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In spring of 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries at the front, receives an unexpected message by carrier pigeon: it is an urgent summons from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life—a woman he believed to be dead. Leaving Britain’s shores to return into war-torn France, he hopes his reunion with her will ease his guilt and this mission restores the courage he lost on the battlefield.

Colin is stunned when he arrives in Paris to discover the message came not from Jewel, but from a stranger who claims to be her half-sister, Johanna. Johanna works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence; having found Jewel’s diary, she believes her sister is alive and in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is at first skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, however, that trust is at stake, as danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives.

Summer Memories

My favorite summer memory was the year John and I chose to renew our wedding vows. After twenty years of marriage, that spring my prince gave me a real church wedding, complete with gown, flowers, guests, and beautiful music. We also traveled, visiting Yellowstone Park and the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Deadwood, South Dakota, where in 1876, Wild Bill Hickok played his last hand of poker before getting shot in the back by an angry gambler.

Later on, we cruised British Colombia’s inside passage to Alaska, reveling in the ship’s 24-hour amenities of fine cuisine and poolside saunas, not to mention the incredible scenery along Western Canada’s inner coastline and the matchless beauty of our 49th state.

My most exciting travel adventure that summer, however, was flying across the vast Pacific to the city of Sasebo, Japan, on the island’s most southwestern tip. There my beloved and I were introduced to a new world of exotic foods, royal hospitality, and poignant moments of discovery.

John arrived first, taking a separate flight for his naval work assignment, while I followed days later, after memorizing the “Learn Japanese in a Hurry” booklet on my lap during a 15-hour flight from Seattle. Once we touched ground at Fukuoka’s airport, John, along with his American co-worker, Jerry, and lovely Japanese wife, Kumi, whisked me off to a restaurant forbidden to Americans (because no one in the establishment speaks English) and my taste buds met with the sumptuous magic of Wasabi sauce, yakitori with beef tongue and octopus, and delectable Japanese fried rice. 

At Sasebo’s daily outdoor market, vendors hawked teas, fruits and vegetables, and fresh fish ready for the cookpot. I also toured the famous Yonkacho Arcade, over half a mile long and the largest mall in Japan. It’s one-stop shopping for restaurants, department stores, and gift shops, so I indulged in buying a souvenir, a good luck Gankake-ushi (Wishing Cow.) 

Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines abound in Japan, yet the lovely Catholic church of Mirua-cho in downtown Sasebo remains as a symbol of hope. As a writer of wartime stories, I was fascinated to learn that during WWII, the church was painted black to avoid becoming a target for air strikes.

After a few days of sightseeing in the town, we drove south to the city of Nagasaki, crossing the famous Saikai Bridge. Traveling across, I thought of the movie, Godzilla, because I was sure the 1000-foot-long arched bridge was featured in the old Japanese film. 

Our first stop was to see the famous Nagasaki Peace Park, and I was deeply moved at the bronzed statues, particularly those of women and young children with arms outstretched, as though begging for an end to the ravages of war. (Quick WWII history: in early August 1945, Nagasaki was one of two Japanese cities struck with the atomic bomb that ended the conflict in the Pacific Theater.) Then to Ground Zero—the place where the bomb had struck, and just yards away stood a lonely remnant wall of the Urakami Cathedral, annihilated in the blast. Near the wreckage fluttered hundreds of colorful paper cranes in the breeze, each placed there by someone who prayed for peace. It’s difficult to describe what I felt at the time, only to say it left me somber and reflective. As I write this piece, gazing at the old photographs, my memory remains fresh with the knowledge of what war can do.

On our last day in Sasebo, we met with John’s Japanese co-workers, our new friends, and enjoyed a final, fun-filled meal together in a “No Americans Allowed” establishment. Then we boarded a Dutch galleon and sailed through Kujukushima, the 99 Islands, in Japan’s Saikai National Park. As our ship swam smoothly through the breath-taking archipelago of lush, green islands, I imagined I was Pilot-Major John Blackthorne seeing this beautiful, strange land for the first time in James Clavell’s, Shōgun. And as the sun slowly set on this most western part of the globe, I wondered how I could ever go back to modern life. 

I did go back of course, and as our plane took off over the island, I considered this land of ancient dynasties and enchantment, silk kimonos and mighty Samurai, and I was warmed with memories of friendship, hospitality, and a “second honeymoon” adventure I would never forget.

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Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her family. A writer of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate’s first novel, For Such A Time, was shortlisted for the Christy and RITA awards and won ACFW’s 2015 Carol award for Debut Novel. Kate’s fourth novel, Far Side of the Sea, released in March 2019. When she’s not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading, hiking in Washington’s beautiful woodlands, and traveling abroad.

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