Title: Erasing Shame
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages/Word Count: 350 Pages
At a Glance: This book will rip your heart out and stomp all over it.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: The son of a Han traitor who had let the Xianbei Mongols invade the borders, Jiang Shicai swears to restore his family’s honor, hoping to better the Hans’ lives through peaceful means. He believes violence is never the answer, but to gain respect, he finds himself fighting for the Xianbei.
Ten years later, an annoying but handsome playboy, DuguXuechi, arrives as the incompetent new military inspector of Shicai’s region. Shameless, irresponsible, and obnoxious, Xuechi tests Shicai’s patience almost every second. Despite their mutual dislike, Shicai finds himself drawn to the capricious man, especially when he sees the resemblance between Xuechi and his deceased best friend. Yet Xuechi’s self-destructive behavior and refusal to accept help require attention that distracts Shicai from his goal for peace–and it doesn’t help that Xuechi is Shicai’s strongest political opposition. Haunted by a childhood promise he never had the chance to fulfill, Shicai must choose between his feelings and his values.
Review: YOU THERE. HALT. RIGHT THERE. If you, like me, are a person who absolutely MUST have a happy-ever-after, or at least a very strong happy-for-now, STOP. Seriously, think twice about this book. I am not saying you shouldn’t read it, because the book is phenomenal and beautiful, but really, think twice about the amount of pain you’re going to be in. I might never recover from this. I sobbed buckets of tears through this story, and my heart hurt so much I thought it was going to burst.
No, I’m not being dramatic.
And yes, I still loved it.
When I requested this book for review, I thought it sounded amazing. What I didn’t notice was the nice little Bittersweet Dreams notification. Yeah. You know what that means if you’ve read from Dreamspinner Press before. But no. I was a fool and didn’t notice that. So, I simultaneously regret reading this book, and do not regret it. How confusing is that? Bear with me.
Despite being seriously upset at Yeyu for stomping all over my heart, the author is incredible. The alternate history Chinese world she has written is so complex and detailed. It is clear how passionate she is about the story she has written, and she does the culture complete justice, even though it’s a combination of several dynasties. I read through the notes at the beginning, and there are even endnotes throughout the book that I was happy to click on with my Kindle Fire. That made the story that much more richly detailed for me. What can I say, I’m a footnote/endnote nerd. Despite having a difficult time with pronouncing names and things, I tried, but sometimes gave up. I think the only name I really got the hang of was Shicai.
Content wise, there is some dubious consent/rape later in the book, so be mindful of that if you have triggers. There are many aspects of the book that are painful to read, though, and that is just one, but I know some people have a big problem with it, so I thought it was fair warning. Though, given the world and time period, I wasn’t surprised when it popped up.
The characters in Erasing Shame are rich and fully developed. Both Xuechi and Shicai are headstrong and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and that is what is both their strong point and their downfall. Shicai made a promise when he was younger, and he failed to live up to the promise as most children do, though it’s not through any fault of his own. As a result, he is a driven young man who will do what is necessary to regain his family’s honor and fix his land. Meanwhile, there is Xuechi, who is at first completely irritating and abhorrent in his behavior to both readers and Shicai, but manages to worm his way into your heart. It is clear that he is damaged and wearing masks to hide from everyone, and all is not as it appears to be.
Unfortunately, love doesn’t always win. It’s just not realistic. Not every story has a happy ending, and this novel is a bitter reminder of that. As much as it pained me to read to the end, I appreciate the author for keeping the book so realistic. I know I demand happy endings in my books because life is often painful enough, but not all characters can have the fairy tale ending, especially in a world as torn as the one Yeyu has created. And for that reason, Shicai and Xuechi are perhaps more human than any characters I’ve ever read before. They strive to succeed and they fail, reminding readers that not everything will work out despite how hard we try, and we are not the only ones who have had it happen. Given the struggles these characters face, it really put my own problems in perspective, and for that I was grateful.
If you decide to read this book, you might want to keep some light, fluffy romances around to read immediately after. And you might want to stock up on a few boxes of tissues as well. Will I read another book by this author again? Absolutely. Because her beautiful writing is totally worth the pain.
You can buy Erasing Shame here: