Reviewed by Debs Carr
It’s 1641 and because Midori Kumashiro's mother was English, she has no option but to find a way out of her homeland in Japan or face execution. Her half-brother secures her a passage on a trade ship with Captain Nico Noordholt, who agrees to take her first to his home port of Amsterdam and then on to London to meet her mother’s family, who she hopes will take her in. Nico isn’t happy about having a beautiful young woman on-board knowing his occasionally unruly sailors will find her very tempting, especially after they’ve been at sea for several months. However, his conscience won’t allow him to leave Midori to die, and so he feels he has no option but to take her with them as long as she abides by his strict rules.
Not everyone on the ship is as honourable as Nico though, and after a frightening incident, one of the older sailors offers to guard her. Midori is capable of defending herself, having been trained to use a sword by her warlord father and half-brother, but she is only used to defending herself against one aggressor at a time. When they eventually arrive in Amsterdam, Nico discovers Midori’s true identity and that her proposed destination is not London, but Plymouth. They learn about each other’s past and it becomes apparent that whatever attraction they may have for each other, it will be hampered by their inescapable circumstances.
I love Christina Courtenay’s books and so knew I’d most probably enjoy The Gilded Fan, too. The beautiful descriptions capture a real sense of place (Japan, Amsterdam and Plymouth) and time (17thC) that I had no prior knowledge about, and the conflict of emotions as the two main characters struggle to fight their attraction to each other, is wonderful. The sea journey, then arrival in Amsterdam and Plymouth and the drama of Midori’s attempts to fit in to a world so different to anything she’s ever know, as well as the tension of the threat of civil war, brings Nico and Midori’s stories to an intense conclusion. This is a beautifully-drawn story capturing love and tragedy across two powerful cultures.
Christina Courtenay’s Website