Jeannie Lin has written a historical romance set in 758 CE China during the Tang Dynasty. Shen Ai Li, daughter of the Emperor, has been betrothed to Li Tao to seal an alliance between the Emperor and his rival. Before she can be married, however, she learns that Li Tao was responsible for the death of one of her brothers and that he is amassing a large army to usurp the throne from Ai Li’s father.
Ai Li is determined to warn her father of Li Tao’s perfidy. First, though, she must travel across country, even as she is being chased by Li Tao’s soldiers, to the Emperor’s palace. When she gives a beggar a rice bowl, he turns out to be a barbarian. Her body guards are drugged and she runs into the forest. The beggar, a swordsman of some skill, is Ryam. He rescues her as Li Tao’s men try to capture her.
Ryam promises to see her safely to the Imperial city, no easy task considering Li Tao wants her back. On the way to the Imperial city, Ryam recognizes that he is deeply attracted to Ai Li. He also knows that there is no hope for a relationship between Ai Li and himself. Nevertheless, the attraction is mutual and continues to grow as they run for their lives.
Lin has written a fast-paced adventure story, a historical, and, above all, a love story. Her characters, Ryam and Ai Li, are strong, intelligent, well drawn, and come alive for the reader. She has included many historical details without overwhelming the reader and her story with minutiae.
If you love your romantic stories set in distant times and far away places, Butterfly Swords should be on the top of your list.