09 May 2013

Excerpt Thursday: The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay

This week, we're so delighted to welcome back an award-winning author Christina Courtenay, with her latest title, The Gilded Fan.  Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

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 …

**An Excerpt from The Gilded Fan**

Before Nico had time to do more than open his eyes wide in surprise, he found himself lying on his back in the dirt with all the air knocked from his lungs. Midori sat on top of him pointing a very sharp knife at his throat as he gasped to regain his breath. He stared at her in shock.
‘What the hell …? How did you …?’
A wave of fury surged through him, but he managed to hold his temper in check. This had gone beyond absurd. It was downright ridiculous.

It had been almost too easy and Midori knew she’d taken him by surprise only because he hadn’t expected to be attacked by a female. He was a big man, after all, and she was tiny in comparison, so he hadn’t been on his guard. She’d simply hooked her right leg behind his left one and pushed hard, then quickly jumped down on top of him as he fell, pulling out her knife. Luck had been on her side this time, but she was sure he’d never allow it to happen again. She would have to take advantage of her victory immediately.
The interview hadn’t been going according to plan, so Midori had known she had to do something drastic. She couldn’t fail. To go back to her brother without securing passage on board the captain’s ship would be to lose face. She had to prove to him she could fend for herself. With renewed determination, she gripped the handle of her knife and drew in another calming breath. It wouldn’t do to sink to this barbarian’s level; she must stay calm and reasonable. Slowly, she felt her inner harmony returning.
Several expressions flitted across the captain’s face – astonishment, anger and possibly a small measure of admiration. Midori waited in silence, her knife poised by his neck. She could see him debating with himself, but his next words indicated that although he wasn’t prepared to give in gracefully, he was wavering slightly.
‘We’re not going to England, so you’d have to find your way from Amsterdam to wherever you’re headed,’ he growled. ‘By yourself.’
‘Well, there must be ships that sail to London. It’s not that far, is it?’ Midori had no idea if this was true, but decided to take a chance. She wasn’t actually going to London, but knew it was England’s main city, so she was sure she could reach her destination from there somehow.
‘London?’ His eyebrows descended even further. ‘Your relatives live there?’
‘Um, nearby I believe, yes.’ To distract the man from the fact that she was lying, Midori gave him a dazzling smile. ‘So, you see, I’ll be all right if only you can take me as far as Amsterdam.’
The captain blinked and stared at her. She saw him swallow hard, then he closed his eyes and uttered what sounded like a groan. ‘Very well,’ he gritted out. ‘You may sail with us. I can’t guarantee your safety, but I’ll do my best. It might not be enough, though. Do you understand?’
‘Perfectly. When do we sail?’
‘We’re sailing with the tide the day after tomorrow. I’ll require your payment by tomorrow evening. A thousand pieces of silver.’
Midori didn’t bat an eyelid at this preposterous amount, although she couldn’t help wondering if Ichiro had brought such an enormous sum. ‘Five hundred,’ she said. ‘I’ll bring you half of it tomorrow, and the rest I will give you when we reach Amsterdam safely.’
‘I didn’t say the price was negotiable.’ His blue gaze had turned to steel.
‘No?’ Midori smiled sweetly and lifted her eyebrows, while pricking him with her dagger. A tiny droplet of blood appeared on his sunburned skin.
Captain Noordholt gave her a furious look, before turning the tables on her with a minimum amount of effort. He grabbed the hilt of her knife with lightning speed, twisting it out of her grip and throwing it to the ground. Then he shoved her off and jumped to his feet in one fluid motion. With another glare, he turned on his heel and stalked off.
‘Six hundred and not a piece less,’ he called over his shoulder before disappearing inside the house.
Midori sat in the mud and stared after him. ‘What an extraordinary man,’ she muttered. He could obviously have heaved her off at any time, but he’d let her think she had the upper hand. And then he gave in to her demands? It didn’t make sense to her, but she was grateful all the same.
She wondered if she would ever understand these foreigners.

Longer Excerpt here:

To Purchase:

The Gilded Fan was published by Choc Lit on 7th February 2013 (ISBN: 978-1-78189-008-0).  For more details see www.christinacourtenay.com
Twitter:  @PiaCCourtenay