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Saturday, February 22, 2014

China Jewel by Thomas Hollyday

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vision, voice, imagination

The River Sunday Romance Mystery series of books:
Slave Graves
Magnolia Gods
Powerboat Racer
Terror Flower
China Jewel

An excerpt from China Jewel:
     Out in the harbor more sails were let go from yardarms and dropped to fill with wind. The crew adjusted the staysails and jibs to the early southeast breeze. The square cloth slapped and grew taut with the braces and sheet lines. As they provided thrust, the Peregrine, towering over the spectator boats, sailed ahead. The outward tide added speed. The ships wake became a white curl sliced upward by the curved sharp bow. The water raced along the black planks of the hull and out from the sides of the deep canted rudder.
She moved towards the Chesapeake, past the towns famous rock pile rising like a tiny island in the harbor. The monument, constructed to honor the freed local slaves after the Civil War, would normally have been the center of attraction for tourists, but not today. All eyes were on this classic replica ship as it passed on its port and starboard sides the sleek late Twentieth Century ocean yachts. They were owned by observers from American, British, and French competitor teams, as well as many smaller weekend cruisers and sloops. Overhead, helicopters from Baltimore, photographing live video for the national and overseas news, droned like big searching bees looking over the strange white and black flower below.
     In front of her a gray United States Navy guided missile frigate was moored. Her ensign flew at the center masthead; a Sikorsky Seahawk helicopter warmed up on her deck. The Assateague, a 110-footer from the Coast Guard, also stood by. To her starboard, on shore, hundreds of white, tan, and black families were standing in the backyards of their houses, silent as the ship heeled and gathered speed. Next to them, craftsmen were clustered on the wooden and steel railway of the shipyard or the tarpaper-covered roof of the long white woodworking shed. Seamstresses who created the antique Peregrine cotton sails stood on the town pier, their faces glowing. Here also the local high school band belted out the state song Maryland My Maryland. With them a white-haired choir from the Flying Tigers World War Two veterans club sang in harmony. All in all, the birth of this ship was treated as a resurrection by the townspeople; a rebirth of their heritage.
     Morning shadows from the taller brick buildings spread over Cutter and the other spectators. When the band stopped, they heard the commands of the mates and the continuing cracks of sails filling with wind. The sailors climbed aloft, letting go more cloth and shifting the great controlling lines that adjusted the yardarms.
     Good party on the Peregrine deck last night, said Jolly.
     Cutter nodded. The town newspaper editor said its the best Goddamned thing that has ever happened to this town.
     He paused, then said, You got us all set?
     Jolly leaned over and whispered, The navigation people estimate her to log two hundred twenty nautical miles a day. The little man looked around suspiciously at the other revelers, many of them competitors, here to learn Peregrine race secrets.
     Keep at it, Cutter said. We need all the speed we can get.
 Book Readers Review
China Jewel is one of The River Sunday Romance Mystery series of books by Thomas Hollyday. The theme of the story is about an ocean race of international tall ships navigating the ancient tea trade route to China.  The Peregrine, a replica of a famous Nineteenth Century clipper, is entered by Jim Cutter, the competition director.  Peregrine is commissioned to be built in the same small Maryland shipyard, as the prototype was many years ago.  But disturbing rumors surrounding the old Peregrine are uncovered, the death of a young girl and disappearance of a legendary Chinese jewel.  As the race proceeds the tall ships are in jeopardy when severe weather occurs and treachery from one of the contestants.  Peregrine mysteriously disappears; Cutter is devastated as his son, who he has recently renewed his relationship with, is aboard working as a crew member.

The author has achieved an interesting combination of ancient and modern day events throughout the novel.  A story with a topic of sailing and ships has a personal attraction to this reviewer whose husband lives and breathes sailing.  Thomas Cutter has created a tale that is filled with action, drama, history, mystery, and romance.  The original tea trade route from the Atlantic around the Cape Horn to Canton is brought to life through the vivid images Thomas' words portray.  I found the story compelling with characters that create an emotional response of love and despise.  Each chapter had me sitting on the edge of my seat not wanting to stop.  Hollydays writing makes action come alive and people feel real.   Chesapeake Bay, Maryland and the seafaring history of the area is fascinating and new to this reader. This is the first novel I have read in the series, now Im hooked.  I have no hesitation in recommending China Jewel.
About the Author
Thomas Hollyday (1942-present) was born in Easton, Maryland. His father was an acclaimed photographer and his mother a brilliant teacher.His father's family were active in the history of Maryland since its settlement while his mother's family were prominent in Democratic Party politics. His grandmother's family descended from a well known German industrial family of Baltimore. He grew up in the southern atmosphere of the Eastern Shore with its maritime and military heritage. He studied writing with Elliott Coleman at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and with C.Michael Curtis of the Atlantic Monthly. He served with distinction in Vietnam and became a successful international businessman.He also drew illustrations for national magazines and published maritime and Civil War history. He currently edits the Wet Their Whistles newsletter for animal water rights ( He draws the popular humorous Animal Viewpoint Cartoons for newspapers.

Part of the proceeds from the sale of Thomas Hollyday fiction, cartoons and non-fiction goes to support clean drinking water resources for wildlife.
Purchase: Amazon