I love to read and can get very attached to my opinions, but recently I've been learning not to completely lose my head when people disagree with me, so feel safe to argue with me whenever you wish ;)
For the lover of the steamy sex scene.
I must admit, I was not prepared for the fact that the majority of the story's suspense was sexual. It's just that, as a non-habitual romance reader, it's hard for me to grasp a relationship so deeply rooted in the physical. Nor can I imagine by even a light-year leap of empathy (at least at first) being attracted to someone who threatens you. How does that even work?
Once I got past that though, it was hard to put down. Because the relationship between two people takes center stage, you know what to focus on, what suspense clues to look for. The kind of tension that builds to a storm or dissipates in a heartbeat. As the story goes on, flashbacks reveal Suyin and Li Tao's pasts, and I found myself mesmerized by how their present personalities and harsh outlooks on life came to be.
Both have been brutally taught by experience not to expect much from their long-term futures, so the sex reads a lot like escapism. Grasping at connection, then returning to reality. Eventually, the emotional chemistry grows strong enough that it's worth preserving at any cost, with hopeful possibilities that they individually would never have dared to hope for.
Historical detail was awesome as expected, rich and colorful and culturally immersive. I smiled at the story of Sun Tzu's raising an army from the imperial harem, the emperor's delight that he and Li Tao share the same family name. One flashback shows that palace eunuchs did in fact pose threats to the women they guarded, despite their lack of sexual potency which gained the trust of the state, and it's all the more immediate because it happens to our main protagonist.
History is altered for the sake of story, the exact details of which are hard to describe without spoiling. Ling Suyin is taken from Yang Guifei, Emperor Li Ming from Xuanzong. Set in 759 A.D., the empire is in danger of fracturing in the wake of rebellion and a ruler's death. Warlords like Li Tao hold too much power, but transfer to central administration would leave the borders vulnerable and result in chaos. I would have loved for this book to expand into an epic political chronicle, but perhaps that's just a sign of how much Lin stoked my imagination with nothing more than backdrop.
Page-turning, but I seriously need a break from romance and will probably check out her steampunk series next. *whew*