SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for January (and Harlequin TBR #513): The Taming of Mei Lin
I decided to join Wendy the SuperLibrarian’s TBR Challenge this year, since reading from the TBR is my main 2019 reading goal. And I do have my towering TBR of Harlequins to get through. January is always short reads, to ease us into the year. I knew I had books in Harlequin’s various short-story and novella lines, and I found a Jeannie Lin short from the Historical Undone line. It is the prequel to her debut novel for Harlequin, Butterfly Swords. I finally read that last year, so The Taming of Mei Lin sounded like a perfect follow-up.
This story is about 40 pages, more of an amuse-bouche than anything, but it packs a nice romance into its brief wordcount, complete with some sexy romantic scenes as well. Mei Lin is the grandmother of Ai Li, the heroine of Butterfly Swords, and her romance with the stranger who comes to town, Shen Leung, provides the ancestral backstory for the novel.
Mei Lin is an orphan who lives with her uncle, aunt, and cousin. She has resisted being married off as the third wife to the local magistrate, Zhou, which displeases both her uncle and Zhou. Mei Lin is adept in the use of butterfly swords and has decreed that she will only marry someone who can best her in a swordfight. Zhou can’t, and the emissaries he sends can’t either. But then Shen arrives. They are a well-matched pair in every way, and Mei Lin thinks this is a best deal she can probably get, but Shen doesn’t seem to want to claim his prize.
Their battle of swords turns into a battle of something more, as Mei Lin continues to fight Zhou’s thugs and Shen tries to stick to his plan to continue his solitary life. The attraction between them is convincing and well depicted, and the sex is integral to the story (as is always the case with Lin’s fiction, in my opinion).
As I said, this is a very quick read but a rewarding one. The cultural milieu is established well despite the word count constraints. If you haven’t read Butterfly Swords, start with this prequel, and if you have, read this for the backstory.
I wonder if this is in my Towering TBR? I know there’s some Lin in there still to be enjoyed! (And I read Butterfly Swords pretty recently too).
It might very well be! It was also reissued as part of a collection a few years ago, called Silk, Swords, and Surrender. The latter has one new story and the rest are her previously released shorts.
I read The Taming of Mei Lin when it came out and was underwhelmed. Coming after Butterfly Swords, which I DNF’d, it was the nail in the coffin of my interest in Jeannie Lin for a good long while. I didn’t give her another shot until The Lotus Palace, but then The Lotus Palace and the sequel, The Jade Temptress, blew me away. She’s probably a more hit-or-miss author for me than she is for you, given that we also felt differently about her first steampunk (the title escapes me right now). I tried her Liliana Lee erotica and while it was very well-written for what it was, it was not my cuppa either. I would really like to try more of her historical romances, though.
I didn’t really get on with Lin’s earlier books when I first read them. I DNF’d Butterfly Swords. I don’t know if it was the writing style, or what I was looking for, or something else. But when I went back to Butterfly Swords last year I liked it a lot. I find her style really works for me now. Maybe it’s because I loved the Lotus Palace books so much, and they helped me see commonalities with the earlier work, I’m not sure. It’s hard to explain sometimes why an author does or doesn’t work.