|18th Century French Frigate in Combat|
Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Georgian, Regency and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels in which readers experience history, adventure and love. Learn more about Regan and her books at her website and blog.
Ship Travel in Romance Novels
Do you love to read historical romances where there is travel by ship? Perhaps with an exciting storm? Or the wind in your face as you cling to the railing? Just think of all those romantic sunsets with a darkly handsome ship’s captain. And you the only woman among all those men. Sigh.
Well, I love the sea and the ships that sail upon it. I also love a good seafaring romance. Throw in a handsome captain, a pirate or a privateer, and a worthy mission and I’m there. But travel by ship in a romance must be done carefully. The author has to make the reader experience the ship moving beneath her feet, see those gorgeous sunsets while clinging to the rail and feel the salt spray when she’s standing on deck.
One of my readers said this about Wind Raven, my first seafaring romance, a Regency: “... had me feeling the spray of the ocean in my face, my hair and clothing plastered to my body, the chill of my blood when you know, just know that you’re time is up and you’re done for.”
I was immensely pleased. Since then, I’ve written two more, To Tame the Wind and my newest, Echo in the Wind, books 1 and 2 in the Donet trilogy of Georgian romances.
Pirates & Privateers, an online magazine for fans of all things to do with swashbuckling at sea, said this in their review of To Tame the Wind: “... a captivating tale of love and intrigue... Walker deftly weaves historical fact into the tale, and her depiction of privateers and privateering is well done. Daring sea battles, roguish lurkers, ill-treated prisoners of war, and deceitful dandies add dashes of spice to this historical romance, making it one readers will savor long after they turn the last page.”
Again, I was pleased. But what did it take to accomplish this? To give the reader a real feel for life and love at sea?
First, I dove into pictures of ships (cross sections even) and ship terminology of the period, pouring over my 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word Book and other resources until late at night. I studied diagrams of schooners, brigs and sail configurations until I was seeing them in my dreams. But I soon realized just having the vocabulary and the sail configurations was not enough.
I wanted to be able to describe a storm at sea as huge waves crashed onto the deck and to hear the sounds of guns blazing as they spit forth smoke laced with crimson flames in a raging battle. I needed to hear the sails luffing, feel the wind on my face as the ship’s bow cut through the waves. I needed to experience the rolling deck.
In other words, I had to sail on an actual ship of the period, which I did.
Above is the Californian, a reproduction of a topsail schooner that, fortunately for me, is berthed in San Diego where I live. (The painting is by artist William Lowe and is used with his permission.) It’s the type of schooner Capt. Jean Nicholas Powell sails in Wind Raven, and his father, Captain Simon Powell sails in To Tame the Wind.
On my day of sailing on the Californian, I met the ship’s gunner. She and I became fast friends and have remained so till this day. She is very knowledgeable about 18th and 19th century ships and something of an amateur historian, too. She became my consultant for all my ship scenes.
And, just so you know, there are no floors, doors, stairs, walls or ceilings on a ship. Instead, there are decks, cabin doors, ladders, companionways, bulkheads and overheads. Strictly speaking, ships have fixed guns not cannons, the latter being made to rotate up and down. And no ships prior to the late 19th century had crow’s nests; they had “tops” (some with railings going back to antiquity). In the case of schooners, they had crosstrees. They did not have round windows called “portholes”. The portholes in the 18th and early 19th century were openings in the hull for guns, not glassed windows.
And, did I mention I had to study charts of nautical miles between ports and travel time by sea? Well, you get the picture. And I hope you like the result.
So that brings me to my new book, Echo in the Wind, and the dashing French captain, Jean Donet. A former pirate he is now a smuggler in his spare time. Which is where he met my rebellious English heroine, Lady Joanna West.
Echo in the Wind
England and France 1784
Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.
As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.
Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.
Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?
See the Pinterest storyboard for Echo in the Wind