Battle of the Gender Bender Dramas: The Heiress vs Maiden Holmes

2020 has been the year where Mainland China has doubled-down on the women pretending to be men romances. Since there are so many shows out there and a very limited amount of hours, I decided to start both and see which one resonates the most.

Disclaimer – I have watched four episodes of both dramas so this is a first impression comparison only.


The Heiress – Han Yuan Niang is the eldest daughter of the Han Family, which holds military power at the northern border. She disguises herself as her twin brother Han Shi Yi, who passed away early, to ensure the Han Family’s military power won’t be affected by the court, as they have no male heir. She portrays herself as a lustful, weak, and uneducated man to fool those who want to pull her to their side. Unexpectedly, she becomes the companion of the 5th Prince, Chen Ting Yi, and helps him become the Crown Prince. Wang Zhong Yu, son of the Prime minister, eventually discovers Han Shi Yi’s identity as a woman and their secret relationship.

Maiden Holmes – The young teenage prince Xiao Yan Zhi, a prodigal young military talent, is sent to ward off a force of invaders. Although he makes a valiant effort, his army is ultimately ambushed and defeated in a decisive battle. An opportunist foe at the imperial court takes advantage of the situation, forcing Pei Yan Zhi to step down as head of the army – and manages to get a young subservient candidate to take the throne. Pei Yan Zhi feels he was betrayed. He vows to get to the bottom of the intrigue and goes undercover to investigate, pretending to be a commoner to help him work undetected. On his quest for the truth, he meets a remarkably smart and resourceful young female detective named Su Ci. Together, they form a close bond. They team up with two other quick-witted young sleuths and make a joint bid to discover the scale of the scheming that has undermined the Imperial Palace.

Most Believable Fake Boy

As charming as Su Ci (Maiden Holmes) is, she is obviously a female dressing as a man. Han Yuan Niang, on the other hand, very believably comes across as a young male. If she were just a bit taller, it would be impossible to tell the difference. The Heiress definitely wins this round, hands down.

Best OTP Chemistry

The Heiress took a bit of time for me to really care about our OTP (one true pairing). While they eventually won me over, it wasn’t a right away connection. Maiden Holmes, on the other hand, has couple chemistry from the first moment our OTP touches each other. So just from an initial impression, our sleuthing duo wins this category.

Best Side Characters

So….. I want to like the side characters in Maiden Holmes, but they tended to be one-dimensional and super impulsive. The whole character quest vibe just isn’t working for me. I do enjoy the infighting of the schoolboys in The Heiress. They all give as good as they get and can be entertaining. Neither of the shows has amazing side characters, but The Heiress wins just because they made me laugh more.

Overall Story

Both of these shows have their strengths and weaknesses. Maiden Holmes has a stronger back story, but the characters tend to act impulsively, and I sometimes want them to be just a bit smarter. The Heiress has a strong story in the school, but the political plot arcs are a bit convoluted and confusing. Both might get better with time, but only four episodes in, they are about equal.

The Winner

I will be honest; I’m not sure if I will continue on with either of these dramas. They each had some positives and negatives, and neither really hooked me. That said, if I had to choose one to watch, I would be picking The Heiress. I just felt more connected to the fun hijinks than I did the political mystery in Maiden Holmes.

For those of you who have watched either, let us know your thoughts in the comments. Were these shows worth watching in the long run? Let us know, and be sure to continue checking back for more Asian drama reviews.

Til the next drama,


Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

2 thoughts on “Battle of the Gender Bender Dramas: The Heiress vs Maiden Holmes

  1. I watched Maiden Holmes and really enjoyed it, but I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan and that hooked me from the start. The acting was fantastic and the ending very satisfying. Yes, the side characters were very impulsive and sometimes silly in their choices, but still lovable. This is the second gender bender I’ve seen with this actress. She also did My Unicorn Girl and I loved that one as well. However, I agree in that she really doesn’t pull off the ‘boy’ aspect very well. On the other hand, she does a great job pulling off the OTP chemistry.
    All that said, thanks for this article! I’ll have to check out The Heiress now. 🙂

  2. I loved Maiden Holmes! Chinese dramas struggle with undeniable chemistry between ML AND FL, plus they make the ML to cold, and distant from the FL. The ML in MH had a flirtatious and charismatic aura. I liked that it was discovered in the beginning that she was a female because we were able to see her as a two dimensional character. Watching her when she was vulnerable as a woman added to her character depth. The fact that both leads had past tragedies, and past intertwined was interesting. The story flowed, was flawless, the Chemistry unmatched, , and the ending perfectly tied up all lose ends. There wasn’t an intense angst to the storyline which can be overwhelming. For example, When the FL said she couldn’t be with him, he didn’t act out and treat her harshly, he accepted it. They both gradually grew together into partners and lovers. I wish Chinese dramas can learn from the producers and writers of this show. I’m going to check out the heiress .

Leave a Reply