A swashbuckler set in the West Indies of the early 19th Century, THE WITCH FROM THE SEA is a love story, a coming-of-age adventure and an eccentric comedy of manners about a woman who runs with the pirates to free herself from the conventional "rules" of gender, race and class.

Tory Lightfoot, an orphan of mixed white and Mohawk blood, flees the stifling gentility of 1823 Boston for the freedom of the open sea. But the merchant ship on which she stows away is boarded by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Tory is forced to join the pirate crew to save her life. Making herself useful as both log-keeper and spy, she begins to earn a measure of the independence she craves. But fate, fever and the relentless U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron close in, and Tory must risk her hard-won freedom to save the man she loves.
"I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction."
— The Historical Novel Society Review
"The Witch From The Sea is that rare creation, an historical romance with guts as well as glamour. Wild-spirited Tory is an irresistible character."
— Nautical historian Joan Druett (She-Captains; Hen Frigates)
"I am in love with this book. A+."
Reading Rocks / YA Fiction Review

Monday, December 31, 2012


From Tory's Log~

A tin of tea that Aunt Fiona herself had sent us as a Christmas present still sat unopened on a back shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Papa refused to drink the stuff; he claimed it carried with it far too much of the taste of Boston.

It took Mama a few minutes to stoke up the stove and boil a kettle of water. Then she had to brew the tea in a china pot that had belonged to the boy's first mother, their real mother, and set out the mugs and cider for the rest of us on a wooden chopping board pressed into service as a tray. By the time Mama and I returned to the parlor, a glowering silence had settled in between Papa and his sister. She was listening to Andy recite his grammar lesson.

"Will we be seeing your husband on this visit, Fiona?" Mama asked, as she served the tea.

"Mr. Gilbert is in Boston, attending to his shipping business," Fiona replied. "Which is exactly what you should be doing, Ewan, instead of frittering away your life and your talents in this...pastorale."

Papa cast his sister a dark look, but did not reply.

"As for my visit, Molly, it shall only be overnight, for I have come with a very specific purpose. And I doubt it will take any longer than that for Ewan to come to his senses."

"About what?" Mama asked, calmly, but I could feel her unease. She sat on a nearby stool and drew me closer to her.

"My husband, Mr. Gilbert, has very generously invited Ewan to come into business with him," said Fiona. "Your father had quite a head for business, once, back when he owned his own mercantile shop in Boston," she went on, with a sweeping glance round the room that took in the boys and me. "And now is the time to turn that knowledge to profit."

Here, Aunt Fiona turned her full majesty back upon Papa.

"The Jacobins down in Washington City are only hours away from declaring war on England. On England! Who has ever been a friend to the merchants of Boston."

"The patriots of 1773 would be surprised to hear it," Papa muttered, but Aunt Fiona sailed right along.

"When Jefferson was President, he proved his faithlessness to Boston with that ill-fated embargo. If his puppet, Madison, decrees this war, the merchants of Boston will never countenance it. We intend to trade with England as we always have, and with the Southern ports closed to English shipping, there will be substantial fortunes to be made!

"Ewan, give up this idyll and return to Boston with me. Build Molly a proper house, send the boys to college, buy Victoria all the petticoats she can wear, give hem all a chance to come to some consequence in the world! Don't squander your lives out here in this wilderness like a pack of wild Indians..."

It was an unfortunate choice of words, and Aunt Fiona's voice evaporated into the air as soon as they were spoken.  But by then, Papa had already heard more than enough. The anger seethed out of him, despite the low pitch of his voice.

"Fiona, besides the fact that what you're suggesting in treason, I have no interest in ever returning to your precious Boston, nor subjecting my family to it. Profit and fortune and commerce be damned! We live a peaceful life out here, and I'll not have it disrupted by your fine society and its petticoats.

"As for consequence, my Molly an these children are worth far more than all the fabled merchant princes of Boston, including your Mr. Gilbert," and here, even  Papa had to pause for breath, "who can take his shipping business and—"

"Ewan!" Mama cried, standing abruptly, and doing her best, or so I thought, to swallow a grin. "You yourself have disturbed the peace quite enough for one afternoon. Remember where you are."

My brothers and I had witnessed this interesting confrontation with more fascination than fear. In the next moments, the boys looked particularly stunned to see their aunt—Aunt Fiona, the unimpeachable!—make the first move toward conciliation.

"Forgive me, Molly," Fiona began, with the grim resolve of one who does not often have cause to apologize. "I meant you no disrespect. I simply...I want to do what's best for the children. I want them to be happy."

Josh, who had quietly unfolded himself to his full height and, at  seventeen, no longer resembled a child, came over to kneel beside me.

"But we're happy here, Aunt Fiona. Aren't we, Tory?" He tickled me from behind, and I fell back, giggling, against him.

"I don't want to go away," I said, from the safety of my brother's arms. "We don't have to go away, do we, Aunt Fiona?"

"No, dear," Fiona sighed. "Not just now, anyway." Then she roused herself a little. "Come here to me...what do they call you? Tory?"

She held out both her arms, and I walked over to her.

"Well, child, suppose you tell me what you learned in church last Sunday?"

I looked at her, bewildered. "Church?"

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