15 March 2012

Excerpt Thursday: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical fiction author Kristina McMorris. Her novel  BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES is set in during World War II, as the attack on Pearl Harbor changes America's destiny and the future of her characters.  Join us Sunday, when Kristina will be here to talk about the novel and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:

In spite of her Julliard ambitions and family's wishes, violinist Maddie Kern secretly elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend—the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. When her beloved Lane is evacuated to an internment camp, she dares to remain at his side. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.  

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris delivers an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

From Kensington Books and Avon/HarperCollins UK
March 2012 (Trade paperback)

**An Excerpt from Bridge of Scarlet Leaves**

May 1942 – Los Angeles, Calif.
Japanese American evacuation

Engines awoke in the distance, a stagger of roars that cinched Maddie's throat with panic. Her pace doubled in speed. Her leather heels clicked a staccato rhythm on the city sidewalk. She forced air in and out, in and out, against the burn crawling up the walls of her lungs.
Nine o'clock, that's what Lane's roommate had said when the operator connected his call that morning. Told her that his conscience wouldn't let him ship off without at least telling her Lane was in town, but if she wanted to see him, she had until nine o'clock.
She'd raced out the door. No time to think.
At last, she was almost there...
A young soldier stood up ahead. He hugged his bayonet-fixed rifle across his chest, his stance undoubtedly fresh from Army basic. He stared hard into the sky, as if reading his mission etched in the ribbon of clouds. The enemy, have to protect our country from the enemy.
The thought curled Maddie's fingers.
In a glance briefer than a blink, the GI sized her up, her ivory skin an armor of presumed innocence. She swerved around him, not missing a beat. To her left, personal effects awaited transit in a snaking queue. Cribs and ironing boards, labeled trunks and boxes. Their tags dangled in the spring sun.
Around the corner, evacuees were amassed before the steepled church. Red Cross volunteers handed out coffee.
"Lane! Where are you?" Her words died in the bedlam, smothered by a baby's cry, a rumbling jeep, a little girl's hysterics.
"But I don't want to go," the girl shrieked, face stained red. "Mommy, I want to stay with you!" Tears streamed from the slanted eyes that cursed the child, dripping trails down the puffy sleeves of her lilac dress. Two nuns pried her fingers from the Caucasian woman's arms and guided the youngster toward the bus.
"Everything will be fine, pumpkin," the mother choked out against a sob. "Mommy and Daddy will come see you soon." A suited man beside her added, "You be a good girl, now." His Anglo features contorted in despair as he limply waved.
A reporter snapped a photo.
Who knew a piece of paper could carry so much power? One presidential order and an orphan could lose another family; one signed petition and marriage vows could be unsaid. Thank God she hadn't mailed the papers yet. Stamped and sealed, but not mailed.
Maddie scanned the faces around her, their features similar to Lane's, but none as flawless. None bearing the deep beauty of his eyes, his smile.
"Lane!" she shouted louder. The trio of chartered buses was filling. Within minutes, he would be gone.
"Excuse me, miss. May I help you?" A priest touched her arm. His wrinkled face exuded warmth that penetrated the morning chill.
"Moritomos—I have to find them." Exhaust fumes invaded the air, causing her to cough.
He patted her back. "Now, now, dear. Let's see what we can do." They wove through the crowd, her gaze zipping from one figure to the next. Beige identity tags hung from lapels, around buttons.
Branded in their Sunday best like a herd of cattle.
"Sergeant," the priest called out. He stepped up to a bulky Army man in the midst of lecturing two privates. "Sergeant," he tried again, "I hate to interrupt, but..."
"Hold your water," the guy barked, before turning and noting the source. His shoulders lowered. "Sorry, Father. What is it you need?"
"This young lady, here, she's trying to locate a particular family."
"The Moritomos," Maddie cut in.
The sergeant sighed heavily as he lifted his clipboard. He flipped forward several pages and began his search through the list. With the top of his pen, he scratched his head beneath his helmet. He blew out another sigh.
This was taking too long.
Maddie leaned in, trying to see the smudged names herself. Maeda... Matsuda... Minami... Miyamoto...