The Taming of Mei Lin Review

A local corrupt magistrate has proposed marriage to Wu Mei Lin and it’s not an honorable proposal, but an offer to make her his second concubine. Though it will buy her family a certain amount of freedom, Mei Lin can’t do it. She promises she will marry the man who can best her in a sword fight, never foreseeing the number of brutes her estranged suitor will send against her and her family. Then one day a handsome stranger comes to town….

I really enjoyed this story, but not just because of the quality of writing or plotting or anything “writerly,” and not because the author is a friend. My enjoyment was for personal reasons.

Like Mei Lin, I have the same problem with my hair never staying out of my face. Neither Mei Lin nor I have ever felt particularly pretty, either.  And then there was the following scene. It comes at the end of the hero and heroine’s sword fight:

     “You’re good” he said.
     She parried and twisted his blade aside. “I don’t need you to tell me.”
     He grinned and pushed her further until she had to fight for balance. She wasn’t done yet. Boldly she ventured closer to where his longer blade would be less effective. Most practitioners weren’t comfortable there, but Shen Leung found her rhythm and flowed with her. The edge of his weapon broke through her guard.She stepped back, knowing it was too late.
     But he missed.
     The blade whistled past her ear. She stared at him in shock while he regained his stance and prepared for another advance.
     She had him. It had nothing to do with skill. They were closely matched in training, but there was so much more that went into a fight. The honorable Shen Leung was unwilling to hurt her. He didn’t realize it yet, but the battle was hers if she wanted it.
     With her new confidence, she could see all the openings. A warrior had to be ruthless and strategic. That was what she had been taught. He became a series of targets in her eyes. All she needed to do was catch another moment of hesitation and she would break through.
     And once she won… what then?
     Someone else would come. Another one of Zhou’s henchmen now that he was bent on revenge. Or maybe no one would ever defeat her or care to approach her with a serious marriage proposal. She’d have nothing but this speck of a town and the noodle stand. Shen Leung’s arrival had broken through the clouds. She might never feel this way again about anyone.
     They said he was a good man, a just and courageous one.
     She decided then. She met his attack edge on edge, loosening her grip slightly with the impact of their blades and the strength of his next attempt wrenched the hilt from her grasp. A collective murmur went through the crowd when her sword fell to the dirt. For a second, it almost seemed they had been cheering for her. Supporting the local madwoman.
     Shen Leung’s sword darted forward to stop just shy of her throat. She grew still beneath his gaze. He regarded her with admiration and something else, a fire she’d never seen before.
     He rested the tip of the blade gently against her collarbone, almost like a caress. “Do I need to draw blood, my lady?” he asked softly.
     He had already pierced her, deeper than he knew.
     It was Wang who broke the standoff. “Claim your prize, Master Shen!”
     The blade fell back. The exertion of the battle began to sink into her along with the oppressive heat of the afternoon. She wanted to wipe the perspiration from her face, but she didn’t dare move. She didn’t dare breathe as she watched Shen Leung’s reaction.
     “Take your bride,” Wang said. “From your battle, we can see your wedding night will be quite an adventure.”
     His cronies hooted with laughter. She considered blackening both of Wang’s eyes and perhaps breaking his nose as well.
     “Don’t be ridiculous, brother Wang,” Shen Leung looked embarrassed when he glanced back at her. “There will be no wedding.”
     Her chest squeezed tight. Heat rushed up her neck and flooded her face while he bowed once more. The noble swordsman didn’t want her.
     “Thank you for the match. Lady Wu is a formidable opponent.” He turned to leave. The cronies chanted their congratulations and ushered him toward the taverns to celebrate.
     Mei Lin was left alone, her sword fallen in the dust. The curious eyes of the townspeople bore into her while the cruel sun beat down upon her back.
It’s one thing to be sought after without wanting the attention. It’s quite another to make your choice as to where you will go and with whom, only to find out you’re unwanted. I’ve been in that situation and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At the end of this scene which is also the end of Chapter One, I had wet cheeks. In short, I had a strong character identification within a few paragraphs. And isn’t that one definition of quality writing?

The fight scenes are filled with realistic action and the love scenes are tastefully done, but after the opening scene, what grabbed me most unexpectedly about this story was the humor. I noticed I smiled a lot while reading, which is always something I cherish. Making me smile or laugh aloud is a far more difficult trick than making me cry and Jeannie Lin accomplished both. I’ll share one of the fun situations tomorrow, so make sure you tune in. (I typed it up today and ended up re-reading the entire scene because it still makes me laugh.)

In closing, I wish more time had been given over toward character development and showing us the world these characters live in. Not because the story lacked those things, but because I could have happily lived there far longer.  Fortunately, this was the first of at least two Jeannie Lin adventures set in the Tang Dynasty. “The Taming of Mei Lin” is the romance of a character who also appears in Jeannie Lin’s “Butterfly Swords,” but you don’t have to read Mei Lin’s story first; just make sure you do read them both. “The Taming of Mei Lin” is available from (via kindle), E-Harlequin, and on the Nook. “Butterfly Swords” will be in bookstores on October 1st, but you can order it from now.

Finally, make sure you head over to Jeannie Lin’s blog for other book and story coverage and to her contest page (select the linked picture to the right) for upcoming opportunities to win all sorts of prizes including twin butterfly swords!

Coming later this week, a guest blog from Jeannie Lin, author of “The Taming of Mei Lin” and “Butterfly Swords.”




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11 Responses to “The Taming of Mei Lin Review”

  1. Diane Scott Lewis says:

    An exciting excerpt, the sword fight, the humor, and the surprise ending with the man walking away.
    I like unusual romances, set in 'different' places, and this sounds perfect.

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Diane! This was a wonderful read, not overly violent and one you can devour within a few hours.

  3. Walt M says:

    That was wonderful. I mean it.

  4. Stina Lindenblatt says:

    Love the cover! 😀

    It's not the type of book I would (I stopped reading historical romances (???) several years ago), but it does sound intriguing.

  5. Susan B. Kason says:

    This is great!! I just bought Butterfly Swords and can't wait to read it next weekend when I'm on a mini-break in Minneapolis.

  6. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks Walt, and thanks for stopping by!

    Stina, I don't read romances either unless they're tucked inside a nice fantasy. I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Jeannie's.

    Yeah, Susan! Another book bought. ;D I'm waiting for it to come out on the bookshelves in October because I've heard some folks say it helps bookstores know what to stock. And of course, if they don't stock it, the book's less likely to be bought. That said, I do need to contact my local bookstore and order it. ;D

  7. Rachna Chhabria says:

    Hi Victoria..Mei Lin sounds like a strong character one I could definitely identify with.
    Thanks for the post. The story seems nice, I would love to read it.

  8. Mary Hill says:

    I have to say… I don't read romance- historical, fantasy or otherwise. However, when he walked away at the end of that scene? I'm hooked! I need to read the book so I can see what happens to Mei Lin.

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    It's one of those stories that's both a fun romp (double meaning intended LOL) and yet manages to tug on your heart, Rachna.

    Mary, I think you'd enjoy it! Thanks for commenting!

  10. Janet Johnson says:

    Sounds like a great book! Thank you for the review. Laughter is what draws me to books, too.

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    That makes sense, Janet, since you write great comedy. Thanks for commenting!

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