**Thank you Kingston Books and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**
Set in 1930s China, Secret of a Thousand Beauties tells the story of Spring Swallow. An unfortunate girl who is betrothed to a ghost before she is even born. Spring Swallow has been more or less nothing but a maid to the Mean Aunt who raised her. She knows after the official wedding to her Ghost husband, she'll be shipped off to her new mother in law's house to play the same role. But Spring Swallow has other plans. She wants more in life. She doesn't want much. She just wants to be happy. She knows she never will be if things play out as planned, so she starts planning her escape.
She'll eventually meet the woman who will set her new life into motion, Purple. Purple is an embroider and agrees to take Spring Swallow home with her to meet her teacher, Aunt Peony. The timing couldn't be better. At the moment, Aunt is extremely busy with embroidering a copy of the Along the River during the Qingming Festival. Aunt agrees to take Spring Swallow on in exchange for cleaning and helping with small embroidery pieces. Spring Swallow must also pledge to follow the rules her new teacher gives her to live by. Most of her time is spent working, but the few hours Spring Swallow does get, she spends up on a mountain. There, its just her and her thoughts. She spends her time drawing out patterns and writing her thoughts on the mountain wall. On one of these visits, she finds someone has responded to her writing. She never could have guest that one message on the mountain was about to send her life off on a new path.
I really liked this a lot. I'm a huge fan of Amy Tan and Lisa See. This story read like a lite version of their writing. I don't mean it felt Yip ripped them off. Yip's writing is beautiful and unique, but she wasn't as emotionally draining as Tan or See. Tan and See tend to write books that love nothing more then to rip your heart out and stomp on it repeatedly. While this book has tragedies, they're fewer and far between. Where I need time between Tan and See books, I could (and probably will) pick up another Yip book very soon. Her characters feel like real human beings. I feel like I've met Spring Swallow. The world Yip created was perfect. I could actually see all the setting. Only one thing kind of bugs me about the title. It's something I personally see as a loose end. The author did address it, and I guess most readers would except it as neatly tied up, but it bugs me. I'm honestly surprised I hadn't heard of Yip until recently. Her name really deserves to be as prominent as Tan or See.