I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of female pirates. When looking for tales of powerful women throughout history, there is a surprising amount of inspiration to be found among the legends of Anne Bonny, Grace O’Malley, Mary Read and Ching Shih. Where so many other trades, institutions and dynasties are distinctly lacking in female presence, these powerful women ruled the sea and the world. Navies kowtowed to them as swiftly as their enemies and history remembered their names.
Of course, these women were cutthroat, make no mistake of that. They killed and destroyed and stole and pillaged, just like any good pirate should. This is not to make light of the violence that pirates and seafaring vagabonds created in the Golden Age of Piracy. They were dangerous.
But, to a young woman, a young girl, even, who got the watered down version of the world’s greatest friendship between Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who understood, in a visceral way, that these women were ahead of their time, female pirates are important. Because three hundred years after the Golden Age ended, we are still facing an unequal world. Women may no longer be traded for dowry of sheep in the Western world, but we face violence and discrimination every single day. Just look at the last five days of news, if you need any proof.
And in a world that was worse for women, these dangerous, wild, angry women, they bucked the system. To twist a modern turn of phrase, make ‘em walk the plank, if they can’t take a joke. They abandoned their statuses, refused marriage and inspired the young feminist in me to say that if you don’t like the way that society is treating you, make your own damn rules.
Such was my inspiration for Catalina Sol, the pirate-esque heroine of my recent release, Heart and Dagger. While not as extreme as the like of Ching and Grace – she is skilled with a sword and knows when not to use it, Catalina has fled life in England, an undoubtedly abusive marriage, and the rules of society that demand she behave as a proper lady. Instead, she creates her own rules, and in doing so opens up respite for women, children and even men that society has forgotten.
I’ve always wanted to be a pirate queen. The lore and myth surrounding life at sea is vast and full of imagination, and the very idea of somehow mastering the great monster of ocean – or coming to an unlikely peace with it – is appealing. As is the aesthetic of britches, boots and undone silk shirts. But, of course, the reality is that being a pirate or a woman of the era would have been much more than simply difficult. Being both puts you in the history books. (Not to speak of the stench aboard a pirate ship.)
So no, I’m unlikely to commandeer a ship, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasley black guts out.
But I can be a pirate queen of today. Catalina helped those who had no place to go in a time when women had no recourse, no opportunities. At the risk of sounding maudlin, there are many days when it feels as though our rights and liberties and opportunities are taken from us. So forget the swords, forget the ships, forget the fancy white shirts with the fluffy bits on the cuffs. I’ll make my stand for women all over the world today. I’ll be a pirate queen when I fight for Planned Parenthood, equal pay for equal work and respect for stay at home mothers. I’ll be a pirate queen when we march in the streets, demanding rights to our own bodies, demanding opportunities in the STEM sector, demanding that we get taken seriously.
Times have changed. It does not take four months to sail the ocean blue on new adventures. You cannot lose yourself in the wilds of America and leave your life behind. No, women are not still sold to the highest bidder, at least, not where I am from.
But our fight isn’t over, not by a long shot. And with a crew full of pirate sisters and brothers on my side, I look forward to entering the fray.
Heart and Dagger,
The Ships in the Night Series (Book 1)
Lady Charlotte Talbot hasn’t seen Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, her oldest childhood friend and once betrothed, since his family returned to India when she was fifteen. Since then, she has left a groom at the altar, changed her name to Catalina Sol, opened a house for unwed mothers and orphans, and captained a ship, the Liberté, crewed by the best fighters in the Spanish Main. She’s no longer the lady he left behind, not that she’d admit to wishing he’d return.
When Armand’s brother is kidnapped, he breaks his rule of never engaging with pirates. But desperation drives him to the Liberté and a life he thought he’d left far behind. He’d do anything to save Henri, but Armand never expected to find Charlotte here, and now that’s he’s found her, he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.
Together, they must face kidnapping, pirate captains, blackmail, and themselves. The Liberté may sail thousands of miles from the shores of England, but that might not be far enough to escape the past.
Wild Rose Press: https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/5361-heart-and-dagger.html?search_query=heart+and+dagger&results=2
Holland Rae is the author of several works of erotic and romantic fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres, and enjoys pushing the limits of freedom, feminism, and fun in her stories. She has been an avid writer for many years, and recently moved back to her home state of New Jersey from Boston, after completing her education in journalism and creative writing.
In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent a semester abroad living in a 14th century castle in the Netherlands. When not exploring the world, she likes dreaming up stories, eating spicy food, driving fast cars, and talking to strangers.
