Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin is an historical romance novel that takes place in China during the Tang dynasty and follows a young woman who is fighting to protect her family, but must face the consequences of falling in love with a foreigner. Lin’s novel is the first in her Tang Dynasty series.
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.
I’ve read a couple historical romance novels before and all of them are pretty much par for the course. There’s a vaguely important historical backdrop, in this case the main character’s father is a ruler during the Tang dynasty. There’s also a forbidden romance of a sort – in this case our heroine falls in love with a foreigner (a white man, in this case) – and it’s a cause of strain and tension between the two characters. In my experience, the story is told from both the male and female perspective, so we get both sides of the angst! And, of course, in the end, things work out and hero and heroine get to be together, despite all the odds.
I will say that I enjoyed Ai Li’s character in that she is a skilled fighter, she is willing to protect her family, even if that means sacrificing her own happiness, and she is not afraid of facing difficult situations. I thought Ryam, the male protagonist, was okay, but he was a pretty one-dimensional figure. In fact, he’s sort of the typical dude in any historical romance novel I’ve read from this publisher – he falls in love with the girl, surprisingly to him, and yet he knows he just. Can’t. Be. With her. And all of his chapters are him falling in love even more but then lamenting on how it will never work and she’s too good for the likes of him and he’s a scoundrel undeserving of love. It gets old pretty quick.
Aside from all that, the story is pretty predictable. The two main characters fall in love, but then have to separate from each other, but eventually they find themselves back together and, in the end, it all works out and they can be together. Everyone’s happy. Which is fine, I don’t expect a romance to wow me with an intriguing plot and unexpected twists. As long as I enjoy the romance aspect, I’m pretty happy. And this romance was okay. Very middle of the road.
Literary Value: 3/5
As I said above, very middle of the road. I didn’t love or hat Lin’s writing. It was a decently written story, the characters were interesting enough that I cared about what happened to them. Despite a couple of characters, like Ryam, being a bit one-dimensional, I found the overall character development to be adequate. I enjoyed my time reading from their perspectives.
The plot was decently constructed. There was enough tension in places to keep me interested. At the same time, despite its predictability, I felt that the story was constructed in a way that kept my interest up the whole time and I was never board. I did appreciate the bits of history that Lin included and would have liked to see more. But I understand that her main goal was to write a love story, and that can’t happen without some sort of backdrop for these characters to interact with.
I think the strongest moments in this story the moments where Lin focused on Ai Li’s family. The family dynamic brought the most drama and the most tension and Ai Li’s connection with her brothers was the most interesting.
Entertainment Factor: 3/5
This story definitely kept me interested throughout. I was never board, nor did I find myself wanting to put the book down. I actively read it and I enjoyed the ride. Now, it didn’t wow me either, but I don’t think I would count that against the book’s story or the author. It’s a decently written romance and I liked the characters well enough that I wanted to know what would happen to them.
That being said, I don’t think I’ll read any further books in this series. I picked this book up mostly because it fulfilled a reading challenge goal for me, and while I enjoyed reading the book, it didn’t pique my interest enough for me to wish to return to this series.
Cover Art: 2/5
I am not a big fan of this cover. I don’t like when real people are used to stand in for a character in the book. I don’t like some publisher decided on what the character looks like rather than me imagining the character for myself based on the description given. The one thing that I can say that I do like about them having a real person on the cover is that she (Ai Li, I’m assuming) has her butterfly swords, which are an important aspect of her character and come into play throughout the story.
I like that the red of her dress is striking and eye-catching, but I generally find covers like this to be a bit tacky looking. It doesn’t look good to me. Instead, it just seems like the typical trashy romance, which automatically sets up assumptions about the book before it’s even opened. So no, I wouldn’t feel compelled to pick this book up based on the cover.
Overall Rating: 2.75/5 Swords
For me, this book was an okay read. I didn’t love or hate the book. I enjoyed the romance between the two leads, I enjoyed the little bits of history that were included along the way. Mostly, the fact that this story kept me interested and I never felt bored during the reading of it is a plus.
I would recommend it to those looking for historical romance books. It’s definitely a good enough book to be worth the read, though it has a few flaws. I’m much more lenient in the romance department, however, so I’m not holding anything against it. If this kind of book is your thing, you’re going to enjoy it. ‘Nuf said.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading my review! I hope I’ve helped aid you in your decision to read this book. If you have read it or if you’re thinking about reading it, let me know what you thought in the comments! And as always, happy reading!