while a sea of silk tangled around her. Mingyu's entire wardrobe had been tossed onto the floor. Yue-ying shoved the material aside and stumbled to the doorway, clinging on to it for balance.
There was no door between the two compartments. A gray light filtered in through the windows of the sitting area and Mingyu was standing at the center of it, her long hair wild about her face. She was dressed in her sleeping garment and the pale cloth coupled with elegant lines made her appear otherworldly. She looked more like a ghost than a woman.
Yue-ying started to go to her, but the building lurched again and she was thrown to her knees. Mingyu fell to the ground as well and they scrambled toward one another. In an uncustomary display of emotion, Mingyu embraced her, clutching her close while the walls shuddered around them. At any moment, the roof would come crashing down to bury them.
It was an eternity before the shaking stopped. Afterward there was absolute quiet; a funereal silence as the inhabitants of the Lotus Palace held their collective breath, waiting. She and Mingyu remained on the floor, holding on to one another and too afraid to move. Then the hum of voices began.
Mingyu let go of her abruptly and straightened, smoothing her hands over her shift. Her chin lifted with a regal air and she was the elite courtesan again.
Yue-ying tried not to feel discarded. She should be accustomed to Mingyu's changing moods after serving as her personal attendant for the past four years. Mingyu could be warm and engaging, affecting a smile that lit the room brighter than any lantern. When she was not surrounded by admirers, she would often become distant, lost in some inner world of her own making.
"Heaven must be displeased," Mingyu declared.
She peered out the window with a thoughtful and disturbingly serene expression. Mingyu had perfected that look. Even Yue-ying found it difficult to read her thoughts through it.
"That's only superstition," Yue-ying replied.
The ground wavered once more, as if in argument. Yue-ying pressed a hand to the wall to steady herself, while Mingyu stood tall and still, a fixed point amid the turmoil.
Earthquakes were not uncommon in the capital city, though this was the most violent one Yue-ying had yet to experience. Everything that could fall had fallen. The dressing room where she slept was a disaster: silk robes were strewn all over the floor and the powder table had overturned, spilling pots and jars everywhere. She was lucky it hadn't fallen on top of her.
Madame Sun set the other girls to work clearing the parlors and banquet room downstairs. The Lotus Palace was one of the larger establishments in the pleasure quarter of the North Hamlet, also known as the Pingkang li. There were seven ladies, courtesans or courtesans-in-training, along with Old Auntie and Yue-ying.
The courtesans all called Madame Sun "Mother" and did whatever she told them. Even Mingyu, who was the most successful and thus most favored of the "sisters", never disobeyed her. Yue-ying had heard that Madame Sun could be a demonness with her bamboo switch, though she had yet to witness it.
Unlike the others, Yue-ying had no one to answer to but Mingyu. Also unlike the other girls, she possessed no literary or musical skills to elevate herself in status. Her fate had been decided from birth by a bright red birthmark that curved along her left cheek. The stain rendered her unsuitable for the pleasure houses, for who wished to invest time and money to train a courtesan with a ruined face? A prostitute required no such training.
She was a maidservant now, but up until four years ago she had been nothing but a warm body. The Lotus was indeed a palace compared to the brothel where she'd once lived and she no longer hid her face behind a thick layer of powder. No one cared if a servant was ugly, and no one paid any attention to her when Mingyu was present.
Yue-ying focused on setting their quarters back in order, righting the dressing table and picking the robes off the floor. She selected a light one that was suitable for the warm summer weather before shoving an armful of clothing into the wardrobe. Then she sorted through the cosmetics, salvaging what she could.
Later, as she was fixing Mingyu's hair, another tremor rocked the pavilion. The force of it was slight in comparison to that morning's quake, but she inadvertently jabbed Mingyu's scalp with the long pin she was holding.
"Forgive me," Yue-ying murmured after regaining her balance.
Mingyu remained seated calmly at the dressing table. "There is nothing to forgive."