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or at www.HollandRae.com
“Like you, Armand?” she asked him. Her voice had reached an even tone, with no emotion evident, and that was far more terrifying than her angered yelling. Like him. He could have been her husband these years now, had he ever written back, had he not turned himself away from everything London and Paris were to him. He had been a coward and fool.
And yet, the knowledge did not serve to calm his temper in the slightest. Instead, he nearly ground his teeth to dust, as she continued her even speech.
“I have never needed a man to care for me,” she said, her gaze so full of disdain, Armand felt himself growing smaller in the wake of it. “I have never needed anyone to care for me.” This time, when she spoke, there was no denying the sadness that filtered through her words, or the expression in her eyes, and Armand felt his own grief in it, felt his own sadness as it mirrored hers.
“Why are you trying to change me?” she asked him. He knew he needed to back down, knew that if he spoke right at this moment, as this woman stood before him in her britches, then he would regret it forever. He knew all these things, and yet the anger seemed to consume him, anger, fear, sadness.
“It’s about time someone tried.”
He watched her finish dressing and leave without another word, but there was no denying the pain he saw in those beautiful eyes, and he felt all the hurt he had caused her as acutely as if someone had dug a knife into his very own body. Of course he didn’t want to change her, not the glorious laughter that exposed her long stretch of beautiful neck, not the way she treated the world’s misfits, offering them love and joy, so much more than just clothing and food. There was not a single thing in the world he would change about Catalina Sol.
He stopped short, eyes still wide upon the doorway through which she had only just left. If he didn’t want to change her, then why had he said so? Why had he said the one thing he knew would hurt her more than all the rest?
Because she had done the same.
She hadn’t even said no, hadn’t even rejected him in a way that stood to break him, but as Armand stood in Catalina’s chamber all alone, he realized he hadn’t proposed out of honor. He hadn’t suddenly developed the sense of responsibility that had forsaken him all those years ago.
He had proposed because he wanted to marry her. The thought was like a knife turning in his belly, and it sent a shard of new pain through his temple.
He had wanted to marry her.
As she had lain in the morning sunshine, her hair spread around her, that delicious glow upon her skin, Armand had believed it his duty to marry Catalina, but it hadn’t been his duty. It hadn’t been his responsibility. It had been his desire.
And then she had laughed, had laughed and thrown his betrayal of their once future in his face, and Armand hadn’t understood why he had been so angry. But he understood now, he knew exactly what had driven him to say the words he knew would bring her to her knees. Because she had brought him to his knees and Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, earl, comte, somewhere in line for an Indian princehood, didn’t like the sensation one bit.
Welcome, Holland! I'm a huge fan of those pirate women also. (Did you catch Black Sails on STARZ?) Being a woman was tough enough in those days, but as you said, they grabbed life and made it their own ... although I'm sure their victims weren't impressed. :-) Best of luck with your story!
Welcome, Holland. You reminded me of the Yul Brynner movie The Buccaneer where he plays the title role (aka a pirate) Jean Lafitte, with Bonnie Brown at his side. She was so interesting. Hubs was fascinated by Black Sails. I admit to some fascination, too. LOL Brutal, though. Wishing you much success with your story.
Hello, Holland. Pirate queens! Don't you love these bits of history we can play with? I'm with you on pirate queening in modern day...no better day than this one to make our voices heard. The Roses here know I've spent four months every summer at the helm of a 45 foot trawler (for more than twenty years), cruising up/down the Inside Passage, all the way to Alaska, some summers. Women at the helm are still rare, I want you to know, and you'd be surprised at the head shaking I got from women when I told them about being alone on the wide, wide sea. Many more women than men fear the sea and boating. Excellent niche you've chosen...keep those women cruising' and captaining ships!
A pirate woman with a mind of her own beats a simpering miss looking for a man to give her life meaning in my book! Okay, I'm not a fan of violence or stinking ships, but I appreciate the spirit behind the notion. It appears women are finally rising up against sexual abuse in the workplace. About damn time! Maybe this will be a turning point. One can hope.
Thank you all so much for your support and enthusiasm! I love how many powerful and independent women there are in this genre and I see it every day with my wonderful author friends! (Who's up for a big ol' pirate adventure, Rolynn can sail for us!)
For some reason, I seem to be struggling to leave responses to individual comments - I'm not on Blogger, maybe that's it, but you are all so wonderful and I really appreciate your reading my pirate/feminist rant post and your kind words about the book! Black Sails is totally on the list for us, you know it! Haha, I've softened my pirates, just a bit, but history definitely wasn't pretty - it was interesting though!
I look forward to marching alongside you all as strong, capable heroines upon these tumultuous seas! Many, many thanks again!
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