Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Gilded Fan

The Gilded Fan (historical romance/ adventure, 17th century Japan and England)

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How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It’s 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn’t trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can’t keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive …


With his hand still clamped around Midori’s arm, the guard pulled her through the doors, leading her down the middle of a long, dimly lit room. It looked a bit like her brother’s Great Hall, although on a smaller scale. The painted scrolls decorating the walls were slightly frayed at the edges and the tatami mats none too clean. Nevertheless, it was an imposing chamber, no doubt designed to intimidate the accused prisoners brought here. There was a distinct smell of fear in the air, making Midori take shallow breaths in order to avoid breathing it in.
            ‘I can walk by myself,’ she hissed, but the guard refused to let go of her arm.
Her eyes darted around to see what or whom she was up against. On the dais at the other end sat a small, wizened man in black robes and with a black hat set on top of his white hair. A pointy goatee beard and drooping moustache, together with the oblong shape of his face and barely visible eyes, made him look like a disaffected rat. When he started to speak, Midori wasn’t surprised to see that he had rather large, protruding front teeth. She concentrated on the image of a rodent in order to distract her mind from all the other thoughts crowding into it, so as not to show any signs of fear. I’m not afraid of rats.
            ‘Kumashiro Midori,’ the man stated. ‘You have been arrested by order of the Shogun as a gai-jin and traitor. Do you have anything to say?’
            ‘I am not a gai-jin, my lord, I am a true Nihon-jin and I would fight to the death for my country and the Shogun. I have been falsely accused, I know not by whom,’ she stated boldly, raising her chin a notch for added measure.
            ‘We have it on good authority your mother was a foreigner and a Christian. You have been tainted by her,’ the man said, his tone emotionless.
            ‘No!’ The word came out a bit too forcefully, so Midori took a deep breath before continuing. She had to stay calm, had to convince them somehow. ‘That is, yes, my mother was a foreigner, but I didn’t adopt her faith. I follow my father’s teachings, nothing else.’
            ‘I think not. You have been observed.’ The man rustled some pieces of paper and peered at one. ‘It says here you have been heard praying to the Christian god and that you own a symbol which signifies your acceptance of this faith.’ He beckoned to someone next to him who held up a small gold cross on a chain. Midori blinked.
            No, it can’t be!
            ‘This belongs to you, neh?’ Rat-face took it from his henchman and threw it at her contemptuously. With quick reflexes she caught the offending object, staring at it in disbelief and almost with loathing. Such a small, pretty thing, but so dangerous. I should never have kept it.
            ‘I … it was my mother’s. She left it to me as a keepsake, but it means nothing to me other than that. I swear.’ Midori clenched her fists in frustration, slipping the offending item into a secret pocket inside her sleeve. How had they got hold of it? She’d been so sure it was well hidden. She cursed inwardly; she should have made sure. But who had done such a thing and why? There must have been someone in Ichiro’s household spying on her, perhaps even one of her own servants.
            ‘I see you are proving difficult.’ The man nodded to himself, as if this was something he had already expected. ‘Well, we shall soon see if you change your tune. Tie her up and take her away.’ With a flick of the wrist, he dismissed her from his sight and the guard shoved her in the direction of two coarse-looking individuals.
            ‘No! I can prove it. I’ll sign a declaration, anything …’ Midori tried to protest further, but was cut off by a cuff across the cheek.
            ‘Let’s go.’ The taller of the two men dragged her away and she knew then that her brother had been right all along – no one would listen to her. No one would believe her.
            She had lost.

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