This review was originally written for the Romance Reviews http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooksreview.php?bookid=153
Ai Li is the number six child of the family Chang during the Tang Dynasty. Trained in the ancient art of butterfly swords by her grandmother, she is no meek woman, she is a warrior. As with most women of the time she is sent off to be married to Li Tao, to help cement relations between their lands. Ai Li learns of her intendeds duplicity as well as his involvement in the death of her brother and realizes that he is a traitor. She takes the advice of an old lieutenant, Wu, dresses as a young lad and escapes her promised husband in order to warn her father of his treachery.
Ai Li is a strong and independent woman, but is also very respectful of her parents and their traditions. While she does not want to marry a man she does not know, she follows her family’s wishes.
When she escapes, she knowingly breaks tradition, but feels that her family would understand when they learn of Li Taos part in the death of her number four brother. It is during this juncture that she meets Ryam a barbarian from another country. She is kind to a stranger when she could just ignore him; she does not treat him as most foreigners are treated. She is a mix of strength and femininity with a very good heart.
Ryam is trying to forget his part in the death of his comrades. He is in a strange land with nothing but his sword and his wits to protect him. When he first spots Ai Li, she is dressed as a young man. He sees through her disguise immediately and is amused that she seems to be pulling it off. He gets involved when Ai Li is being attacked, where he then becomes her one man rescue. Not that she is not capable and very deadly with her butterfly swords as he sees for himself. He is fascinated by the contrast between the purity of her womanliness and the strength of her skills with the swords.
As Ryam agrees to stay with her till she gets home to Changan, they run into many serious satiations where each is required to draw on their deepest internal spirit to get them through. They are being pursued by Ai Li’s bridegroom, Li Taos, who will not allow himself to lose face by her desertion. As a consequence of them traveling together, they begin to learn about each other as well as develop a trust based of mutual respect. What neither of them anticipates is the attraction, which is there right from the beginning. On Ryam’s part this attraction is visceral and raw; he is hard put to keep himself away from her. The glances cause heat and you can feel his tension and his urgency. Since he has made himself her protector, he continues to try to protect her against himself. Ai Li also feels the attraction but is very aware of the situation she is in. She is still betrothed to another man, and while she at least hopes her family will understand why she has left and possibly caused them embarrassment, she is also even more aware of his foreignness and how it will be accepted by her family. Every touch, every look, between the two of them has you yearning for more. There must be a way for them to be together, as their tension strains at the very bond that holds them together.
This is a wonderful story of family and how they come together; it is about learning to trust yourself as well as those around you. Jeannie Lin brings the time and place together in such an amazing way, almost as though you were watching it through the words. This is a brutal time and place in history but also a time of the most famous of love stories, the most beautiful poetry and the most exquisite fashion . She has brought us to a place in history and brought it to life; she has allowed us to see what many have never had a glimpse of. The story was well told, the romance bold but sweet, and the characters were exactly what was needed to bring it all together. There were a few times in the story where it bogged down a bit, causing it to lose momentum, but over all, it was a wonderful read.
Ai Li has escaped her intended husband in order to inform her father of his treachery as well as his involvement in the death of her brother. She has not gotten very far before her would be rescuers decide to become her captors. Ryam is unwittingly drawn into this by the kindness that she has shown him. When he saves her, only to be saved by her in return, they become traveling companions as she races to reach her father.
They are pursued by her intended Li Tao, and run into danger and excitement at every turn. Ai Li is well trained in the ancient art of Butterfly Swords by her Grandmother, unbeknownst by her mother. This is not what well bred young women do. They are obedient and follow their father’s wishes.
Ai Li is a mixture of amazing strength as well as a source of innocence. Ryam is a barbarian in a land of refinement. They are meant to be together, but they may be in the wrong time and the wrong place. Butterfly Swords is a fast paced and energetic book with wonderful characters. Will they be able to break the bonds of obedience, and what will happen to their forbidden love?
This book is a free ARC ebook received from Net Galley. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.