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In an entertaining if uneven debut novel from a U.K. publishing executive, dual story lines feature spirited English heroines-a 17th-century country girl and a modern-day craft shop owner-both with a gift for embroidery. As a farewell gift from her married lover, Julia Lovat receives a book published in 1625 and filled with a variety of sewing patterns. Inside the manual, Julia discovers the words, scribbled in pencil over the pages, of Cat Ann Tregenna, a 19-year-old British servant kidnapped by Muslim raiders and taken to Morocco to be sold into slavery. En route, the pirate leader, Al-Andalusi, is wounded in a battle, and Cat and her needlepoint skills are called on to stitch up the man's wounds, an encounter that leads to a tangled interfaith rivalry. As Julia struggles to shake off the dregs of her affair, she finds inspiration in Cat's makeshift diary and travels to Morocco to track down proof that Cat really existed; in the process, she discovers a new life of her own. Johnson imbues her historical story line with a captivating energy and momentum, but the humdrum contemporary quasi-romance doesn't pull its share of the weight. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.