Tea Rose is a sing-song girl. A man’s naked body means no more to her than an unsaddled horse means to you.

After the death of her father Cassandra (Cass) Thornton leaves California’s gold country to begin a new life in Seattle. A photographer like her father, Cass is commissioned to take photos of a ship owned by wealthy and oh-so-dishy businessman Jared Duran – but he’s got more in mind than just courting a pretty female. Imagine her surprise when Jared tells her that her father had secretly married a famous Chinese prostitute courtesan and she bore him a daughter, and mother and daughter are the property of powerful tong leader Tan Feng. Jared is an old friend and *customer* of Lilac’s, and she’s asked him to get her daughter Tea Rose out of Chinatown before she’s forced into the same life as her mother, and given into Cass’s care. And once that dangerous plan is accomplished, just what do you do with a fourteen-year old who has been trained from day one on the sexual arts and thrown into a society that is anathema to her? Let alone keeping her hidden from a very ticked off Tan Feng who wants his property back.

The Chinese are very different from us. Not better, not worse, simply different. If you don’t know in your brain and in your belly just how different the Chinese culture is from your own, you won’t be able to do your half sister one goddamned bit of good.

Oh, but things are even more complicated because Jared’s older brother Kingston (King) is back in town for a break from the gold fields and only has eyes for Cass. What’s a girl to do? Pick Jason, the solid marrying kind, or devilish King who can’t resist the lure of the next gold strike?

Yes, there’s more to the story but I’m not telling. I really enjoyed this despite a few quibbles. There’s plenty of action and a good solid love triangle, and the 1890s Seattle setting was a big plus for me (hometown and all), plus you don’t find many novels taking you up to Skagway and Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush (what an auction that was!).  While I enjoyed it and the Chinatown slave/prostitute angle, this might not suit every reader and I would definitely not recommended this book for younger readers. In particular, the Chinese characters discuss and participate openly in sexual activity and while the descriptions are somewhat understated compared to some of the sex we see in today’s romances, much of this might offend those readers who prefer all things politically correct and sugar-coated. Those who complain about the use of the “N” word in Gone With the Wind need not apply here.

This book was originally published in 1990 under the author name Annalise Sun, and according to the blurb for the e-book it “has been revised and edited by Elizabeth Lowell”. Without the original to compare it to, I don’t know if these typos were missed from the first edition or came about during the conversion and that wasn’t properly proofread. Either way, they deserve a mention:

Hw reached out and”

“knew that knew was warning”

“With his collar open, his sleeves rolled up, and his jack swung”

“But even if she ws wrong”

There are more, but you get the drift. I can’t complain as it was a freebie, but if I was paying list price I’d likely be a bit more annoyed. My final quibble was Jarod calling Chinatown by the name “International District” (at least 3-5 times by my count). The International District of Seattle is pretty much what the name implies – international. There are and were more Asian communities than just Chinatown, and just to be sure I wasn’t missing the boat I contacted the nice folks at the Wing Luke Museum. I was told the name likely began in the 1950s, but it was most definitely not used in the 1890s. I tend to be more forgiving of factual errors in older books written before the days of instant information on the net, but since this book was “revised and edited” I’m sorry to see that it slipped through. Hopefully these can be fixed in later editions. Please.

Still, a good solid read and recommended for those interested in the period and subject matter – just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the subject matter, readers of wallpaper historicals should give this a pass. The author has also digitalized a couple more of her older historicals that look interesting: Golden Empire and Redwood Empire. But then again, you could always get the original paperback versions, it looks like there are plenty of used copies out there 🙂