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

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Excerpt from
The Witch from the Sea
Copyright©2001 by Lisa Jensen All Rights Reserved ISBN: 0-9679591-5-2 Available at http://www.beaglebay.com

Boston, 1823

    My first taste of freedom was almost my last.
 I very nearly balked at the blackness of the February night out beyond the iron gate and at the icy wind shrieking its warning in my ears. Go back, foolish girl. There is no place for you out here. But there was no place for me anywhere in Boston. Certainly not at the Worthen Female Academy; its forbidding stone face loomed in the dark behind me like the prison, the tomb it was. My only chance at freedom lay beyond the gate, and my passion for freedom was stronger than my fear; it only needed to be slapped and coaxed and bullied into life, like any infant thing.
 A night-soil cart rumbled over the cobbles in the next street, the hollow clop of hooves echoing like the footsteps of ghosts. I was haunted by so many ghosts, everyone I had lost. Mama, dead in her childbed. Papa, lost to his rage. My half- brothers, both gone away. The iron froze to my bare hand as I gripped a bar, raised the latch, and nudged open the gate. I would go too, and I mustered the courage to push the heavy gate shut behind me and abandon myself to the night.
 It was easier to move quietly without my usual armor of pantalettes and cumbersome skirts. I’d stolen this outfit of woollen trousers and greatcoat and coarse linen shirt from the servants’ castoff clothing put by for the poor. I was tall for a girl of sixteen and possessed of no great delicacy of form or feature, as had been brought to my attention on many occasions. But those defects would help me, now. I ought to have cut my hair short as well, but my long, dark hair was all I had left of my mother; I would be like Samson without it—weakened, helpless, lost. So I had plaited it back and stuffed it under my collar. Stray Indians with long, plaited hair were not uncommon along the waterfront.
It was heretical to pose as a male, I knew—a crime against God, never mind the crime of theft. Yet more sins, more black marks against me in God’s accounting book, beginning with the sin of my mother’s tainted blood, that crippling defect for which there was no remedy. But I cared not. If goodness were to be forever denied me, I would embrace sin, and gladly. Five long years at Worthen had failed to improve me. My time there had been like a suffocating nightmare from which I was only now waking.
I heard again my Aunt Fiona’s prim voice ringing all round the vast and polished rooms of her Boston townhouse as I cowered before her, alone and miserable. “I have no place to keep a child, here, Victoria,” she told me. But I knew she had sheltered my fair-skinned brothers, my father’s sons, when their mother died. Before he removed them to the country to start a new life on the farm with his new bride. His heathen bride. My mother. Had she only lived, had my Papa only kept his reason, I should not have been an orphan begging for my Aunt Fiona’s charity.
“My brother has been sadly negligent in his paternal duties,” Aunt Fiona went on. “But you will receive a proper Christian education at the Worthen Academy. When you learn some manners and accomplishments, in time . . . the other won’t matter as much.” I could see her appraising my dark hair and eyes. My otherness. “Remember, you are my niece. And your Papa was a good and respected man in this town, once. There is no shame in being your father’s daughter.”
 Or my mother’s. And I lifted my head and met my aunt’s gaze. I was done with begging.

The memory of my aunt dissolved in the black night, replaced by the pink face, golden ringlets and vicious blue eyes of the prettiest, most well-bred young lady among my new classmates, accosting me in the stairwell. “Your mama was a heathen red-Indian witch who turned your papa crazy!”
I heard again the satisfying smack of my hand across her pale face. “My mama was better than all the simpering white women in Boston!” Which outburst landed me in the private study of a most furious Miss Jane Worthen to demand an apology I could in no way provide, not even to save my eternal soul.
“Do not imagine that because you are young and ignorant that you can escape the wrath of Almighty God,” Miss Jane seethed. “Children are born in sin and depravity. Only Divine Grace can redeem you, and that is no easy goal to achieve. Passion is the work of the devil. Pride and anger must be rooted out, for they lead to wickedness. Piety and obedience lead to God’s favor, yet these things alone cannot save you. Good works alone cannot save you. Nothing can save you from the fires of eternal damnation as long as there is depravity and wickedness in your heart.”
How could it be wicked to defend the memory of my mother? Stony silence was my only response.
“You are in very grave danger, indeed, Miss MacKenzie,” my captor warned. “You have more to repent than most, given the un-Christian circumstance of your birth. Purifying grace is a gift from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Only those who honestly repent their sins and renounce pride, passion and anger may receive it. I shall not punish you now; that is in God’s hands. But remember, God sees everything you do. And He keeps excellent accounts.”
Now, another ghost wavered into being before me in the black night: Bet, the upstairs chambermaid, my only friend. She’d been dismissed for her wanton passion for life, her wilfull humor, her brazen disobedience. “Oh, Tory, don’t you see what will happen?” she chided me on the day they sent her away. “They’ll keep you here forever until you’re just like them—a dried-up old maid without even the memory of a life to keep you warm!”
Of all the terrible things ever said to me at Worthen, that was the worst. Bet’s words gnawed at me like a curse until I knew I would risk any punishment, any fate, to be free.
The wind gusted in the street as I hurried on, dead leaves and debris pattering along the cobblestones, whispering in the dark. When fierce winds blew, Mama said it was a giant imprisoned in the House of Winds, twisting and turning to be free. When blue lightning tore open the black sky, Mama said it was only Grandfather Thunderer frightening off the demons before he bestowed the gift of rain on the people of the earth. In Mama’s stories, the gods were kind and loving—Turtle, who carried the world on his back, Sky Woman, who gave birth to Creator, who made all the creatures of the earth.
Now, the winking stars in the moonless black sky spied down on me like the thousand eyes of the God of Wrath. But I was done with repenting. They had never been able to drive the wickedness out of me. They could never make me ashamed of my mother.
I had lost so much—my family, my childhood, everyone who had ever loved me. But not myself, not yet. Anger, disobedience, passion—these were the only tools left me with which to fashion a life. If I still could. If there was still time. I would go far away from civilized Boston, somewhere the God of Wrath could never find me. There were ships leaving every day from the harbor: merchant ships and whaling ships, their decks crammed with every sort of sailor bound for every sort of place. One of my brothers had run away to sea on such a ship to make his fortune, as any boy may do. I didn’t know starboard from larboard, but I knew only a ship would take me as far away from Boston as it was possible to go.
I hurried past the eerie rise of old Fort Hill and toward the pungent odor of brine and fish on the freshening breeze off India Wharf. It was the scent of freedom. Along the way, I committed the last sin of my civilized life. A small murder. Victoria MacKenzie died that night. But I was born.

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