The reader who didn't.
Reviewed in the United States on 2 October 2020
(2.5 stars) Well, I dunno. Maybe I missed something here, because I couldn't find a 5-star story in this to save my life. Yes, it's a sweet romance. Yes, it's a lovely homage to author Milan's Chinese heritage. Yes, it informs, to an extent, about prejudice, racism, and bigotry, about the importance of family and culture. These are all admirable things. And the characters here are appealing people. And I also appreciated Milan's author's notes at the end of the story, notes which were more instructive and informative about Chinese history and culture than the story itself.
But the story, albeit romantic and sweet, had a very slow and repetitive plot and felt written just for Milan to pay respect to her heritage, not to supply me with a great romance. (Yeah, it's all about me here because I am in the minority about this romance.) I guess I'll give this three stars just because. Just because I admire Courtney Milan's stance on many social issues. Just because I have enjoyed many of the books she wrote in the past. (Mostly the Brothers Sinister, a Turner or two, and maybe one and a half of the Worth saga.)
It's 1890 in England. The hero is the son of a Chinese woman who married a white Brit of the peerage (who eventually, through misfortunes of family members, became the Duke of Lansing). After the death of his father, this mixed race young man is a duke of the realm. (Yep, that's right. There were a heck of a lot more Blacks living in Victorian England than Asians, but no matter that there were few mixed Black members of the peerage, much less dukes. That's not really important to the story.)
Our heroine, Chloe, is Chinese and lives in a village in the countryside which is 50% inhabited by Chinese immigrants. (Not sure if I read anything much about the 50% non-Chinese inhabitants. What did they do? Why were they there?) Jeremy, the young duke, has been coming every year since his adolescence to the village for its annual celebration, complete with a competition and lots of delicious Asian food to enjoy. He believes that he does so incognito, that nobody knows that he is the Duke of Lansing, owner of that village and its surrounding land.
Chloe is an introverted listmaking planner, considered cold and unfriendly by many. She doesn't leave home without her clipboard (called a "board clip" here for some reason. Isn't that the clip on the board, not the board itself?) Jeremy is more spontaneous and outgoing. He is also in love with Chloe and has been for years. Chloe is inlove with Jeremy and has been for years. Now all they have to do is get on the same page.
So the book is full of repetitive ruminating, repetitive conversations, a slow plot, and an eventual HEA. The tidbits about Asian food and culture, the characters' interactions, including other inhabitants of the village, a "brown sauce" being developed by Chloe's father and a revenge planned by them to get even with the British men who stole the father's initial sauce years ago and bottled it as their own, are all somewhat interesting, but not enough to make me like this more than I did.
Lest you think I am unfeeling about the plight of immigrants, I will tell you that my husband is one to the U.S. He is educated, speaks three languages, his acquired-language English with an accent. And he does not look Waspy white. So there are undereducated people in this country who just barely can speak their own language who feel superior to him because they are whiter-looking. I strongly dislike prejudice and bigotry. That was not my problem with this new Milan romance. I just found the romance lacking by my Romanceland standards.
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