This book was well-written, and had a great story... but I just never really connected with the characters. I read this book because it has one of my favorite themes: a romance between two people from radically different cultures and for whom a relationship would be considered 'taboo' or otherwise socially unacceptable. The book started out very well but just couldn't hold it together.
Lydia is traveling to Shanghai to meet her fiance, from whom she has been separated for three years. He does not realize she is coming, however, and Lydia is somewhat naive and isn't careful about all of the dangers of being an Englishwoman alone in a country like China. She gets abducted and sold to a brothel, where she will fetch a high price.
Ru Shan is the owner of an embroidery shop and a follower of Taoism. Longing to be immortal, Ru Shan comes to the conclusion that he is overcome with the strength of his Yang, and his tutor tells him that the only way he can cool his fire is to balance his yang with yin. So Ru Shan purchases Lydia, seeing that she is full of untapped yin.
And so begins the slavery of Lydia and her training in Taoist sexual practices. This part of the book was actually quite interesting, and had me doing a bit of research on Taoism and yin/yang.
But where it went wrong was how Lydia suddenly gave up on all of her anger over having been kept as a slave, and decided she loved Ru Shan. I think... this part could
have been believable, but the author just didn't take the time that was required to build their interactions and relationship. Lydia's love was too sudden and too soon after her hatred.
I did like how the book ended, and the ultimate message is that Ru Shan could not attain his greatest desire - immortality - with just Lydia's yin alone, he needed her love and to love her in return. The book itself ended a bit abruptly, but otherwise, it was a fairly decent read. This is the first book I've read by this author, and I'll probably try more.