Carefully, Yue-ying inserted the pin into a coil of dark hair to keep it in place. She worked in silence, mentally going over the ever-growing list of tasks she needed to accomplish that day.
"What if something happened to me?" Mingyu asked out of nowhere.
The phrasing of the question sounded decidedly odd. "No one was hurt. We were all very fortunate."
The courtesan was insistent. "I do not mean just this morning. What if something should happen in the future? Earthquakes often occur one after another. What if the next one brings the building down? Or if the ground opens up?"
"You were not afraid of earthquakes yesterday," Yue-ying reminded her gently.
Mingyu sniffed. "You know I am not speaking only of earthquakes."
Yue-ying could see Mingyu's eyebrows arch sharply in the bronze mirror. Even agitated, she was still beautiful.
"Nothing has happened. Nothing will happen. There is no need to go searching for tragedy."
Mingyu said nothing more while Yue-ying finished dressing her in a robe of jade-green embroidered with a floral design. The courtesan resembled the paintings of immortals with her luminous skin and eyes that were mysterious and dark. The silk swirled around her as she strode from the dressing room. Her expression was tranquil, but her movements were anything but.
Yue-ying moved with purpose once Mingyu was gone; sweeping the parlor and making it presentable, propping up the broken screen that covered the bedchamber entrance as best she could. The inner rooms she left to be sorted out later.
She was right to move quickly. It wasn't long before one of Mingyu's patrons came to call, even though it was only the middle of the morning. Apparently, the earthquake had woken up the city and everyone was eager to gossip.
Taizhu, an appointed court historian, was an occasional visitor to the Lotus, though he had been coming to speak with Mingyu quite often lately. There was a touch of gray to his beard and his face was creased with more laughter lines than frown lines. For an academic, he was an ox of a man with thick shoulders and arms. The indigo color of his robe spoke of his elevated status as a member of the Hanlin Academy.
Yue-ying went to set a clay pot onto the tea stove in the inner chamber. It took her a moment to light the charcoal inside it. When she returned, the elderly scholar was already standing beside the wall with ink brush in hand.
Taizhu wielded his brush like a swordsman, writing onto the wooden panels in black ink. Afterward, he stood back to admire his handiwork and read aloud:
"A new Son of Heaven takes the throne. Who is it now?
Hard to say, when each one seems like the last. But this time the Earth has chosen to pay homage. Should we all fall to our knees?'"
With a coy look, Mingyu took the brush from the historian's hands. She presented an elegant contrast to Taizhu's warrior pose, with one hand holding her sleeve, her brush flowing in small, graceful movements. The old scholar generously read her addition once she had finished.
'"This humble servant thanks the kind gentleman for precious words.
From a revered talent who has studied the Four
Books and Five Classics.
But the tea has not yet been poured,
Is common courtesy no longer taught in the Han- lin Academy?'"
He burst out laughing. "Lady Mingyu thinks I'm a grumbling old man."
It was a common game in the Pingkang li, the dueling of words back and forth. Yue-ying slipped past them and headed back to the inner chambers to see to the tea. She had little grasp of the sort of language the scholars enjoyed.
The water was ready. Yue-ying measured out tea leaves into two cups and set the pot beside them on the tray. Another guest arrived as she returned to the parlor and she nearly ran into him, tea and all.
Bai Huang was a well-known fixture of the entertainment district. He was a night owl, a flirt, a spendthrift and an eternal student, having failed the imperial exams three times. He was dressed in an opulent blue robe and his topknot was fixed with a silver pin.
"My lord" She started to mumble out an apology while trying to keep from spilling the tea.
She was met with easy laughter as the young aristocrat reached out to steady the tray. His hand closed over hers and her pulse did a little leap, despite itself.
The corners of his mouth lifted, gracing her with a sly smile, before turning to the others. "Only tea?" he asked with disappointment. "Where's the wine?"
Taizhu waved him over. "Ah, the young Lord Bai is always good for a few laughs."
