Friday, March 23, 2012

Digital Review: Capturing the Silken Thief

Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin is everything a good short story should give readers.  It's has a fully realized plot, well developed characters, and is a complete story.  I love the Harlequin Historical Undone line, but I've read enough of them to say that they're not all created equal.  This one though?  This is one of the good'uns.

Jia is a singer, a musician, and essentially an indentured servant.  She plays for her wages, and in theory should one day have earned enough coin to pay for her freedom.  Of course, we all know that's not really how it works.  The price keeps rising, and she knows if she is ever going to be free she'll need to do something drastic.  Opportunity falls in her lap when she learns a very wealthy man is willing to pay a large sum of money to get his hands on a book of poetry written by a famous courtesan.  The trick?  Finding the book, which was last seen at the Lotus Pavilion.  The last man who had his hands on the book fits the description of Luo Cheng, yet another face in the parade of uppity scholars that invade the North Hamlet every year hoping to pass the imperial exams.

Luo was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He's a farm boy, a country boy who wants nothing more than to elevate his station and bring honor to his family.  Think of it as the poor scholarship kid who finds himself attending some Ivy League prep school.  Anywho, Luo has attempted the imperial exams twice already, and failed.  This is his last shot, and he's studying his fingers to the bone, desperate to make good.  Then Jia shows up throwing a wrench in the works.

I really enjoyed this story, in large part because these are characters you don't see every day in historical romance.  I don't really want to label Luo a "geek" - but he's not a sword-wielding Alpha warrior either.  He's a scholar.  He's a guy who does a lot of living in his head.  Jia is street-smart, savvy, and knows all too well how the world works.  She's seen both sides of the coin.  It's easy to understand how she stereotypes Luo even before she meets him, and she's not the sort of character who gets the wool pulled over her eyes that easily.  They're a good match.  Jia wakes Luo up and as a result he has a bit of an epiphany regarding his upcoming exams.  In turn, Jia finds herself reevaluating to what lengths she will go to attain what she desires.  Yes, she desperately wants her freedom, but does she want to sell her soul in the process?

This is a very good story, and an excellent introduction to Lin's work.  If you've been curious to try this relatively new author, but haven't been sure about investing your time in a full-length novel, this tasty morsel is just the ticket.

Final Grade = B+

10 comments:

A Library Girl said...

Oh, I would love to read this, but I'm sticking to my determination not to buy DRM-protected stuff. I wish her works were published through Carina Press instead. I just have to settle for buying anything she publishes in print.

nath said...

This sounds very good, but at the same time, very familiar ^_^; LOL, when you say Luo is a not a sword-wielding Alpha warrior either, I can totally imagine what he wears and his little student cap LOL.

I love what Ms Lin is doing, making Chinese historical romances more popular... but for someone who read and watched them as a kid, the idea of of reading in English? Big barrier to overcome :(

little alys said...

I keep hearing good things about this author, but it's not in print. >_< One day soon I will cave and buy it, but for now, I shall gaze lovingly at your reviews in the meantime. :)

I really do like historical settings aside from just the same old British etc.etc.

Kristie (J) said...

I haven't tried this line yet but this sounds like a most excellent book to start with. I have a couple of her books but no idea where they are at the moment. I see a new purchase in my vision soon.

Wendy said...

Library Girl: Harlequin has published a couple of Undone collections in print - but not sure if that's going to be a regular plan or not. I think there have been two so far? And they've been released under the HH banner.

Wendy said...

True that - it wouldn't necessarily be something "different" for you :) I really liked this story though because of the scholar angle. Gives a little different perspective on the history.

Wendy said...

Alys: She's got a couple of full-length Harlequin Historicals in print - Butterfly Swords, The Dragon and the Pearl....and she's got another one out soon-ish (May?).

Wendy said...

Kristie: All boils down to if you like to read "short." I've had good luck with the Regencies actually, also the medievals. The westerns? Not so much. Besides Lin, I've really liked Michelle Willingham a lot in this line. I tend to read them for TGTBTU mostly - so you can find several reviews over there :)

A Library Girl said...

Thanks for the info! I'll cross my fingers, then, that this story ends up in a print collection. In the meantime, I still have Jeannie Lin's The Dragon and the Pearl to read.

Christine said...

I read [and reviewed] this one, too, Wendy and really liked it as well! :D