Monday, March 05, 2007
From Jane Jackson.
Hello, I'm just dropping in with a progress report. Things have been a bit hectic since I last posted. But as life has calmed down a bit, I thought I'd take this opportunity to bring you up to date.
My current historical adventure romance, Devil’s Prize, is now three quarters finished. It’s strange and wonderful to leave my comfortable home with all its modern conveniences each morning and at the click of a mouse plunge back into the C18th.
1795 was a desperately hard time for the Cornish people. England was at war with France and press gangs roamed towns and villages looking for young – and not-so-young – men to replace those killed or wounded aboard naval ships of war.
A poor harvest meant food was in short supply. Starving miners who gathered in Falmouth and Truro to prevent American wheat landed in Cornwall from being shipped up to London were shot.
Coastal towns and villages relied on pilchards for food, oil for lighting, and income from the casks of salted fish exported to Italy. But sometimes the shoals didn’t come. Forgotten by a government preoccupied with the war, many Cornish turned to smuggling simply to survive.
Superb seamen, braving moonless nights and winter storms, Cornish smugglers treated the fair trade as a battle of wits between themselves and the Customs Service and displayed remarkable skill in avoiding the Customs cutters at sea and the Riding Officer and his dragoons ashore.
Virtually everyone in the community was involved, from the vicar who allowed casks to be hidden in his church, to the village women who concealed bladders full of cognac beneath their voluminous skirts.
Naturally, no duty was paid on smuggled goods. So, furious at being denied money it needed, the government passed increasingly severe laws to try and stop the trade. For example, being caught with a blackened face while engaged in smuggling was punishable by hanging.
Some of the landowner justices who put up the money for cargoes of contraband dealt lightly with their local smugglers, but sentenced those of rival gangs to death or transportation.
This is the background to Devil’s Prize, a story of danger, intrigue, heroism, hardship and a love that survives against all odds. I can’t wait to get back and find out what happens next!