Bai Huang carried the tray over to the party himself, forcing Yue-ying to follow him in an attempt to retrieve it. Her ears were burning by the time she managed to wrest the tray from him, but the nobleman was oblivious.
"When I was awoken this morning by the earthquake, my immediate thoughts went to you, Lady Mingyu," he said. "I worried for your safety and could not be consoled until I saw with my own eyes that you were unharmed."
Taizhu snorted. "Your poor suffering heart."
Mingyu placed a warning hand on Taizhu's sleeve, but Bai Huang merely accepted the remark with a chuckle. He remained deaf and blind to insult, like a contented frog in a well.
Lord Bai had taken to openly courting Mingyu over the past few months, composing effusive poetry about his loneliness, his sorrow, his aches and his pains, which he would publicly dedicate to Mingyu, reciting verses whenever present company allowed.
If he never had to speak, then Bai Huang and Mingyu would have been perfectly suited. He was the picture of masculine beauty with prominent cheekbones and a strong, chiseled jawline. His eyes were black and always able to catch the light, highlighting the perpetual quirk of amusement on his lips. He bore the high forehead that was considered a sign of cleverness, but anyone who had come across Bai Huang knew better.
Yue-ying made her own effort to keep the peace by pouring hot water over the leaves and setting out the cups. There was no better reminder to be civil than tea. She had to fetch another cup for Lord Bai. After preparing his drink, she glanced up to catch him watching her. The look was there for only a moment before he took his tea.
"Up so early, you scoundrel?" the old scholar taunted. "After last night, I thought you would still be pickled in rice wine at this hour."
"Your concern touches me deeply, Lord Bai," Mingyu interrupted in a soothing tone.
He looked obliviously pleased. Taizhu shook his head, fingers pinched to the bridge of his nose. Yue-ying went downstairs to fetch a plate of red bean cakes from the kitchen as it seemed the men would stay awhile. When she returned, the old historian had turned the conversation back to the imperial court.
"This is an opportunity to advise the Emperor that he must change course. Heaven has given us a sign. Earthquakes and floods have been known to topple dynasties," the historian pointed out sagely.
Bai Huang was already shaking his head. "A sign of what? It sounds more like superstitious doomsaying," he said with a bored look.
"What does it matter if it's superstition or not? If such a disaster gains the Emperor's attention, then it can be used as a means to an end," Taizhu argued.
"This morning's disaster serves as a better excuse for a couple of friends to complain over tea," Bai Huang contended, lifting his cup. He attempted to drink, then frowned and peered into it, finding it empty.
As Yue-ying bent to fill the empty cup, Bai Huang startled her once again, halting her movement.
"What do you think, Little Moon?" he asked.
Mingyu's mouth pressed tight at the casual endearment. Yue-ying glanced at Bai Huang. Dark eyebrows framed his face, giving him a serious expression that was contrary to his usual carefree manner. The nobleman had never spoken directly to her in such company before.
"Has the earthquake provided you with any signs?" he persisted.
The room fell silent. Old Taizhu affected a shallow cough and sipped his tea in silence. Bai Huang was the only one unperturbed. He continued to look at her, smiling crookedly as he waited for an answer. His gaze on her was insistent, but not unkind. Yue-ying looked nervously to Mingyu before answering.
"I was frightened at first," Yue-ying admitted. "But sometimes rain falls and sometimes the earth moves. That was all it seemed to me."
"Yue-ying." The courtesan's command was soft, yet somehow sharp. "There is no need for you to remain here. You are free to continue with your other duties."
Yue-ying immediately set the pot down without refilling Lord Bai's cup and retreated toward the door.
Mingyu regained control of the conversation quickly. "Old Taizhu, have you considered that the earthquake might have been a warning to those bickering factions in court rather than our gracious Emperor?"
Bai Huang would find himself cut out of the conversation for the next hour, perhaps for the whole afternoon if Mingyu decided he deserved it. They continued on to more pleasant topics: the upcoming festival on the double fifth and the number of candidates who had passed the exams that spring.
