Chang Fei Long has a problem, and Yan Ling just might be the answer to it. His younger sister has run away from an arranged marriage to a barbarian lord and he desperately needs someone else to take her place so his family doesn't get in trouble from the emperor. Unfortunately, even as he solves one problem, another one looms: what to do when he falls in love with the replacement bride himself?
I enjoyed this a good deal: it's rare that one finds a story about dynastic China, and Jeannie Lin does a good job of bringing the reader into that world. I appreciated how Jeannie Lin used proper Chinese names rather than translations, which can sometimes sound funny and strange and the attention to detail she displays. Chang Fei Long and Yan Ling's personalities were vibrant and vivid and their plights very real for that time and their place. The hardships they encountered didn't feel forced or artificial and made me root for them that much harder.
I did feel that Yan Ling was just a little too pert for someone of her social class, but that's something more easily overlooked as a plot device than an actual problem with the story. Some other details were just a bit off, just enough to throw someone off if they were conversant with the time period and culture, but nothing stands out as a real problem. I was confused as to why it was titled "my fair concubine" when that was never in the cards, and indeed led me to assume erroneous things about the storyline.
In all, I'd definitely pick up another book by Jeannie Lin, especially if it's one of the books leading up to or after this one. Highly recommended.
Yan Ling tries hard to be servile—it's what's expected of a girl of her class. Being intelligent and strong-minded, she finds it a constant battle.
Proud Fei Long is unimpressed by her spirit—until he realizes she's the answer to his problems. He has to deliver the emperor a "princess." In two months can he train a tea girl to pass as a noblewoman?
Yet it's hard to teach good etiquette when all Fei Long wants to do is break it, by taking this tea girl for his own….