Grace Kawakami lives in paradise -- at least that's what they call Hawaii in 1941. But hell breaks loose in paradise on December 7, when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and Grace's world turns upside down. Her mother, a nurse, is called to work at the hospital. Her brother, Tom, is called to serve with his ROTC unit. And her father is taken away by the authorities. Grace is alone with only herself to depend on.
Perhaps most frightening of all is that her brother, Richie, is trapped in Japan and can't come home. And, since all the Kawakami children are dual citizens, Richie may be drafted into the Japanese army. Could it really be that Grace's two brothers might end up fighting each other?
She's is scared, uncertain and confused. All she can hope is that love will bring her family back together again... because all she has left are dreams of home.
It's 1957. The Everly Brothers are on the radio. Desegregation is in the news. And Emma Chandler -- only child, talented violinist -- is on the brink of an exciting new life as a freshman at Willette Women's College. But the day before she leaves for school, she finds something that nearly destroys her: her adoption papers.
It's bad enough that her boyfriend cheated on her last spring; her parents have been deceiving her for her entire life! Emma wants answers: Who is she? Where did she come from? Why did someone give her away? But Emma isn't prepared to confront her parents. Not yet.
At Willette, Emma meets her new roommate, Beth, who's keeping a secret of her own, and her dorm mates: Nancy, a politician's daughter; Juanita, who'd rather be at UCLA; Kathleen, a timid redhead; and Carolyn, who's either painfully shy or downright stuck up. And then there's Paul -- the gorgeous timpanist in the orchestra with the heart-stopping smile. He's interested... she's afraid. Why risk another disappointment? Better to keep him at arm's length... because she knows she'll be a goner if he kisses her.
Erin Fraser thinks agreeing to spend the summer on a New Mexico Pueblo may be the biggest mistake of her life. And she's only been here an hour! It's hot, it's dry, it's barren, and her uncle has barely said ten words to her. But when she meets Paolo, things start to look up -- except that Mr. Tall, Dark and Completely Mystifying seems to hate her.
Paolo Herrera, Pueblo born and bred, thinks the girl from California suffers from the worst addiction of the 21st century -- and it isn't drugs. He has no use for an outsider who doesn't even know the difference between a pueblo and a reservation. Their values and goals couldn't be more different. And yet, there's something about her...
In spite of their conflicting worlds, Erin finds Paolo irresistible. As she learns more about the pueblo and its customs, she comes to appreciate the essence of village life. Paolo can't help being drawn to her, too, and he gives her an Indian name, "Cloud Dancer." But the name is the only thing he is willing -- or able -- to give her.
She's a California girl. He's a pueblo boy. Should it matter that she is light and he is dark? Erin Fraser's older brother, Scott, thinks it matters-- a lot. The Frasers are visiting the pueblo and Scott has made it clear that a relationship between Erin and Paolo is unacceptable. Paolo agrees. He has an obligation to fulfill and it doesn't include an outsider: for the pueblo to survive the young men must marry girls from the village.
That's why Paolo hasn't contacted her in the two years since her first visit. But seeing her again is weakening his resolve. Erin still can't figure out what makes their differences so insurmountable. "I can appreciate your culture," she insists. "Why can't you appreciate mine?" Paolo knows why, but can't figure out how to make her understand.
Verbal explosions result each time their worlds collide. They argue rather than talk, each trying to make and win points. Erin knows it has nothing to do with color. It's about a way of life that he loves, whose rules don't apply to people not born in the village. But why is he making it bigger than what she knows they feel for each other? Can a place to live really be more important than love?
Is six years too long to love a ghost? Erin Fraser thinks so. She needs to find out, once and for all, what happened between her and Paolo Herrera that made their love crash and burn. That's why she's returned to the pueblo and accepted a teaching position at the local high school. But Erin learns that she has become the ghost, and is crushed to discover that Paolo has moved on with his life. It turns out that Natoma, Paolo's girlfriend from years past, is the pueblo's choice for his wife.
Erin meets a handsome young lawyer, Zack, who seems to be the cure for her loneliness. He reintroduces her to a world of privilege and luxury -- one she thought she'd left behind at the private school where she taught her first year in California. Paolo and Zack are polar opposites and the values of their two worlds are in absolute conflict with each other. Erin is living on the edge of each world, not sure which suits her best.
But when Paolo realizes that he has actually seen Erin and not a ghost, her life becomes impossibly complicated. On the day the school term starts, Erin makes a shocking discovery -- Paolo is a teacher there also! Why didn't he tell her? Why didn't her family tell her? Just how complicated can two lives get? And who is going to leave this time?