An Illicit Temptation serves as a sequel to the author’s full-length Harlequin Historical novel, My Fair Concubine. A lot of authors use the shorter Undone format to create lead-in or follow-up stories to other books or even series, and this practice has created varied reading experiences for me. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. Lin makes it work with this story, although I do think readers who have read My Fair Concubine first will get a little bit more enjoyment out of this tale.
Of illegitimate birth, Dao was raised to be nothing more than a servant. However, when her half-sister flees an arranged marriage, Dao is sent in her place to fulfill the obligations of a peace marriage. After all, the intended groom has no idea what Princess An-Ming looks like, so what’s the harm? And, besides, after a life spent in toil and servitude, being a princess sounds pretty fantastic to Dao.
Escorting her on the journey to her intended groom’s homeland is Kwan-Li. While he was raised among the Khitan tribes, he has spent the last several years at the imperial court in Changan. His presence there, and now the impending marriage between his khagan and the Han princess, is sure to bring more stability to the region. Which means above all circumstances he must keep her safe, and, you know, not become attracted to her. Which begins to prove exceedingly difficult as they spend time traveling together.
Even with a short word count, Lin takes her time setting her stage, immersing the reader in the wildness of the steppe. In the forward, the author compares the steppe, this vast wide open space of the Chinese landscape, to the American frontier – and it’s an apt description that really invokes a solid foundation for a road romance.
What the author also continues to do well is work with the star-crossed lovers theme. She writes heartbreak very well, with Dao torn between doing her duty and fighting her attraction toward a man she has no hope of having. In turn, Kawn-Li has spent his life torn between his people, his heritage, and the emperor. This marriage means stability and peace, he cannot afford to let his own feelings get in the way.
An enjoyable, emotional story that plays on the author’s strengths. There’s plenty of conflict to churn the story forward, but it’s not rushed and doesn’t feel unfinished at the end. If anything, I wanted to spend more time with Dao and Kwan-Li.
Tang Dynasty China, 824 A.D.
Dao was raised as a servant, but when her half-sister flees an arranged marriage to a chieftain, Dao is sent in her place as Princess An-Ming. Such a future is better than she could have hoped for, yet she dreads a passionless union with a stranger.
Taken as a virtual hostage to the Imperial court, Kwan-Li is torn between his people and his duty to the emperor. He is bound by honor to escort the princess safely across the wild and untamed steppe, but the greatest danger they face on the long journey may be the forbidden temptation of each other…
Other books in this series: