Thank you so much for having me here today! I am so excited about the release of The Samurai’s Garden. Though I’ve already had four novellas published, this is the book of my heart – I started writing it over seven years ago, when I retired from my full-time teaching job. I started thinking about who I was and where I came from. I read about the colorful warriors who defended their masters and their code of conduct known as the Bushido. And suddenly I saw in my imagination a character who had been through the rigorous samurai training, but had a gentle heart and preferred to celebrate life rather than death.
Hiro Tanaka prepared for a life as a samurai warrior. But his world changed when Ja-pan’s feudal system was abolished by the Emperor. Now, he must find a new vocation. Disil-lusioned with fighting and violence, he travels alone, going north to the island of Hokkaido. Many other samurai wander through the country and are known as ronin. Some have for-saken their honorable way to prey on the less fortunate.
Hanako Shimizu experienced first-hand the devastation caused by these disreputable wanderers. The previous winter, they raided her farm and killed her husband. Now, she needs to rebuild but has no money and no prospects — except for the dubious intentions of the town merchant.
When Hiro, tired of his wandering, encounters Hanako in the market, arguing with the merchant, he poses as her late husband’s cousin then offers to help her on the farm in ex-change for a place to stay. Working on the land, Hiro finally finds the peace he has been seeking. But the reappearance of the rogue ronin, led by an unscrupulous leader from Hiro’s past, forces him to take up his swords again. But now, the stakes are higher.
This time, he’s fighting from the heart.
Here’s a short excerpt, from where Hiro and Hanako first meet. Hanako is trying to purchase some livestock to rebuild her farm, but the merchant has another kind of business in mind:
“Six months is a long time for a fertile young woman to be without a man in her bed,” leered the portly merchant. “I think Shimizu-san would not want you to be alone.”
I was alone even when he was with me.
“I am not alone. I have his spirit with me in the obutsudan.” The tiny wooden box in which her husband’s ashes rested hardly resembled a true shrine, but it was enough to satisfy the proprieties of a grieving widow. Reminding herself of her mission, she faced Sato-san with resolve, but kept her gaze focused on a point just below his chin, knowing he would not welcome direct eye contact with a woman.
“You flatter me with your attention, Sato-san, but for now I must concentrate on rebuilding my farm. After all, I wouldn’t be able to bring a respectable dowry into a marriage with the present state of my property. Now, I have offered a fair price for this cow and those two chickens.”
Sato-san was not fooled by Hanako’s gentle rebuff. His lips pressed together and he scowled. “I deal only with men,” he finally responded as he turned away from her.
Hanako chewed her lip and took a deep breath, admonishing herself not to lose her temper. No matter how unreasonable Sato-san chose to be, she couldn’t hope to conduct business with him if she lost control of her emotions.
She opened her mouth, ready to present another argument, but another voice, one with deep, melodic tones, made all her thoughts disappear.
“I see you have chosen well, my little flower. What price have you and this gentleman agreed upon?”
Hanako’s mouth closed as she tried to put a face with the voice. It was deep and rich, full of confidence and strength. It belonged to a man of power. The man’s speech was much more formal than the casual dialect used by locals.
“Who are you?” Sato-san demanded.
Hanako wondered, too. She turned to look at the mystery speaker. He stood head and shoulders above the unsavory Sato-san, with muscles born of hard physical work, but his facial features radiated intelligence, and his bearing hinted at an aristocratic upbringing. Two swords hung at his side, a testament to his position as a samurai. She’d heard rumors of new laws eliminating their powers, but knew no one in this sleepy village would dare argue with this man’s right to carry his swords.
“I am Hiromasa Tanaka. I am not familiar with the merchants in this area, so I sent my intended to find the livestock and supplies we need. If all is ready, I will pay you, and we will be on our way.”
“Your intended? But Shimizu-san just told me she was still grieves for her late husband.”
“Yes, she still grieves. It is normal. But her husband was a cousin and a longtime friend, and I promised him I would care for her. When she is ready, we will marry. Until then, I will take care of the business of the farm.”
Before Hanako could blink, the stranger had made the purchase and had turned to lead the cow out of the stockyard. He indicated with a regal nod for her to pick up the cage of chickens, ignoring her frustrated glare. Without a word, he started down the road leading away from the village. Helpless to do anything else, she followed at the customary three paces behind him. He had the animals she wanted, and nothing would be gained by making a scene here.