Sherry Thomas always intrigues me and I’ve read many of her books. I’ve read “My Beautiful Enemy” also but I wanted to have the audiobook experience. I liked it in book format but I felt a level of frustration with the story. So here goes.
First, this is a very demanding and complex story line. When I read it the first time I felt very lost and confused and irritated because the author not only jumps around in between the past and the present but also her characters have two names and the author uses them both.
I do have to say that I enjoyed the audiobook much more and it could be because I already read the book so all the previous frustrations did not surprise me. I do have to say that it is a story worth reading/ hearing and the plot is very satisfying.
As I mentioned already, the plot is very complex as are the characters but I have to hand it to Thomas, this is an incredibly original, completely unpredictable, action-packed, mystery -packed and ultimately satisfying love story.
Catherine Blade is Ying Ying. When she is in London and in British society her pseudo is Catherine. When she is in Turkestan she is Ying Ying. Because the story runs parallel with the present and the past we know that Ying Ying had a lover-Captain Leighton Atwood. When the story starts she has a chance meeting with him when she saves his fiancé’s aunt! Neither Catherine nor Leighton acknowledge their shared past. In fact, except for a few awkward exchanges and the flashbacks it’s the only way we know about just how impactful their relationship was.
Catherine is so fascinating. She trained to become a killer/ spy for the chines government but she carries the shame of her birth on her shoulders. She finds out that her mother was a courtesan and her father and English man. Many of her insecurities and her fears are derived from this. She is also incredibly smart, quick and when she first meets Leighton he often complements her not only on her wit and intelligence but her strength. Catherine and Leighton fall in love and he saves her life but through a series of miscommunication and divided loyalties they are parted and do not see each other for eight years. During those years neither stopped thinking of the other but when their lives finally come together in England they are on different paths.
The story is filled with secrets. Ying-Ying is searching for Jade tablets to bring honor to her family and she realizes that Leighton has one of the three. She has also been carrying around a huge secret for many years and Leighton finally finds out what it was. Actually she has a lot of secrets and it’s only towards the end when her life is again in danger from the Centipede that they finally open up to each other and uncover their secrets.
I really enjoyed this book although I was overwhelmed with so much going on and so many layers to the story. Thomas brings in many Chinese customs that I thought were interesting. For me, Leighton was hard to get. I didn’t understand him. Even when he seems Ying-Ying again I could not read him. Needless to say, Ying-Ying is one butt-kicking force to be reckoned with. I loved what Thomas did with Leighton’s fiancée and I can honestly say I did not expect the story to develop as it did. I made a huge mistake when I read this story because I had not read “The Hidden Blade” which is the first book and I’m guessing many of the questions I had are probably answered there. In true Thomas fashion, this is not a quick and light read. It is demanding and there are a lot of different elements, cultures, languages, experiences involved. Ultimately it is a romance so the anticipation of how Leighton and Ying-ying will find their way back together is fascinating and intriguing. I loved how their past was so intertwined in ways that they did not even know themselves.
Charlotte Anne Dore is a phenomenal narrator. She seemed as interesting in telling this story as I was in hearing it. She was able to give all the different characters their own presence, which is no small feet considering how many there are.
**Audiobook provided by Tantor**