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Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
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Butterfly Swords

by Jeannie Lin

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16115111,163 (3.47)8

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I loved the first half of this story. It's a great road romance in an unusual setting with unusual characters (for historical romance). Ai Li is escaping from an arranged marriage because she's discovered that her groom had her brother murdered and is plotting against her father, who is a powerful leader in the Tang empire (which leader exactly isn't revealed until much later). She is helped by Ryam, a mercenary barbarian from the West when the groom's henchman track her down. Ryam and Ai Li eventually make their way back to the capital, learning about each other and falling in lust-then-love along the way. But they are truly starcrossed lovers, since she's imperial elite and he's a mercenary barbarian. Her life and future are tied up inextricably with her family responsibilities, while he has no family except his fellow soldiers-for-hire.

Ai Li knows her parents will be angry, but she hopes they'll understand once she tells them why she ran away. Their reactions are unexpected, however, and that sets in motion the second half of the story. This part is a lot about imperial politics and their push-pull romance. How can they possibly wind up together? The answer, in the climactic scenes, was a letdown. Oh, they get their HEA, but it feels very deus ex machina and I would have liked much more backstory about how the decision came about. The characters who are so important in the closing chapters feel shortchanged, given how rich much of the rest of the book is. I also wanted way more about Fifth Brother, but that's a personal thing not a flaw of the book.

Ai Li and Ryam are very likeable as the main couple. Ai Li is not just a kickass heroine, the text shows you how she comes by her gifts, and both her strengths and limitations are well portrayed. Ryam has an interesting backstory, and while he's not the most charismatic hero (he's not educated and he mostly thinks about Ai Li and combat), it's kind of nice to have a hero who isn't All Things To All People. He reminded me a bit of Ruck in Kinsale's For My Lady's Heart.

The world is fascinating and immersive. I have no idea what the actual Tang Dynasty was like and there are definitely anachronistic/modern attitudes and representations in the book, but the internal consistency was strong and the characters worked within the fictional setup. This is a great debut, and it's more polished than I expected. I love Lin's later novels, but I expected this one to be rougher. It's not as complex and relies a bit more on tropes, but it's an engaging, rewarding read. ( )
  Sunita_p | May 18, 2019 |
Oh how I wanted to love this story, but I didn't. To be honest this was all I wanted to type for my review, and really there is nothing else that needs to be said. However, I will list what is becoming the very usual and oh so common issues with romance books I have been reading lately. (Someone get quality control stat!!!)
At the beginning of the story I felt really thrust into it, felt like I was playing catch up in the first couple chapters. While the backstory was interesting it took too long to for the author to get to important details. Then it started to feel like backstory details were being dragged out for too long because the info wasn't really crucial to the characters. By the time I am more than halfway through the book I should know why the characters are acting they way they are, otherwise I don't think people can really connect to them.
I could never picture what Ryam and Ai Li the lead characters looked like, which is so strange! Yes, Ryam was blonde and blued eyed and Ai Li had almond eyes and dark hair but the author didn't give them any depth and I always felt like I was reading through a veil. I couldn't get a grasp on the characters and because of this I never connected with them. The reader never gets to spend much time in their heads or reading their private thoughts so maybe this was the problem.
Onto a common complaint: Strong feelings for each other very fast. I never understood why Ryam was willing to give his life for Ai Li or why she was willing to go against her family, mind you when all she talks about it honoring your family, for Ryam. Love so fast when no reasoning was shown or given (not even the ole reliable lust at first sight!).
I don't want to ruffle any feathers but I feel like maybe this book could have been better if it wasn't a Harlequin series. I'm not usually a fan of their books. It seems to me they always kind of sorta dumb down and condense their books. The writing quality from the author seems to be there but maybe she was just handcuffed by Harlequin?
Anyway, there was a lot of walking from Ai Li and Ryam as they either were trying to get to her father or away. Then a little bit of "I could never be good enough for you" and a is he or isn't he violent/crazy honorable/strong villain. I was incredibly excited when I read about this book coming out. It seemed like a fresh story about a land and time period grossly ignored. But really it could have just been another duke/shy miss regency for all the enjoyment I got out of reading it.
The story was slow and frankly wasn't satisfactory. I could never even picture the hero and heroine which is so important. The C rating is due to the promise and quality I see in the author's writing and the freshness of the basis of the story. Like I said at the beginning I really wanted to like this book but my final words on it are lack of depth of character, slow, and disappointing.


Oh and I think the author needs to write a prequel to this involving Adrian and Miya's story. Their story sounds fascinating!

