The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay

Just finished reading the Scarlet Kiomono by Christina Courtenay.  This is CC’s second book her debut novel being Trade Winds which you can read all about here!

The Scarlet Kimono is a story about a young girl called Hannah who, in order to escape an arranged marriage which she is dreading runs away from home and becomes a stowaway on a boat bound for trade with Japan.  Hannah’s arrival has been foretold by a seer to his warlord, Taro, and as a result Taro is taking a keen interest in Hannah and has decided to abduct her so he can study her at leisure.  I guess that all sounds a bit sinister but it doesn’t read as such.  This is basically a blend of romance and history with a bit of travel and adventure thrown in and a very light and easy to read novel

Being abducted is not to be Hannah’s biggest trial however.  She is hated by Taro’s scheming sister-in-law, Reiko, who it seems will go to any length to get rid of Hannah and the threat she poses to her own plans to marry the warlord.  However, Reiko hasn’t taken into account the attraction that Taro and Hannah will instantly feel for each other and the lengths he will go to in order to protect her.

This is a nice read although on balance I think I probably preferred Trade Winds.  I did enjoy the Japanese setting however and the detail about the clothes, places, food and customs.  CC has added a lot of detail which really helps to evoke a picture of the place.  On top of that we have the love story unfolding between Hannah and Taro and the sense of tension surrounding Reiko and her attempts to remove Hannah from the picture.

On the whole I thought this was a nice and easy going read, definitely a good read for a holiday, however, if you’re looking for something with a great deal of historical detail you may be disappointed.  I think that is probably where my major criticism would be found – I think you would be hard placed to give the year in which this book was placed if you hadn’t been given this information.  And, that’s not to say that I wanted to read a deeply historical novel but just that the behaviour and language didn’t feel right, it was too modern I thought.  Also, Hannah seemed to have very few restrictions at all and seemed to have a relatively easy time of things – even when she was abducted her captors were polite to her.  And, everything seemed to come so easy for her – she picked up the Japanese language in the bat of an eye, then started to learn the writing, she’s an artist and can produce charcoal caricatures with ease and on top of this and in spite of it being totally overlooked by her family and everyone else back home, she seems to have morphed into a beautiful creature, long limbs, long eyelashes, long thick tresses of naturally curly fiery red hair, etc, etc. not to mention brave, courageous and kind to children.

So, I did like this book, but I didn’t love it.  I think the romance wasn’t passionate enough, the history wasn’t quite historical enough and even the baddie wasn’t evil enough.  Too much moderation for my taste although I have no doubt it will appeal to a lot of people as it’s a good story and nicely written.  If I was going to give an example of what I thought was the perfect historical romance I would have to say The Bronze Horseman, Philipa Gregory’s historical novels are also really entertaining and Memoirs of a Geisha is an excellent glimpse into the culture of Japan.

Rating: C+

The Scarlet Kimono

The Scarlet Kimono

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