“Green pastures are before me
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me
Where darkest clouds have been”
Emilie Loring started books with a theme, and Bright Skies‘ theme was renewal. On the eve of war, Cam Fulton and Patricia Carey’s whirlwind romance led to a marriage proposal, but Pat reneged when Cam was ordered overseas. Now, two years later, both have returned from war service, and it’s time to settle things between them.
Bright Skies is set in Hawaii, where images of Pearl Harbor seared war’s reality into the collective minds and hearts of Americans. But peace and paradise have now returned.
From where she sat in a fan-back, lacy wicker chair Patricia Carey watched the paddling, swimming surfers on a sea sparkling in stripes of emerald, sapphire, and, where the sun warmed it, rosy gold, which curved into white-plumed surf as it rolled beachward. It was such a day as the gods are prodigal of in Honolulu. The bowl of the sky was a deep blue with slowly sailing white clouds whipped into fringe at the edges by the same fragrance-laden trade wind that was waving the banyan leaves in the court beyond. Distant pale blue mountains lifted peaks into the sky, and nearer at hand Diamond Head, with its fluted cones, dipped into the iridescent sea.
Pink and green, the colors of spring and new growth, are everywhere.
The window revealed velvet lawns tinted pink in the afterglow…
The mirror above the fireplace… gave back Pat’s lime-green frock…
A plane with rose-tipped silver wings hummed overhead and vanished.
…Pat came down the stairs in a soft green frock, carrying an overnight case. The gloves in her right hand were the exact shade of pink of the mammoth rose in her flower hat.
First, the breeze is scented with hibiscus, then laden with heliotrope, spicy with ginger, and finally,
The rain-washed world smelled as if it had been sprayed with flower scents.
Restrictions have been lifted, and there are fashion shows again–one of Emilie’s passions.
From the wings she watched the professional models walk with measured tempo, grace and style across the stage to the accompaniment of the muted strings and brasses of the Royal Hawaiian Band. The black-haired girl with the brilliantly painted mouth was showing play clothes. The girl with titian hair in the silver gauze frock, modeling the evening line–formals were being worn low and long again–turned to the right, to the left, smiled her bright, meaningless smile.
The palm-bordered terrace was colorful and glittering with smartly dressed women and men coming and going like a continuous style show.
Food is no longer rationed, either, and Emilie indulges with no fewer than three tea parties, a juicy, steak dinner, and Sultana Roll for dessert.
“Luscious. Better than I dreamed.” Velma Dane drew a long sigh of satisfaction. “Since we went to war Sultana Roll has been the forgotten dessert.”
Sultana Roll is still forgotten. Do an image search for it, and you will see raisin-studded pastries, not at all the dessert that Emilie meant. The original, frozen dessert appeared in The Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1896. Shall we give it a try?
Sultana Roll: Line round molds or tin boxes with pistachio ice cream. Sprinkle with sultana raisins which have been soaked 1 hour in brandy. Fill the centers with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Cover with pistachio ice cream. Freeze until firm. Slice to serve and top with claret sauce.
Claret Sauce: Boil 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water 8 minutes. Cool slightly and add 1/3 cup claret.
Cam smoked and thought while the Filipino removed plates and substituted others of glass holding slices of pistachio ice cream, looking like pale green islands with snowy centers entirely surrounded by a claret-red sea.
Even as the island returns to normal, scars of war are still visible, on people and on the landscape.
This wasn’t a man to be cajoled. Not the gay companion she had known. There were deep creases between his nose and the corners of his mouth which had been chiseled into a stand-and-deliver line, a touch of platinum in his dark hair at the temples. Lines deep as if etched with a sharp tool radiated from the corners of his eyes. Why not? He had had two years on the battle front, the last devastating years of the war…
“When I see those rows and rows of white crosses on the mountainside I remember the men under them who fought and died for a better world and I think of the mess of strife and confusion that same world is in today. I hope their spirits haunt the troublemakers.”
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (where Emilie Loring’s brother stayed when it opened in 1927) is still occupied by the Navy, so Cam stays at the Moana instead. I smiled at both the brevity and the elegance of his overnight packing.
“How long do you expect to be away, sir?” Sergeant McIlvray stopped on the threshold of Cam’s workroom to inquire. “How big a bag shall I pack?”
“Lounge robe, pajamas and a shaving kit.”
Contraband, criminals, and competition for Patricia’s affections drive a plot of suspense and mystery. For once, I like the blurb on my paperback: “Pat is drawn into the quicksand of this dangerous plot involving ruthless international thugs.”
A sound. A stealthy sound. She stared at the knob of the door between the two rooms as if hypnotized. It was moving… No use making a break for the hall. The window! Her best bet… Hardly daring to breathe she tiptoed out. Flat against the white wall of the house she hitched along till she reached the side of the bedroom window… Cautiously she moved till she could see into the room, not far, but far enough to see a closet panel slide back and a dark sleeve, a man’s sleeve. Whoever it was was kneeling, reaching for something on the floor.
In the wake of war, the promise of bright skies isn’t guaranteed; it takes dedication to ideals and real work to make it happen.
Pearl Harbor lay ahead… Overlooking it on a mountainside stretched the cemetery where rested the bodies of sailors and marines, officers and men alike, who fell there, under row upon row of white crosses, symbols of their supreme sacrifice. Suppose as a tribute to them each man who had survived the horrors of war years gave of his best? What a world this would be.
Each character in Bright Skies has a decision to make about what his or her best will be, for country and for love. If they have made mistakes, will they own up to them?
“Never accept a substitute for real love, Pat. It is unfair to both man and woman.”
From the first moment he had seen her he had wanted her for his wife, he hadn’t thought whether their tastes were similar, if they would be congenial in the wear and tear of daily life, if she cared for children.
Perhaps Cam hadn’t left yet, perhaps there would be a chance to say she was sorry; now that she had seen him she couldn’t go through another night without his forgiveness.
There’s a line about writing that hints at Emilie owning up to her lapses in that area.
“Sometimes I wonder when real writers get the time to write, if they are besieged with temptations to do other and easier things as I am.”
But it is an Emilie Loring story, and she always gives encouragement.
“Pull yourself together. Concentrate… Cut out the willies, we have a job ahead.”
“Look! Rain is falling like a silver mist and the sun is shining through.”
“The Hawaiians have a name for it, ‘liquid sunshine.’ There’s a rainbow.”