Jade Yeo is making a meager living as a writer in 1920s London, when one of her reviews catches the attention of famous author Sebastian Hardie. Hardie is handsome, clearly into her, and also married. On the other side of the aisle is Jade's sweet and dependable editor, Ravi. Will Jade give in to temptation and curiosity, or will she follow her heart? And how does she make a living writing only two articles a month, that's what I want to know.
There is one major thing I like about The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, and that's that it depicts a multicultural, historical London. Do you know how rare this is, people?? The novella's worth picking up just for that. Jade is from Malay (former English colony and modern-day Malaysia—thanks for that info, Google), Ravi is from India, and Sebastian is English. Not only are the characters from different places, but they have different sets of beliefs that influence their actions. For example, where Jade grew up it's normal for men to have several wives, and that definitely influences her interactions with Sebastian. The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo does an excellent job of showing how people can struggle to communicate when they're drawing from different cultural frames of reference.
I also kind of liked the tone of the novella, which is very Austen-esque. It's a comedy of manners, only instead of being set in the Regency era it's set in the 1920s. Most of the "action" consists of conversations in drawing- and ballrooms, and the characters are concerned with all the things someone in Austen's world would be: marriage, reputation, people's character, and so on. Zen Cho reinforces the Austen atmosphere with clever references to classics like Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and even The Yellow Room, so I think that's what the author was going for.
All that being said, to say I enjoyed this book would be—well, not exactly a lie, but not really the truth, either (warning: I'm about to get spoilerish). The Perilous Life Jade Yeo isn't that perilous; in fact, it's pretty predictable. Within the first few pages we know that 1. Ravi is Jade's true love, and 2. she's going to sleep with Sebastian. And we all know what happens when an unmarried heroine has sex in a novel.
|Don't have sex, kids!|
By the time the pregnancy went down I had pretty much lost all interest in the story, but even before that the novella moved very slowly. It only took a few hours to read, yet those hours felt like they were multiplying like rabbits in a cage.
Furthermore, the story isn't really a romance—it's a chick lit novella that's more about Jade coming of age than falling in love, the latter of which was a complete afterthought. I would be fine with that—and the fact that it all hinges on her losing her virginity—if there was a strong emotional evolution on Jade's part, but there isn't. She treats her affair with Sebastian very clinically from the beginning, even going so far as to describe, in completely unnecessary detail, his penis (was this an attempt on the author's part to prove that Jade has seen a penis? "I have seen the promised land, ladies! And it looks like 'a bulging cylinder of pink flesh,'" etc. etc. I'll spare you all the several paragraphs worth of commentary). I can understand if Cho wanted to keep Jade from falling for Sebastian so she doesn't seem like an idiot, but there's a reason why Lizzie falls for Wickham in P&P—so she can realize she was being an idiot! Unlike with Lizzie Bennet, there's no change in Jade from the beginning of her story to the end other than she gets pregnant. And even that's not a big deal, since Sebastian's wife is 100% okey dokey with him fathering children with another woman, and Ravi is 100% fine with his wife giving birth to another man's kid and then raising said kid. Hugs all around you guys!
Wait. You know what? Never mind, this IS a romance novel. Jade was turned into a woman by Sebastian's magical penis. MY BAD. Carry on.
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