Was Lord Bai deliberately trying to provoke Mingyu? Or had he simply forgotten that the courtesan was very strict about anyone being so familiar with her attendant?
As Yue-ying reached the door she turned to see Lord Bai staring at his still-empty cup. After an expectant pause, he reached over to pour for himself since Mingyu wasn't being amenable. As he sat back, the young nobleman directed his gaze across the room and caught her watching him. He raised the cup to her in salute, eyebrows lifted.
Her heartbeat quickened and she swallowed past the dryness in her throat. Yue-ying might have been unaffected by his beauty, but she wasn't completely indifferent. Any other woman would have been flattered by his show of interest, but she merely turned, head held high, and exited the parlor.
Lord Bai knew exactly what he was doing.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Escape from the rush and stress of the present. This story set in Tang Dynasty China, 847 AD, is as delightful as tea prepared by the heroine. Yue-ying is a maidservant to one of the most beautiful women in the Pleasure Quarter. She observes the scholars, bureaucrats, and merchants that come for drink, conversation, and music at The Lotus Palace. She believes no one notices her, a shy girl with a red birthmark on her face. Bai Huang, a man of good family, does notice the servant while pretending infatuation with her mistress. Bai is not all that he seems, and when a courtesan in a nearby house is murdered he turns serious about solving the mystery. Bai Huang convinces Yue-ying to assist him. She’s reluctant at first, until the mystery deepens and her own mistress is put at risk. Lots of twists and turns to develop the main characters before the murderers are brought to justice.
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin is fantastic. It had just the right blend of intrigue, history, and romance. But it was the multidimensional characters and their arcs that really make it all come together. On top of all that was an intense, dark, poignant, and incisive social commentary. How Jeannie Lin packs such a visceral punch into such a small space (category romance) I do not know, but pack it in she does. The story opens with Yue-ying, the servant of one of the most sought after courtesans in the Pingkang Li. Yue-ying might be a servant, but she is also so much more. As the story unfolds she is a sister, a lover, a sleuth, a defender, and few other roles as well. She is an amazing person and her backstory only adds to the person she is. As her arc progresses, it is easy to see what Bai Huang sees in her. She has a quiet courage, a quiet strength, and exudes a calmness that soothes those around her. Bai Huang, on the other hand, appears to be all flash and bang, empty and shallow. But underneath that surface is a man who is so much more. His life lessons have been different from Yue-ying’s as they come from wildly different backgrounds. Yet they complement each other perfectly. United in their search for a killer or killers and despite Yue-ying’s protests, they grow together into a single cohesive unit. This gradual coming together is done so well and so completely that it becomes almost impossible to separate the two. Each character arc becomes utterly entwined with the other as they challenge each other to become better people, to fight for what they have together and to find a way to make right the wrongs they uncover. The supporting cast is outstanding, and several have their own character arcs as well. This adds tremendously to the overall depth of the story because it feels that much more real. It also highlights the importance of family and society. Mingyu, Yue-ying’s mistress, and Wei-Wei, Bai Huang’s sister, are wonderful in their own right. Each have their own strengths and journeys that fit into the overall storyline and themes. This is not a lighthearted story. Not only is life difficult for both of them but the societal issues they face are grave indeed. When the social commentary really kicks in, it is done so without any preachiness, just a simple outlining of facts. Time and place, culture and history, were also like characters adding to the overall ambiance of the story and giving it some of it conflicts as well as some of its resolutions. This was the complete package, a must-read, a keeper. RATING: 5 Heat Rating: Mild REVIEWED BY: Monique Neaves Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
“She strung their moments together one by one like jewels on a necklace.” The Lotus Palace. Jeannie Lin has scored again with The Lotus Palace, a lush, layered tale of murder, intrigue and love in 9th century China. History and romance fans will cheer for this tale of a maid and a noble who struggle for a future together in spite of challenges posed by duty and society. Yu-ying is maidservant to one the most celebrated courtesans in the land, content to remain in the shadow of her mistress, but keenly observant of everything. Their home is the Lotus Palace, the premier pleasure house in the Pingkang li district. Bai Huang is the son of a wealthy government official, out to show his father he has changed his profligate ways, yet weary of the pretense he must employ to do so. Included in the pretense is dancing attendance on the lovely courtesans around whom information—and secrets—swirl. In