This needs to be said first. A historical romance NOT set in England or during the Regency! And the main (and I should say all) characters are not white!
I enjoyed this one. A bit slow at times. I found the romance a very nice, slow burn. Yue-ying and her sister Ming-yu were sold as children into slavery. Ming-yu was beautiful, so she became a courtesan. Yue-ying has a red birthmark on her left cheek. This marked her as unlucky and people would stare at her. As a result, she was forced into prostitution. In this world, a courtesan is educated and her patrons are wealthy, well known.
Ming-yu is able to find and buy Yue-ying. Yue-ying becomes her maidservant. At the beginning, I really didn't care for Ming-yu. I thought she was cold. IMO, she did a complete 180 and her coldness was a result of the events that were unfolding.
Bai Huang was from an old, rich, well known and respected family. He made many bad mistakes and choices. Having conquered (mostly) and learned from his mistakes, he spies for his father, playing the idiot. He notices Yue-ying and very gradually empowers her to come out of her shell and speak her mind.
I don't think the mystery/murder was the strongest aspect of the story. What made this excellent IMO was the romance, acceptance, and trust between Yue-ling and Huang. I was also wondering how J.L. was going to pull off the HEA. Nice.
Looking forward to Ming-yu's story.
For Ripped Bodice Bingo: the pre-renaissance square!