Photo above by Beth Miller
It is not news that Britain is an island. Not just an island, but part of an archipelago, a wide flung collection of islands including Ireland, the Hebrides that are the wild western fringe of Scotland, Shetland and Orkney away to the north, the Scilly Isles scattered southwest from Cornwall, the yachting Isle of Wight to the south, and many more: there are two major islands, Great Britain and Ireland, some middling sized ones, and over 6000 smaller ones, some not much larger than rocks, but still… (Photo at left from Wikipedia by Jeff Schmaltz, Modis/NASA.)
The English Channel has been a giant protective moat that has kept Britain safe. My favorite quotes about that are the epigraph for my YA historical, Dark Destiny. When Napoleon was gathering a massive invasion fleet at Boulogne to invade England, he said, "Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours, and we are masters of the world."
This was countered by an understated comment in a letter to Parliament by Admiral Lord John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent, when he was commander of the Channel Fleet during the Napoleonic wars. "I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea."
And Napoleon didn't. Deciding that invading Britain was not a good idea, he turned his attention to the east, eventually invading Russia, which turned out to be a really bad idea. (Hitler had a very similar experience 150 years later.)
But what stirred me to write this rather rambling missive was a realization of how often the sea and sailing have been part of my stories. In the second book I ever wrote, Lady of Fortune, (I swear this is the year I will get it polished and released in an e-edition! Really!) the hero is a Royal Navy captain invalided out of active duty.
The final book of my Bride trilogy, The Bartered Bride, (which will be released on February 8th, available for preorder now) features Gavin Elliott, a New England sea captain and trader, and a sizable section of the book is at sea returning from the East Indies, where he discovers a lady in dire need of rescuing. And not just any lady…
Not to mention that Hawkins, the hero of my 2018 book, Once a Scoundrel, is a sea captain. Hawkins had provided the transportation to get the hero to America and then home again in my 2017 book, Once a Rebel.
I think that's all the books I've written where the hero is a seafaring man (though maybe I forgot one <G>). But my characters travel a lot, so that's a lot of implied sea voyages, particularly to and from the Iberian Peninsula. In Nowhere Near Respectable, the hero's brother, Will Masterson, learns of his brother's apparent death while in Portugal and has to find a way to get onto the next packet home, which is leaving in three hours. And hero Mackenzie has a very scary encounter with the sea himself.
In Sometimes a Rogue, the hero sails to Ireland to rescue the kidnapped heroine, and the two of them have a way too exciting voyage when they escape back to England. In No Longer a Gentleman, the characters sneak across the Channel with smugglers because there's a war on. In Loving a Lost Lord, the hero is missing and thought dead because the experimental steam ship he was working on blew up.
Sometimes my characters travel a lot farther than Europe. In The China Bride, (Bride trilogy #2) the hero, Kyle Renbourne, finds his bliss in traveling to far distant lands. We first meet him when he is in Macao, the South China city whose small trading enclave that was the only place Westerners were allowed to visit, and only then during the trading season.
Not infrequently, my characters are just getting off a ship and returning home, though the voyage isn't detailed since it's not relevant to the main story. There's really no end to all these characters at sea because–Britain is an island!
Do you suppose there's a connection between my seafaring characters and my love of cruising and seeing the sea? Could be!
Do you like seafaring stories? Do you accept them as a necessary element of books set in Britain? What are some of your favorites?
Or are you committed to staying firmly on dry land?!!