A Silly War
Well, maybe most or all war is silly, and the War of 1812 has to be among the silliest. Tiny little United States, with our 18 naval vessels, not all in commission, declared war on powerful Great Britain, with its 506 naval vessels in commission. Our Army was a joke, and half the country was against the war. Yet President Madison and Congress declared war on our old enemy to prove a point. In other words, England was messing with our sailors and our trade freedom, and we didn’t like it. In two and a half years, we got a treaty with everything we wanted. Why?
That why has fascinated me since I first learned of the war way back in the dark ages. The answer ends up being pretty simple: Money.
The USA didn’t have a Navy to speak of, but we still built great sailing vessels—fast and seaworthy. We also had experienced and tough sailors. This means we ended up with a fleet of independent privateers that took so many British merchantmen prizes, the men in England with the money, the merchants, cried “Uncle” and Great Britain promised to cease impressing our sailors and stopping us from trading with France.
That GB was embroiled with Napoleon didn’t hurt either.
Despite our prowess at sea, our land battles were embarrassing losses, yet we walked away with the Northwest Territory, which includes my home state of Michigan, probably one reason for my fascination with the time period.
But another time period with which I am forever fascinated is the Regency. Hmm. The two time periods coincide, yet one rarely ever hears a mention of fighting Americans from Regency authors. This, too, has piqued my interest and set off the “What if—“ factor. From these “What ifs–?” sprang My Enemy, My Heart.
How could I set the War of 1812 in England, when the war barely touched those hallowed—at least to a Regency reader—shores? More reading and research unearthed a place called Dartmoor Prison set—yes, of course—on Dartmoor in Devonshire.
Built in 1809, the walled enclosure was intended for French prisoners. By 1812, it was crowded with the French captured at sea. Then the new war began, and the British crammed American prisoners into the damp, cold, and filthy quarters. These were barracks-like structures and prison yards, plus a marketplace.
Yes, prisoners could buy and sell goods in a yard, where the public came and went to buy and sell.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, thinking from the point of view of a British guard. And it was. Prisoners escaped fairly often.
Onto an island.
Getting off that island could prove rather difficult. If he was French, he gave himself away the minute he opened his mouth. By 1812, the same went for most Americans, who had been separated from England long enough to be forming very distinct accents.
But my heroine, raised on an American merchantman that is captured, insists she will free her crew from Dartmoor and get them to safety in France. The problem is, she has married an Englishman for her protection, and freeing her crew is treason. Yet they are her family. And so are the parents and sisters of her husband, not to mention how she is beginning to feel about him.
Writing about war is not fun, heart-wrenching, and exciting because of bloody battles, but because of the people and human nature. How far do we take loyalty? Is an American truly doing something wrong to free Americans from her country of origin just because she is married to an Englishman? Yet that Englishman took a great risk with his family to marry her and rescue her from a bad situation, so does she not owe him loyalty?
We often think of war as good guys and bad guys, and often this is true; however, sometimes the lines of demarcation blur. Exploring these harder to define areas and making everything come out happily ever after in the end is the absolutely most fun about writing novels.
Thank you for reading this post. I would love your feedback. I’m not doing a traditional give-away, but have a little gift for anyone who will send me a land address through the contact form on my web site. Below is a snippet of my book. You can read the first chapter on my web site as well.
About My Enemy, My Heart
The sea has always been Deirdre MacKenzie’s home, and the crew of her father’s Baltimore clipper is the only family she loves. She’s happier wearing breeches and climbing the rigging of the Maid of Alexandria than donning a dress and learning to curtsey. But, when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer . With her father, the captain, dead, Deirdre sees her crew herded into the hold as prisoners-of-war. Their fate is the notorious Dartmoor prison in England. Her fate as a noncombatant prisoner is uncertain, but the one thing she knows—she must find a way to free her crew.
Kieran Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Kieran figures his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deidre the protection of his name in marriage. He has no idea that secrets from his parents’ past and Deirdre’s determination to free her crew are on a disastrous collision course.
Love and loyalty clash, as Kieran begins to win Deirdre’s heart despite her plot to betray him and his family. While Kieran works to mend the relationship with his family, he begins to love his bride in spite of what lies between them.
From My Enemy, My Heart Chapter 12
England was cold. It was wet. It reeked of too many men packed in dark, dank quarters upon the half-dozen naval vessels anchored in Plymouth Harbor along with countless brigs, schooners, and single-masted pinnaces. Garbage floated on the murky water around which bung boats steered, selling wares ranging from fresh vegetables to doxies.
Though her only coat proved inadequate to the damp chill permeating to her bone marrow, Deirdre stood amidships in the tumbling rain and watched yet one more kind of boat draw away from the Maid of Alexandria—longboats. Rowed by men in the tarred hats, striped shirts, and white duck trousers of British sailors, the two craft carried her crew toward shore, toward prison.
Tears blending with the rain, icy on her face, she waved until the boats vanished around the looming hull of a seventy-four-gun ship-of-the-line. They couldn’t wave back. Their hands and feet were shackled. Neither did they look at her.
Not one of them had looked at her in the six weeks since she had gone ashore with Kieran Ashford at St. George’s and returned two days later with his ring on her finger. She had tried to talk to Ross once.
“I did it for your sakes.” She had pleaded for Ross’s understanding.
Ross spat into the sea. “You’re lying with the enemy.”
“I’m his wife. He has a right to me.”
“And you look like you hate every minute of it.” He had walked away from her without a glance back.
With that, and with every head turned away from her, her heart had torn and her resolve to free them had hardened. All but two of them had given up their chance to escape there on Bermuda in order to rescue her and Kieran from the harbor waters. They had saved her and Kieran’s lives. Freeing them was the least she could do. Once she was settled, once she knew the lay of the land, she would get her men out of prison if it killed her. If the English didn’t hang her for treason, now that she was wed to one of their own, her conscience might.
About the Author
“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with more than two dozen books in print and several award wins and nominations to her credit, including winning the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency and being chosen as a 2016 RITA®
She has recently relocated to a cold climate because she is weird enough to like snow and icy lake water. When she isn’t basking in the glory of being cold, she likes to read, visit museums, and take long walks, preferably with her husband, though the cats make her feel guilty every time she leaves the house.