If you're a fan of historical romance, this book is a real treat. It reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha, though instead of Japan this takes place in Tang dynasty China. The book is set in the world of courtesans, which are similar to geishas in that they are cultured, trained party hosts to the rich business class, and the women often just as oppressed with limited choices.
Yue-ying is maidservant to the courtesans in one of the most popular houses. Bai Huang is a playboy who becomes fascinated by Yue-ling, who is clever and acts stand off-ish toward him when women usually cower in his presence. Yue-ling notices he likes the challenge, and is frustrated by his continued presence. When a courtesan in their community is murdered, both Yue-ying and Bai Huang are questioned, and their paths continue to cross. Bai Huang is keeping secrets and Yue-ying needs to watch out for herself and her own courtesan house above all else. Of course, a simmering, forbidden romance between them lurks.
The historical and cultural details are what make this book such a great read. The details are not laborious, they are intertwined so easily that it shapes the story itself. I've been reading a lot of romance fiction since joining Romance Writers of America, and to be honest, there is only so much Regency-era British nobility I can handle. Ancient China is unique setting and it really adds to the storytelling to offer something different.
The next book in the series, The Jade Temptress, just released in February 2014 (look for ebook deals; I've seen the price vary for both of these books in the past month.)