This year I've decided it would be fun to talk to historical fiction authors who explore some of the less traditional eras. First hansom off the rank is Elizabeth Ellen Carter whose second book in the Revenge of the Corsairs releases on January 10th.
When one things of the Regency period, it’s tempting to simply think of Jane Austen or the delightful comedy of manners that characterise many of Georgette Heyer’s works.
But that would be doing the era a disservice. Australia was finding its feet from penal settlement to thriving colony. Napoleon had embroiled Europe in a bloody war. And another revolution was at hand – the industrial revolution which would forever change the world.
Another part of the early 19th century which is often forgotten was the ongoing wars and skirmishes with the Ottoman Empire which had posed an existential threat to Asia and Europe from 1299 to its final collapse in 1922.
While the worst of its rapacious expansionism ended in the 16th century, for more than two hundred years afterwards it continued to be a major player in socio-political events around the Mediterranean through its control and support for its client states along north Africa that would raid ships and collect slaves from across north Africa and into Europe as far north as Iceland.
So, no tea and cucumber sandwiches here.
For a writer, it is a rich area to explore, particularly the costumes, culture and cuisine of countries not as familiar to us as England, France, Australia and the United States.
The villain of Revenge of the Corsairs is Rabia, the third wife, now widow of Selim Omar. She is driven by status and power and knows that she can only hang on to it through her young son – I guess you could describe it as another type of regency.
Because Rabia has been blamed for the events leading up to the death of Selim Omar, she has been forced into exile, and the only way to retrieve her son is by kidnapping him.
I set the ambush in the mountains of Libya and had wonderful time researching the landscape and learning about the skilful horseman ship of the Berber tribesman and some of the delicious spicy flavours in their traditional dishes.
Here’s one to try at home!
One of the dishes I describe in Revenge of the Corsairs is called Utshu. It is a simple, tasty and filling dish. Not surprisingly it is one of the most popular dishes in Libya.
It features a dough cooked in hot water (a bit like a large dumpling) and served in the centre of a plate with an accompanying sauce/stew.
The dish is eaten by breaking a piece of the dough and dipping it into the surrounding sauce.
Take 1 kilogram of flour and boil about 350ml of water in a large deep saucepan. While the water is boiling add flour a bit at a time while constantly stirring until the mixture solidifies into dough.
Remove from heat and knead the dough into a ball and place in the middle of the serving bowl.
Fry two large onions, add garlic, turmeric, chili powder and tomato puree, then throw in the lamb chops (or beef or fish), a bit of salt and water, and then cook until the meat is cooked. Add potatoes and pumpkin pieces (or other vegetable of your choice) and return to heat until vegetables are done. Add more garlic (usually two or three crushed cloves), heat for a further minute or two, remove from heat then pour around the dough and serve hot - with a squeeze of lemon on top.
Revenge of the Corsairs (Heart of the Corsairs book two) Blurb
Rescued after two years as a concubine in an Ottoman harem, former debutante Laura Cappleman faces a difficult journey back to normal life. As she travels to Palermo aboard Kit Hardacre’s ship, the Calliope, she is deeply traumatized – and pregnant by her kidnapper.
Laura rejects the emotional support of her long-time admirer, Calliope First Officer Elias Nash, and her cousin, Sophia, Kit’s wife. She withdraws into herself and her art. Finally, after giving birth, she decides to return to London, hoping to erase tormented memories.
Emir Selim Omar died on the day of Laura’s rescue, but his wickedness lives on in his third wife, Rabia, in whose household Laura was held. The ruthless widow may yet hold on to the power she wielded as mother to the Emir’s only male heir. However, as opportunists pick his empire apart, her child dies.
When Rabia learns Laura has given birth to a boy, the solution is obvious – the concubine is stolen property and so is the child sired by her late husband. She will take the boy and kill anyone in the way.
As Rabia’s assassins close in, Elias – both embraced and rejected by the damaged woman he loves, uncertain she will ever return, and alone in Palermo with the child he has given his name – must take the battle to the enemy. Otherwise, there may be nothing for Laura to come home to.
Revenge of the Corsairs excerpt
The air was much cooler at this altitude and the previous night’s rain had departed, leaving only a cloudy mist of dove grey that evaporated as the morning sun rose higher, pushing back purple shadows.
Rabia sat with the other women on a blanket and was given a wide, round loaf of bread and a bowl of the thick stew of lamb and vegetables called utshu. She broke off a piece of bread and stirred it through the bowl. The flavors of paprika, cumin, and garlic filled her mouth – simple and satisfying.
The mountainous region of Jebel Akhdar was the most beautiful wilderness she had ever seen. High above the desert plains to the south, the undulating mountains were verdant. Trees, shrubs and grasses fed by a generous amount of rainfall that turned cuttings and ravines into waterfalls and rivers, feeding the livestock and permitting small holdings of crops to be planted.
It had been three weeks since she had left Pantelleria for Tripoli to be certain she arrived ahead of Orhan’s caravan. It had been many years since she traveled simply and on foot but the exercise had made her stronger. It stoked the fire of vengeance that woke her every morning and lulled her to sleep every night for the past four months.
Soon, she would hold her son in her arms again and restore to him his rightful place. Soon, he would be a man of great importance, perhaps even greater than his own father.
A tribesman leading a magnificent seal-brown stallion crossed her view, the sun catching gold on the play of muscles as the creature walked. Man and beast joined the other horses and riders at one end of the encampment. The raiding party was twenty-five in all.
Several yards away from them, another group of men gathered. Unlike the Jabal al-Akhdar tribesman who were dressed in their customary white robes over wide-legged pants, these half-dozen men were dressed head-to-toe in black. Under their hip-length tunics, their pants were fitted at the legs and tied close to the ankles. Suspended from black leather belts were several knives glinting in the sun as they passed around a clay bowl from which they all drank.
These men were specialists in the art of death and were, according to Toufik, descended from the Nazari whose acts of bravery and brutality had become the source of legend. Their very name sent a shiver through her but Rabia suppressed it. She was being watched closely and would show weakness to no one.
The final plans had been worked out last night. The assassins had shadowed the caravan for the past three days and the tribesmen had recommended this location for the ambush. Toufik had acted as her intermediary. As a woman, merely her presence here was enough to arouse suspicion.
Never mind. The how and the why of it were of little concern to Rabia in the scheme of things, of idle interest only. The only things that mattered were her son being returned to her, those she-dogs who kept him from her punished, and Orhan dying in agony.
Revenge of the Corsairs is available on Amazon January 10
US - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07885RNLD
Aus - https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07885RNLD
UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07885RNLD
Canada - https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07885RNLD
Look at all those lovely selfies!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to capture The Naturalist's Daughter in the wild. Everyone's names went into Chief researcher #1's hat and ... drum roll ....
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