Published by Dreamspinner Press on 6 June 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
City of Jade">Buy the Book • Goodreads
Gallienus is a former imperial soldier, set to guard the walls of Constantinople after being wounded in battle. Feeling “put out to pasture,” he’s not the happiest of men. Restless, dissatisfied and lonely, he’s ready for a change. Misahuen is a refugee from war in Korea. Turned caravan guard to see the world and find a safer life, he’s arrived in Constantinople with his employer. City of Jade, by L.J. LaBarthe, is their story.
They first meet when the caravan Misahuen is guarding arrives at Constantinople. Gallienus, one of the guards on duty, inspects it for contraband. In typical fashion, it’s not long before they’re in each other’s arms, and in love. Of course, this being 12th century Byzantium, love between men is not accepted in the empire. Facing severe punishment if caught, Misahuen and Gallienus take to the road, hoping to find a better, more accepting place to build their life together. They sign on as guards for the caravan of a Byzantine merchant, and travel the Silk Road to China.
If you’re looking for an action-packed plot, filled with adventure and conflict, this isn’t the book for you. Despite the perils of travelling such a distance in the 12th century, their caravan manages to avoid most danger. Instead, LaBarthe chooses to focus on the relationships between Gallienus, Misahuen, and the friends they make in the caravan along the way. There are a couple of problems with raiders along the way, and one violent death in the caravan, but most of the conflict is interpersonal. Overall, the feeling of I got from reading City of Jade was one of peacefulness and rest. It’s by no means a boring story, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, either. The characters are well-written and likable, and LaBarthe clearly has done her research on the time period and location. Overall, this is a very enjoyable book, with an intense, passionate relationship between the two main characters. While there’s no indication that this is the beginning of a series, I would be well pleased to read more of the life of Gallienus and Misahuen, and have no hesitation recommending her work to other fans of historical M/M romance. Easily worth four stars.
Update: The more I think about this book, the more I like it. I really need to change its rating.