Myolie Wu and Feng Shao Feng in Schemes of a Beauty - Part 1
It's like they were acting in another drama altogether. That drama being like too many delicious kdrama romcoms or period romance novels, only set in the beginning of Han Dynasty.
So, how many romance novel cliches do we have? Well, let's start.
Point 1. She's lower-class (she's a fishmonger in the market!) and he's very upper-class - he's marquis who is a grandson of Lui Bang, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty.
Compare and contrast. This is his introduction. Empress Dowager is trying to mediate between her family, the Lus, and her husband's family, the Lius. Her niece basically got her husband, a Liu, killed, and Lius want revenge. But they are all cowed by Empress Dowager, who's basically Satan Incarnate. All, except for Liu Zhang.
Yup, he kills the woman in front of the Empress Dowager without blinking. And calmly says it was according to military law. Shockingly, Empress Dowager is not pissed but amused someone dared to stand up to her. She actually thinks it diffuses family tension so she's OK with it. What do we learn? Liu Zhang is (a) obsessed with family loyalty (b) fearless (c) is going to find it hard to survive with all these people who can scheme circles around him and have fewer principles of any sort.
This is our heroine's introduction. Yup, she's selling fish at the market and is handy with her cleaver. Woo-hoo. Oh, and romance novel Point 2 - she's secretly upper-class with Point 3 an evil family - her half-brother, one of Empress Dowager's fave relatives, kicked her and her mother out of the house when their father died and hey, a girl needs to live. She's a Lu. Point 4 - enemy families ahoy.
They have the most awesome first meeting ever as required by romance novel Point 5. Her scumbag boyfriend has been scamming money off her and plans to marry a hooker instead. When Yu rightfully breaks into the brothel and makes a scene, he insults her in ever possible way.
Guess who overhears and is appalled?
He comes to her defense and rescues her (I loved that scene like cake - when her scummy ex is all "who are you blah blah blah" and the Madam, terrified out of her wits, yells at scummy ex that this is Marquis Liu Zhang, grandson of founder of Han Dynasty. LOLOLOLOLOLOL)
They have the most hilarious and adorable and random conversation. She tells him she'll repay her rescue by sending him the nicest fish she has and then all "oh yeah, she said you are a marquis, you probably have all the fish you want anyway. OK, I'd offer my body, but I probably wouldn't be to your taste either." LOLOLOL I love you, Lu Yu. And then he leans in (which freaks her out because she clearly thinks he's going to take her up on her jokey offer) and tells her that she shouldn't presume she wouldn't be and the scummy ex was an idiot not to see how pretty she was. And then leaves her so she can go home by herself. Awww, he's such a sweetheart.
Point 6. Rescues! She needs to earn money to pay her mother's gambling debts so she sells herself to the brothel (as a dancer, not a hooker) and he sees her there and drags her out and when she tells him she needs money for debt, the following convo ensues. He: "instead of you selling yourself to a brothel, why don't you sell yourself to me?" She: "I am a good girl! I was there only to sell my art, not my body!" He: "who said I want your body? I'll pay you to do chores for me." Oh, darlings!
Did I mention Point 7 - he has ISSUES due to being a member of insane, murderous, backstabbing etc royal family? A lot of said issues being trust issues - in fact he probably likes her in giant part because she's not connected to anything at court of power struggle. Hmmm, you think that may be a problem? Naaaah, couldn't be. Not as if she's a member of the Lu family whose slimy half-brother located her and plans to marry her off to Liu Zhang to keep him in line (slimy promised to pay off her mother's debts if she agreed but she refused to trap Liu Zhang and that is why she was at the brothel to earn money).
Romantic swoony kiss as per Point 8.
Because Liu Zhang seems to be sort of insane, when Lu Lu, the scummy half-bro, proposes the marriage alliance and Empress Dowager endorses, he refuses because he already has someone he loves. Yup, he just told Satan with absoulte power and a hard-on for murder he isn't going to marry her relative for the sake of a fishmonger. Yup, insane. Lu Lu looks super-pleased and tells Dowager Empress that it doesn't matter because Liu Zhang fell into his trap woo-hoo etc etc. They tell Liu Zhang to bring the girl her so they could take a look at her.
He shows up as she was about to leave because she was worried her sticking around can lead to trouble thanks to her half-bro. If only she knew. But he asks her to come with him and she, having no idea where they are going, gets on his horse and off they go.
He tells the Empress Dowager and Lu Lu that this is the girl he's in love with and wants to marry.
And Lu Lu, grinning from ear to ear, tells Liu Zhang that this is exactly his half-sister Lu Yu, he was talking about. And Empress Dowager mandates them to be married.
Point 9 - Big Misunderstanding. Of course he think she was part of her family's plot to tie him to the Lus and played him like a fool and manipulated his feelings.
Point 10 - angsty wedding night. She tries to explain but he (understandably) doesn't want to listen and tells her he will never love her or treat her well, ever ever ever. Ummm, I hate to break it to you, young man, but treating her badly in that society would probably involve marital rape or beatings, not just walking out and not interacting with her in any fashion after that, while she can dwell in luxury. You sort of fail at being mean to your OTP, thank God.
Yeah, I'd weep too if I was married to FSF and he refused to touch me in any fashion. talk about a Tantalus-type situation.
To be continued in Part 2, in which more misunderstandings occur, the old favorite of "hurt him to save him" situation arises, and Mousie's favorite scene occurs. It involves a fish market, a red carpet, and a certain hot aristocrat walking on his knees and begging forgiveness.