the midst of all the lavishness, Huang cannot help but notice the shy Yu-ying. The intelligent maid refuses to be impressed by his extravagance or his charm. When Yu-ying happens upon the discovery of a man’s body on a boat, little does she know she will be pulled into a murder investigation that will reveal her past and threaten her future. And when a courtesan is killed shortly after the body’s discovery, Bai Huang insists upon investigating. Only he knows that the lady had sought his help to leave the district just days before her death. Developments force Yu-ying and Huang to join forces, and in the days that follow, they discover their attraction cannot be ignored. But although she’s drawn to the handsome Huang, Yu-ying knows that their different stations means she can never be his wife. All she can expect to become is his concubine. And that’s not what she wants for her future. The search for a murderer leads the two along a trail as intricate and ambiguous as the poems written on the walls of the Lotus Palace. Because, they discover, in the Pingkang li pleasure district, few people are what they seem. Fortunately, the young lovers also discover that the path of love can lead to the right destination, after all. Ms Lin has given us a wonderful romance bursting with colors and fragrances and sounds of an intriguing time in Chinese history. She excels at world building. Her work should be recommended reading for beginning historical authors to show how setting and detail can be woven unobtrusively into the fabric of a story, so when readers turn the last page, they feel they’ve inhabited that realm. Her writing is as rich and textured as the stories she tells. Like the quote above, she strings words together like jewels on a necklace and lays them across the pages in this gem of a book.
Exotic adventure! I have just read this book THE LOTUS PALACE by Jeannie Lin. What a delightful journey, it has been to discover the fascinating world of courtesans. The Lotus Palace was the home of the most exquisite courtesans in China. It's the story of Yue-ying a young maidservant and personal attendant of Mingyu, an elite courtesan and of Bai Huang aristocratic playboy! I loved Ms. Lin's characters and the role they played in this murder mystery plot filled with intrigues. I love how the author developped the friendship that was transformed with time into a beautiful love between Yue-ying and Bai Huang. This world that the story was set in, was filled with secrets and it kept me interested until the end. You will want to know who is the murderer! Ms. Lin is a talented storyteller, she very well described in so many ways, the many roles that women held in the Chinese society through out times. It was also interesting to discover the traditions and the culture of China! I highly recommend THE LOTUS PALACE, Ms. Lin's first book in The Lotus Palace series. I will definitely be reading more books by this author.
Yue-ying is a maid servant to Mingyu, a famous courtesan at the Lotus Palace. The beauty and opulence of the Pingkang Li serve as a cover for political intrigue, secrets and danger. Yue-ying may be street smart and practical but she is invisible to others. Bai Huang, an aristocratic playboy, is a frequent visitor to the Lotus Palace. Why is he playing the hard-living fool? Who is he really courting? The murder of a laborer brings Wu Kaifeng, the head constable, to investigate. Suddenly Mingyu disappears. How was she involved? Jeannie Lin has written a beautiful and lyrical story. Her descriptions make the Lotus Palace and her inhabitants come alive. I was captivated by her characters. Their problems and emotions are so real that they pull you into their world. The surprises keep coming in this engrossing story of love and honor. Jeannie's attention to details shows how thoroughly she has researched her topic and how much she loves the Tang Dynasty. This book is a keeper. The author gifted me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“The Lotus Palace” is a very moving novel that takes readers into a world that most know little about, all the while making you care enormously about the characters. Yue-ying is an unusual heroine in that she has a beauty most do not recognize (due to what she believes is a disfiguring facial birthmark) and a practical attitude toward her past, her station in life, and how little she can expect. Lord Bai Huang is a privileged aristocrat with familial and personal advantages putting him in a world that has no place for a woman like Yue-ying. The beauty and joy of this intricately written novel is discovering how these two get to know each other, contribute to solving the mystery of two murders, and shatter all expectations while fighting for their future happiness. Tang Dynasty China comes alive with detail and meticulous description. Secondary characters are also finely drawn and contribute to both plot and setting, helping to make up the world in which Yue-ying and Bai Huang struggle to find their place together. While the mystery keeps you guessing and moves the plot along, the characters truly shine and are what make this book special for me. Everything comes together in creating an exceptional historical romance novel that you will remember long after turning the last page. I personally cannot wait for what author Jeannie Lin plans next!