C- ( )
  WhiskeyintheJar | Feb 14, 2019 |
Listened to this as an audiobook. It was slow to start but about a third in I got involved with the characters and started to enjoy it. Wasn't sure how the obstacles would be overcome and the male character certainly suffers physically.
Not bad for a romance novel of this kind. ( )
  infjsarah | Apr 25, 2015 |
My experience with reading Butterfly Swords was pure pleasure. From the first page to the last, I was captivated and intrigued.

Ms. Lin weaves together a story you don’t want to put down, even when it is finished.At least, this was my experience. A Harlequin Historical, Harlequin did well chosing Ms. Lin to write for this imprint (line)

Set during the Tang dynasty, China, 8th Century, Ai Li is the only daughter of the Empor who was thrust on the throne, and not being born to it. Raised a princess, her grandmother taught her to use “8 chop swords”. which Ms. Lin refers to as Butterfly Swords in both the title and the book. Ms. Lin chose to use this name and not the name used by the Chinese because of the hard/soft aspect of the sound of it, and, the romantic and action-like connotations that the name Butterfly Swords depicts of the Asian setting and time.

Whatever reason Ms. Lin chose the name, I’m glad she did. From the moment I saw the cover, and Ms. Lin revealed it would be published, I have wanted to not only read, but own a copy of this book. I now do, thanks to winning a contest on a writer’s blog in the not so distant past. (Several months ago, actually.)

Ai Li has been transported to meet her as yet unseen husband to be, when she discovers he is responsible for her Fourth Brother’s death. Unable to bear the thought of being with this monster, as she sees him, she flees with the help of a trusted supporter. Along the way, she meets a golden-haired barbarian, a foreigner to the Empire.

Ryam has been in the Empire for some time, fighting and living with a band of brothers, so to speak. His best friend is married to the former Empress of the Empire, who fled the throne, leaving Ai Li’s father the new Empor. He has been battle-scarred, is tired and hungry when we meet him. He is struggling with the deaths of the men intrusted to him by his friend, and commander.

Ryam spots Ai Li, who has fled her betrothed, Li Taos,, due to his duplicity and is dressed as a young man in disguise. Our hero sees through this disguise and is amused that she seems somehow able to pull it off. Ai Li spots the hungry “White Demon” as her people call him and offers him her bowl of rice which he’s been smelling all the while watching her. When her companions all begin to drop, and a band of men, most likely Li Taos, men attack her and try to take her with them, Ryam comes to her rescue with his sword and his ability to wield it. He also discovers that Ai Li is more than capable with her Butterfly Swords which she has studied with her brothers for a considerable amount of time.

Ai Li and Ryam head toward Changan, the hub of the Empire her father rules. The princess proves to be not only beautiful, but strong and courageous, though at times, a bit deceptive with the hero. The two fall in love as they walk, ride, and fight their way to Ai Li’s parents home where she hopes to convince them that she cannot marry Li Taos.

When things don’t go as planned, Ai Li and Ryam must decide what is most important. Honor and Loyalty, or Love? Neither believes it possible to have both.

This was such an enjoyable read. Full of exotic descriptions of the “Silk Road” and the Tang dynasty era, one cannot escape the love that simmers and then boils over between Ai Li and Ryam. Throughout the book, Ryam calls our heroine Aylee, which in part helps us to understand how one would pronounce her name. This made reading Butterfly Swords just a little easier when it came to the heroine’s name.

If you enjoy reading historical, like Asian culture, you’ll enjoy Ms. Lin’s debut novel, which was a 2009 Golden Heart Winner. Unlike many historical set in the Regency period, this one gives us both a beautiful and dangerous time to read about.

I give this a 4 1/2 stars without a doubt. I encourage you to pick it up and read it. Like me, you’ll likely find yourself drawn to the other books since published by Ms. Lin, many of which are also set in the Tang dynasty era.

As I stated earlier, I received this as a prize from a blog of writer, not Ms. Lin. I chose to read and then review it honestly.
( )
  Sirsangel | Jan 17, 2015 |
3.5* I wanted to like this book more than I actually did and I can't figure out what the problem was. I liked the h/h, the setting was really cool -- it was great to read a historical romance not set in England during the Regency, but it wasn't one of those books I just had to keep reading. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood? I have another one of the Tang Dynasty books in my tbr, so I will probably give this author another chance since the books are short and theoretically right up my alley. :) ( )
  Bugetta | Sep 29, 2014 |
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Book description
JOURNEY TO THE VERY EDGE OF HONOR, LOYALTY...AND LOVE

During China's infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding.

Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior....

Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value. Ai Li's innocent trust in him and honorable, stubborn nature make him desperate to protect her—which means not seducing the first woman he has ever truly wanted....
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"During China's infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding. Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior.... Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value. Ai Li's innocent trust in him and honorable, stubborn nature make him desperate to protect her--which means not seducing the first woman he has ever truly wanted...."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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