Set during the 1600s, The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay whisks the reader away into a world filled with arranged marriages, sea explorations, and chivalric codes. Kumashiro Taro is a prominent daimyo in Japan, where samurai and ninjas roam. As he prepares to marry a wealthy woman, his mentor has a vision of a red-haired European woman arriving on Japan’s shores. Not knowing her name, he prophesizes that she will have a profound impact on Taro’s life. As his marriage begins to unravel, Taro seeks out this fiery haired woman; wanting to know what connection they share.
This red-haired woman resides halfway across the world in England. Named Hannah, this feisty female refuses to accept her parents’ proposal for a future husband. Disgusted by the thought of this man, she disguises herself as a boy and hides on her brother’s ship that is set on a long journey toward Japan. Not only does she underestimate the intensity of the journey, she begins to learn the customs of Japan from the Japanese cook and her mentor, Hoji. As she embraces this new world of respect and traditions, she begins to wonder what Japan will truly be like.
As Hannah steps off the boat in Japan and she finds herself in Taro’s path, the novel takes an unexpected turn as intrigue, curiosity, and a clash of cultures holds the reader’s attention for the entire duration of the novel. One of the main aspects of this novel that attracts the reader is Hannah’s personality. She embodies an independent, self-sufficient woman who is determined to make her own way in the world. Not daunted by conventional social customs, she insists on discovering who she is and only will yield to marriage if love is present. Also, the romantic element of the novel slowly sneaks up on the reader. This is honestly how I like my romantic novels mainly because I want the romance to be subtle and realistic. Courtenay allows the tension between Taro and Hannah as both individuals attempt to fight their natural magnetism toward each other. This continues to build until the reader is racing through the pages to see how their relationship ends.
Truly an amazing novel, The Scarlet Kimono allowed me to enter an entirely new world involving characters that instantly resonated with me. Courtenay mixes mystery, love, hate, and a little bit of danger together to create a masterpiece that strays away from cheesy romantic novels. Instead, this book will not leave you disappointed and instead you will be wishing it were a tad bit longer.
***I received a free copy of this book to review through Choc Lit Publishing.