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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Forbidden Blossom (Skyline Mansion Book 1) by Nola Li Barr is the first of a series of books that deals with issues such as family, love, and cross-cultural relationships through the eyes of a young Taiwanese American, Anne Huang. Since graduating college, Anne has traveled the world indulging her passion for exploration, meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and experiencing different social environments. Whilst she is home visiting her mom, she is surprised to receive a letter requesting her to attend the reading of a will for a man she has never met nor even ever heard of. When she discovers she is an heiress who has been left billions by this man, her life is changed forever. Not only must she deal with the man’s greedy and jealous immediate family, but she must also somehow unravel the mystery of why this great fortune was left to her. The discovery of Ah Po’s (Grandmother) journal in the house she has inherited begins the process of unraveling a family mystery that stretches back to the mid-1940s. Told through the eyes of Anne and her Ah Po/Rose’s journals, she begins to piece together the circumstances that have led her here. It seems, though, that every discovery raises new questions about who she really is and what direction her life will take her now.
Forbidden Blossom is a simple, fun, and easy-to-read book that poses some interesting questions about who we are, racism, sexism, and the anti-immigrant and especially anti-Asian rhetoric that has infected America far longer than just since the Covid-19 crisis. Author Nola Li Barr has undoubtedly drawn on her own experiences in formulating the young, feisty character of Anne Huang, easy to empathize with and root for but by the same token, on occasions, her extreme naivety gave her a deeper, more complex personality. I appreciated the split nature of the narrative that was told through Anne’s perceptions of the current time and Rose’s eyes, through her journals, back in the 1940s. This certainly gave the story the extra dimension it needed. The romantic angle in the story was subtle and readers will still be left wondering about Sebastian’s true motives. This conflict of interest was one of the highlights of the narrative. The latest family secret revealed at the end sets the stage perfectly for the second book and I’m excited to discover what new twists Anne, her mother, and Sebastian will discover on their forthcoming journey to Taiwan. I enjoyed this easy read and can highly recommend it.