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Expected Release Date: August 29, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint:  Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://joelysueburkhart.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Hot

Official Blurb:

Bred for him…and for his bed.

Golden-eyed Jin has spent her life preparing to be the Emperor’s consort. She knows her destiny is to serve the Emperor by indulging the dark desire that he has buried deep inside his heart-the desire to give pain.

Only she can take the pain he yearns to give, and transform it into the most unimaginable pleasure. But to enjoy all the Emperor can give her, she must survive assassination attempts from those who would keep them apart.

Seducing the Emperor is risky…but it’s the only way to fulfill her destiny.

22,000 words 

As a child, Jin was reviled for her strange golden eyes, until one day, a military general saw her, and proclaimed that she was destined for the Emperor.  Trained in the erotic arts, and having learned to associate pain with unending pleasure, her dreams are dashed when the Emperor she lusts after gives her instead to his son.

However, his son’s interest soon wanes, and Jin offers herself to her beloved Emperor.   His darkest shame lies in the deep pleasure he gets from inflicting pain upon a woman, yet when Jin lets it be known that she craves the erotic pain that only he can give her, he cannot help himself.

Unfortunately, life in the Emperor’s Court is fraught with danger, as political machinations and multiple assassination attempts threaten all that Jin holds dear.

What Worked For Me:

  • I really enjoyed all of the politics of Court, no matter what country or era it might be in.  With so many plots and subplots surrounding Jin, and with her having quite a few schemes of her own, this book was delightfully fast paced while still managing to convey the gravity of daily life.
  • I also liked the First Person POV. I really don’t think it could’ve been written any other way, because there was such a blending of euphoria and agony within Jin when she was with her Emperor, that a different POV would’ve definitely lost something in translation.
  • Even when there were particulars that I may not have cared for, the love scenes were deliciously hot.  I appreciated that this wasn’t a case of “light spanking” and calling it BDSM. Instead, there was serious pain and sub-space involved, and one scene even had blood running down Jin’s body even as she climaxed. That’s some heavy stuff that you don’t normally get to see in some of the more mainstream erotica, and I definitely appreciated that Ms. Burkhart didn’t hold back.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Forced nudity that resulted in the heroine’s humiliation.  Any reader of mine knows that this a big no for me.
  • There was no real sense of HEA. Granted, the hero and heroine were both satisfied with the ending, but I couldn’t help but feel as though they were both settling. Realistic for the times or not, I read for the fantasy, and when reality intrudes, it’s not really my thing.
  • The Emperor still had a bajillion (okay not a bajillion, but quite a few) other wives, and still fully intended to have sex with them all on a regular basis.  Again, not my thing, especially when he made love to another woman and forced Jin to watch.  There’s “inflicting pain for erotic pleasure”, and then there’s “being a cruel asshat just because you can”, and honestly, he started to fall into the latter category more and more as the book progressed.
  • Jin was married to another man when she started her affair with the Emperor. Oh, and he was the Emperor’s son.   Adultery is never a plus for me, and despite the fact that Ms. Burkhart made a point of having her husband be weak willed and promiscuous, having several other lovers himself, I still didn’t like that Jin would gladly seduce another man, and that her husband’s own father went so far as to get her pregnant and let it be public knowledge.

See, the thing is, I knew going into this story that it wasn’t something I would likely find enjoyable on an overall level. I personally do not like adultery and I do not like polygamy (which is different than polyamory in my mind — comment or message me if you’d like me to explain), both of which I knew played a big part in this story based on the official blurb.

I blame it on the excerpt.  You see, when I saw this story available on Netgalley, I visited the author’s page and found THE EXCERPT, which was intriguing dang it!  So I requested it and read it very quickly.

The story was hot.  It was both well-written and surprisingly interesting, even outside of the bedroom, as Jin and her beloved nurse must navigate the dangerous waters of the Emperor’s Court, avoiding assassination plots and political scheming, all while showing the Emperor that no matter how many women he may sleep with, she is the only woman who can give him truly what he craves.

The scenes where the Emperor gives into his desire to inflict pain on his lovers? *fans self* Richly detailed, vivid, and incredibly erotic, they absolutely stole my breath.  And combined with the various intrigues and political machinations of the various members of the royal court, this story was incredibly gripping and kept me glued to the pages from the first page right through the last.

In the end, however, I couldn’t get past the fact that the Emperor also slept with countless women outside of his relationship with Jin. Now, now, put down the torches and the pitchforks — I know this is historically accurate, and maybe more importantly, that Jin herself was perfectly fine with it.

There was even one scene where he makes love to another woman in her presence, and her heart was breaking because he touched the other woman with a gentle touch that she herself craved from him, and yet Jin was perfectly content because of a realization she had about halfway through.

And yet.  This was a definite case of YKINMKBYKIOK. There was adultery. There was polygamy without a monogamous or even polyamorous ending. There was voyeurism and exhibitionism and even forced nudity and intentional humiliation.  All of which are really, really not my thing.

I wavered back and forth on the final rating for this. On one hand, I couldn’t truly enjoy it because there were so many factors that I don’t care for, probably most importantly the feeling that there wasn’t a true HEA, despite Jin and the Emperor both being satisfied with the outcome. On the other hand, it was beautifully well-written, incredibly interesting, and frankly pretty danged hot.

In the end, however, I’m going to have to go with what most would consider to be a low rating, simply because there were so many things I didn’t care for about it, but there is absolutely the catch that if those factors don’t bother you, you’re going to love this story.

2.5/5 Stars (but worth giving it a chance anyway)