After finally reading ''The Hidden Blade' by the same author I thought and hoped that this book would be close (it is the second of the duology after all). Instead it seems like a completely different story.
We fast forward a few years to see Leighton and Ying-Ying (who goes by Catherine as well) as adults. But there's a history. While searching for a particular heirloom we have danger and peril. Old enemies return, new friends are made, love triangles happen, people die, etc. You know, just a normal historical romance.
Or something like that. After the careful setting-building and following of the characters' development it's like it all went out the window. Leighton and Ying-Ying have a history together before meeting up. The book moves back and forth through time, flashing back to their initial meeting and relationship to the "present" where an ever-lurking danger has deadly consequences.
This book somewhat suffered from the same problem of the previous one: there really isn't much focus on a plot and unfortunately this is all about the romance between the two. I can't stand that. I actually liked both characters MUCH better when they had never met. The story just ended up dragging on and on without much to really keep me reading. I wouldn't have expected the author to spend much time on their character histories/development in this book but for such time and care in following these characters' backstories only to be shoe-horned into such a boring romance was rather disappointing. I know there are some people who did like it without reading the prequel but based on my experience I only know I would have hated it even more.
I am quite sad at the drop off in quality and am quite surprised it has such high ratings. Glad I got this from the library.