I'm pleased to welcome, author Sheila Dalton to Beyond Words. She's just released her latest baby into the world,
a wonderful novel titled Stolen.
Devon, England, 1633: Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with the only other survivor of the raid, red-haired Elinor, from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. The unlikely pair are soon separated, and Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, Jean Vallée, she is taken to his Manor House in Dorchester, where he keeps her under lock and key. Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. She forms complex bonds with both her captors; but never forgets her parents and uses all her skills to enlist the aid of these men to find them. Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Note from Sheila:
I wrote Stolen after trips to Morocco, where I saw the underground dungeons in which Christian slaves were kept, and Devon, England, a hotbed of pirate activity in the seventeenth century. When I got back to Canada, and started reading up on the era, I was fascinated - and also struck by the odd coincidence that I had just visited both the Moroccan prisons, and Devon, where the Barbary Corsairs conducted their raids along the coast, and carried off British people to their slave markets.
The seventeenth century was an incredible era - known for the rise in exploration, colonization, black and white slavery, as well as a sudden jump in book publication and novel-writing in Britain. And also piracy. Some call it The Golden Age of Piracy. For me, all these elements made it a natural for a work of fiction.
I absolutely love reading historical fiction, so much so that I was nervous about creating my own. I can only hope I’ve come anywhere near writing a book readers will enjoy as much as I’ve enjoyed the historical novels of others.
From Chapter Seventeen:
Watching his craggy profile as he stared out to sea, I realized that I knew next to nothing about him. Why he was called ‘Gentleman Jake’, how he became a pirate, his life before he did so -- nothing. I was about to ask him some personal questions until I took note of his frown, and the look in his eyes that was both distant and hard.
I decided to ask something neutral, so as not to anger or disturb him. “Why are the eunuchs not allowed to be alone with the sultan’s women? What harm can they do?”
He looked down at me, his eyebrows raised. “The full eunuchs are permitted --” he began.
“The full eunuchs?”
He breathed in deeply. “Most of the white eunuchs are not ... rasé.”
“What is rasé?”
His eyes slid from mine. “Shorn. They are not ... shorn. Their testicles -- Do you know what a testicle is?” Jake blew out his moustache and shifted his shoulders inside his jacket so that the coarse material crackled.
“Yes, I do.” Because of Jean. “Go on.”
“... Are crushed or tied. They are otherwise unchanged.” He rushed his words, and concentrated on pulling at the lace protruding from his jacket sleeves. “Some can still perform the act.”
“The full eunuchs --” I burst out, horrified. “How do they survive it?”
“Many don’t.” He frowned and the skin around his eyes tightened. “It is done swiftly,” he said. “With one stroke of the sword. The slaves are dosed with much wine beforehand. Afterwards they bleed like slaughtered sheep. Many bleed away what’s left of their lives.”
Sheila Dalton has published novels and poetry for adults, and picture books for children. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, published by Napoleon Press, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. Her literary mystery, The Girl in the Box, from Dundurn Press, reached the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten. Stolen is her first book of historical fiction.