Art is both seductress and salve in this iridescent first novel set in late-nineteenth-century Japan and France. Desperately unhappy in her arranged marriage, young, beautiful Ayoshi retreats to her studio, where she paints erotic watercolors of a former lover. The vibrant portraits are worlds away from the colorless life she shares with her husband, Hiyashi, a government official and potter who sells his wares overseas. Ayoshi secretly wraps one of her creations around a ceramic vase bound for Europe, where it is discovered by Jorgen, a Paris merchandise shop employee who lost his leg--and his idealism--fighting in the Franco-Prussian war. The radiant image gradually transforms the jaded young Dane, prompting him to pursue brave, blue-eyed Natalia, who is determined to become a soldier. Schuyler laces her lean, lyrical prose with nuanced images of nature: the morning's "faint peach glow," " a twig of cherry blossoms, its pale pink flowers, delicate, like a newborn." A cast of secondary characters, many with their own dark secrets, adds depth and dimension to this engrossing debut.