The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay

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The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: East meets west in this tale of romance across continents and cultures when spirited Hannah escapes her life in England for the thrill and adventure of the high seas and Japan where she meets the handsome warlord Taro. I completely lost myself in this novel thanks to Courtenay's realistic characters, well-researched settings and entertaining story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Choc Lit
ISBN: 978-1906931292

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It's 1611 and young Hannah's life in Plymouth is anything but exciting. She has a horrid elder sister to deal with, and is jealous of her brother Jacob's career aboard a merchant ship. Realising the life her parents have mapped out for her as wife to a man she loathes is not for her, Hannah decides to take action and control of her own destiny. Soon she runs away from home, disguising herself as a boy and stowing away on one of the ships under her brother's command.

Somehow Hannah goes undiscovered as a girl by the captain and crew for nearly two years as the ship journeys to Japan, except for Hoji, a Japanese man who takes Hannah under his wing and the two become firm friends.

Meanwhile in Japan, handsome Taro Kumashiro, a warlord, has been told by his seer that a woman with red hair will soon enter his life and yes, you guessed it, Hannah has the red hair in question. Eventually they meet when Hannah's ship finally reaches Japan and there is an instant attraction, but Taro soon leaves the coast for his castle. Hannah becomes unsure what to do now she has reached Japan, feeling perhaps her only option is to return home, but this decision is soon taken from her when she is abducted by Taro and kept in his castle. But for Hannah imprisonment is just the start of the greatest adventure of her life.

There is plenty to enjoy in this second novel from Christina Courtenay. For starters there's the spirited and bright Hannah, a young woman with ideas well ahead of her time. Not for Hannah is the traditional woman's life with husband and children. She craves adventure and won't accept that men get to have all the fun travelling across the world. She wants love and passion as well, although she doesn't quite understand exactly what this is to begin with. I certainly admired her daring when she stows away on the ship, although there is the odd passage when I couldn't help but feel she would have revealed her true identity as it may have been to her advantage, buts that's about the only place Courtenay stretches things a bit.

Taro is also a fine hero. Who can resist a powerful handsome man, who knows a thing or two about pleasing a woman and is also honourable and kind? Hannah certainly can't and I couldn't really blame her after her dreary upbringing in England. Their romance is entirely believable and well written with a good dash of suspense here and there. There are minimal bedroom scenes, but what there is is written elegantly and sensitively, adding to the sweeping romance of the story.

Courtenay has clearly done her homework on Japan in the early seventeenth century and this shines through in Taro's narrative at the start, and the narrative once Hannah reaches Japan and has to learn all about its culture, language and people. It's sure to whet your appetite for more novels set here. I only wish there had been a map of Japan included with the places Hannah and Taro inhabit and travel to marked, as this would give the reader a clearer sense of Japan's geography.

The Scarlet Kimono is definitely a cut above your average romance novel: although it might be predictable and a bit far-fetched at times, it is completely absorbing from start to finish and I hope other readers will be swept along by its passionate characters and exciting story as much as I was.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If you like the sound of this book, you may also enjoy Christina Courtenay's first novel Trade Winds or for more Choc Lit books try Turning the Tide by Christine Stovell.

Buy The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay at Amazon.com.


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