Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

The Lotus Palace

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Lotus Palace (2013) Jeannie Lin

The Lotus PalaceTang Dynasty China, 847 AD

Yue-ying is a maidservant to Mingyu, one of the highest ranked courtesans in Pingkang li, the pleasure quarter.

Mingyu had started training in music, dance and calligraphy immediately after Madame Sun had taken her in. She had been twelve years old at the time, older than when many of the other courtesans began their rigorous education. Yue-ying had received no such instruction. Whereas Mingyu was considered ji, an artist and entertainer, Yue-ying had been chang, nothing more than a vessel, a whore.

Bai Huang has failed Imperial examinations three times, and is known as a flirt and something of a wastrel.

She was humoring him like everyone else in the North Hamlet. This was exactly the reaction he’d deliberately cultivated, but he sometimes regretted it was so.

Although Bai Huang has been paying court to Mingyu, it is not the mistress who has caught his interest, but the maid, Yue-ying. But he has to way to talk with her, until the discovery of a dead body–and then a second murder–leads them to attempt to discover the murderer.

I found this story to be a bit all over the place. It felt like it couldn’t decide if it was a mystery or a romance–and switched back and for in tone between the two, often feeling like neither.

The mystery wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, and I found the romance to be problematic on several levels.

As far as the mystery, it wasn’t clear why Yue-ying was trying to solve the murder, except as an excuse to spend time with Bai Huang. He, at least, had good reason to research the death, since he had failed to protect one of the murder victims.

As far as the romance, I had multiple issues. First, there was Yue-ying’s past and it affected her once, and then her issues seemed to miraculously just disappear.


When Yue-ying and Bai Huang have sex for the first time, she doesn’t enjoy it at all, and keeps remembering her past as a whore. One who may have been sold for the first time before she was even a teenager (although the text doesn’t make it clear when her first encounter was, only that she was sold and had no choice in the matter). Then he makes advances and realizes she wasn’t into it, and so he cuddles and kisses and she relaxes.

Then miraculously she’s into sex after that.

It felt to me like the author didn’t want Yue-ying to enjoy sex off the bat, because she had been made a prostitute against her will, but Bai Huang was so sweet and marvelous Yue-ying suddenly discovered that sex was great.

I disliked the hand-waving that made Yue-ying’s past trauma disappear with no effort or work on his part. It does a disservice to both the characters and the readers.


Secondly, I had trouble believing that The Thing standing between two could be resolved so easily. It’s possible the culture of the time would have been okay with a lord marrying a former prostitute, but it feels unlikely.

I wanted to like this story, but I mostly found it aggravating.

Publisher : HQN Books
Rating: 6/10


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