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About Amanda





High Seas Stowaway is a book very close to my heart!  It concludes my “Renaissance trilogy,” which began with A Notorious Woman and A Sinful Alliance, and features Balthazar Grattiano as the hero at last.  I had the most fun finding out what happened to him, and following him and his heroine Bianca on their adventures!  A big part of the story proved to be the setting of the Spanish Caribbean.  I didn’t know much about the early history of Europeans in the Caribbean when I started out, and I enjoyed every minute of the research.


By 1535, when my story begins, the Spanish were becoming well-established in the New World, and Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola was its newest administrative capital.  Located on the northwest coast between the Windward and Mona Passages, it was perfectly placed on the route between Mexico and Panama to Seville.  Its port, at the mouth of the Ozama river, formed a natural, protected harbor, with anchorage for dozens of ships.  (It became the ‘staging area’ for the great flotas of treasure galleons headed back to Spain, laden with silver, gold, emeralds, and pearls, as well as spices and fancy dyes for fabric).


The gallows, where pirates hung rotting for all to see, held a prominent place near the harbor.  And the lush, thick central valleys made the ideal hiding place for those (more fortunate) pirates and runaway slaves!  Buccans, or wild frontiersmen, hid out there as well, hunting the wild pigs.  Though Hispaniola held no gold itself, it did export sugar from the numerous plantations and hardwoods from the abundant forests.


And Santo Domingo was certainly not just some rough “wild west” town!  Gove Alonso de Feuonmayor wanted to make the city as “Spanish” as possible.  Between 1533 and 1536, he oversaw the building of a great cathedral dedicated to Mary (which can still be seen today), a fortress ringed around with ramparts, and defensive walls.  Santo Domingo was built atop a hill, and given that very Spanish look the governor wanted.  Houses and ramparts were made of yellow stone and red-orange brick, with red-tiled roofs.  Streets were cobbled, and the church bells rang out every hour.


All in all, the perfect place for a tavern owner like Bianca to prosper, selling rum to thirsty sailors!  And the perfect place for her to meet with her old love—and old enemy—Balthazar once again.


Another aspect I loved researching was ships, and the life of the sea in the sixteenth century.  It was rough, and romantic, full of an adventurous spirit that was exactly right for a restless, tormented soul like Balathzar.  (Though I did tend to gloss a bit over some of the, shall we say, less pleasant aspects of life at sea!  Scurvy—not romantic)


Balthazar’s ship, the Calypso, is a caravel (like Columbus’s Nina and Pinta).  Caravels were lightly built, fast, responsive, and stable.  Between 60 and 72 feet in length, with a raised quarterdeck and stern, 3 masts (2 for square-rigged sails and 1 smaller for a lateen rig at stern), it could easily sail in crosswinds.  It was nimble and versatile, cost-effective (with a smaller crew), but also cramped for space.  This provided special challenges for a romance writer…


When I visited the reproduction ships at Jamestown last summer, I realized something important.  It would be rather difficult for Balthazar and Bianca to get it on in that tiny cabin.  There was just not much room, with a teeny berth and a low ceiling.  And no privacy at all!  This was difficult, yes, but not impossible.  Not for those who are determined.  (You can read the book to see how they manage it!)


I learned so much from this story—about what rough weather would feel like, the diet aboard ship, navigation, careening, mapmaking.  And the very important research on white sand beaches and palm trees!  But I have to admit one of my favorite parts of the “research” was watching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies over and over, and imagining Orlando Bloom sweeping me into that tiny cabin…


Some great sources I found are:

  • The Mammoth Book of Pirates, Jan E. Lewis ed.

  • Villains of all Nations, Marcus Rediker

  • And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Wayne Curtis (very useful—and not just for the mojito recipe!)

  • The Spanish Caravel: Trade and Plunder, Kenneth Andrews

  • The Spanish Empire in America, CH Haring

  • The Spanish Main, Peter Wood

  • A Brief History of the Caravel, Jan Rogozinski

  • The Sea King: Sir Francis Drake and His Times, Albert Marrin (later than “my” time period, but great for a feel of what life at sea was like)





Playing the Duke's Fiancee


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