"The Lotus Palace" is the beginning of a new series by Jeannie Lin. This historical romance takes us to Pingkang Li and into the mysterious world of the courtesans. I loved this historical romance for it's great love story and the good historical detail. By this time I've realized that if I pick up a Jeannie Lin book, there are a couple things that I can count on. One is a swoon-worthy love story. Two is a great setting that leaves a lot of room for some quality armchair traveling. Lucky for me, both of these elements were also present in this book. Okay, so the romance in this book was really good. I loved the story between Yue-Ying and Lord Bai. This is a classic story of two lovers who come from completely different worlds but find love together. Lin gives a fresh take on this story by creating characters that you really want to be together. I don't want to give too much away about Yue-Ying's background as it's part of the story but I was really pulling for her throughout the entire book! I loved the setting of the book too. I don't get to read about Asia nearly enough. Ancient China is so fascinating to me. Even though this is a romance, there is a ton of good historical detail. The Lotus Palace truly comes to life! Now according to Goodreads, the next book isn't coming out until 2014. Count on me waiting with bated breath!
I was fascinated by her descriptions of the time and place. Found myself engrossed in the characters and rooting for them.
This book is so lightweight that a 6th grader could have written it. I did not realize it was a Harlequin novel when I got it. I think I got it free but if I had paid for it, I would have tried to return it.
Can i be the med cat
This was my first historical romance in Chinese culture. I'd read some fantasy based on old myths, but never anything set in "real life." The culture of the pleasure houses is very vibrant. If the woman is considered a great beauty, she can live a life of ease - hosting grand parties and holding discussions with intellectuals and poets. If the woman is flawed she becomes nothing more than a piece of flesh to buy and sell. Mingyu is a great beauty, but her maidservant Yue-ying is flawed. They are both shocked with the oldest son of a wealthy family, Bai Huang, begins to show an interest in Yue-ying. (I did have a problem with the names at first just because they were very unfamiliar.) During this time there are two horrible murders in the city, one of which is another courtesan, and Huang finds himself drawn into the investigation for a wide variety of reasons, dragging Yue-ying along with him. This part of the story didn't flow as smoothly as the rest of the story for me. It dragged quite often and slowed down the progress of the book overall. I wish there had been either much more or less about it instead of it hovering uncertainly in the background for much of it. It seemed to just be the excuse to get the two characters to have a conversation instead of a major driving force (which I think it was meant to be). There is a HEA, but it seemed to be a little forced - but I won't be saying much more on that. The romance was well written and I love how much of the culture was brought into the story. From the clothing and hair accessories, to the family formalities it really brought the story to life. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
He pounces on her, pinning her.
"I know many, my love." He piped, nuging to thin the tension, "We will become Lotusclan, a young generation of new warriors."
Although it had a different plot twist, I had guessed the secret before it was uncovered, but not for lack of a good plot! Read in a day as the writing style keeps your interest! Amazinglifestyle women have been forced to live all over our world and through the ages to present! I will be reading more of this author'swork in the future.
She padded in.
Hello. My name is icetail of blazeclan. I am sorry for the rudeness of my warriors that they poste ads on your territory. It will not happen again. I do not approve of the act, and the perpretrator will be punished. Again, i apologize for the inconvenience.
Brokenhearts locked out! Shes in next res.