Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Can an impossible love become possible?
Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.
On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour. But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Choc Lit, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
My interest was immediately piqued on reading the blurb as I have not previously read anything involvinghistorical Japanese culture (even if from a fictional point of view). I was therefore eager to read more.
The story follows English girl Temperance (“Temi”), living in 17th century Japan, an era when the Shogun distrusted foreigners and had banished them all from the country, with the exception of a few Dutch men allowed to stay on a Japanese island, Dejima, for trade purposes. Temi travelled to the country with her half-Japanese cousin Midori and Midori’s husband Nico, and is living under the pretence of being a man so that she can stay in Japan. However, she is disappointed not to be able to experience the country and culture. Her frustration leads her to make a decision which proves to be dangerous and disastrous for both her and her family.
The author is obviously very conversant with Japanese history and culture. Whilst I am aware that the book only gives a brief peek into that world, I found it to be fascinating and I have since read more online about Japan in that particular era.
The location of the story is captivating and I almost wish that I could see pictures of the amazing vistas and landscapes that Temi experienced during her travels. Courtenay manages to build an entire world around Temi and Kazuo’s story, one in which I found myself absorbed as I travelled with them across Japan and through one adventure/mishap after another.
The characters were interesting. Temi seems very forward-thinking and bold for a lady of that time, it is difficult to imagine a girl in that era having such a sense of adventure and such a need for freedom, particularly one with a puritanical upbringing. Kazuo is the good looking hero, a man from another culture and a source of fascination for Temi. He is brave, loyal and practical – a perfect foil for Temi’s more impetuous, and sometimes foolhardy, character. Temi finds herself torn between her Puritan upbringing and her attraction for Kazuo. There are a number of supporting characters, including the dastardly Haag, her supportive cousins Nico and Midori, and kidnapper-turned-friend Ryo. The supporting characters, with the exception of Haag, are fairly two-dimensional, however that is all that is required in a story of this length. I did not feel that I had missed anything by not knowing those characters better.
First and foremost, this is a love story. A tale of an impossible romance, a forbidden love that crosses cultural divides. We experience respect, friendship and love develop between two people who simply cannot be together.
Overall, I found this to be an entertaining and interesting story – a historical romance with a difference.
Whilst The Jade Lioness is the third book in Courtenay’s Kumashio series, it is a stand alone novel. I have not read the earlier two books and yet I did not realise this was one of a series until after I had finished reading. I am interested in reading the earlier books now.
Christina Courtenay lives in Herefordshire and is married with two children. Although born in England, she is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, the family moved to Japan and she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East and other parts of the world.
Christina is a committee member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (currently their Chairman). She has won several of their prizes – the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for a historical short story in 2001, the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2006 and the RoNA for Best Historical in 2012 and 2014 (see below).
Her debut novel Trade Winds, a historical romance and adventure story, was short-listed for the Pure Passion Award for Best Historical Fiction 2011. Her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, received the Best Historical Fiction prize for the Big Red Head 2011. Her novels Highland Storms and The Guilded Fan both won the RoNA (Romantic Novelists Association Award) for Best Historical Romantic Novel (Highland Storms in 2012 and The Guilded Fan in 2014), while The Silent Touch of Shadows (time slip) won the Festival of Romance award for Best Historical in 2013.
Christina also writes contemporary YA and New England Rocks was shortlisted for the RoNAs in the YA category in 2014. (The second book in the series, New England Crush, was published under a different name – Pia Fenton).
As well as her novels, Christina has had four Regency novella published, all available in Large Print and as ebooks.
Her hobbies include genealogy, archaeology (the armchair variety), listening to loud rock music and collecting things. She loves dogs, reading and chocolate.