Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, author Alana Lorens is guesting.  She’s here to talk about her latest release Prophecies and Promises, a historical romance.  Don’t forget to check out the excerpt.

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This story is set in the area of Key West, and the Florida Keys. In the 1980s, I lived just north of the northernmost Key, Key Largo, and so for us, it was our favorite weekend jaunt to head down. The waters off the Keys are gorgeous turquoise blue, and you certainly get to see them since most of the road from the mainland to Key West is bridges. One bridge is seven miles long!

The various species of wildlife and plants are unique to the area and revered by those who live there. In the book, our heroine, Tamsyn MacKiernan, is quite the nature buff, and is often found wandering scandalous barefoot and with her skirts hitched up at the beach.

Modern day travelers find potent potables along the length of the 150 mile stretch from Miami to Key West, as well as deep sea fishing, the freshest seafood you could ever hope for, camping, glamorous resorts and some of the best beaches in the world.

It is also true that Cuba is only 90 miles from Key West, so actually closer than mainland USA.  The history of the two islands is intertwined, along with other islands in the Caribbean. When people’s livelihoods depended on the waters of the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean, there were certainly opportunities for these sailors to mingle and do business.

This is how our hero, Drake Ashton, became involved with the people of Matanzas, Cuba, and how he and his brother Freddie rally to buy up weaponry to help those people fight off their Spanish occupiers. At the turn of the 20th century, America was eventually drawn in to what became the Spanish-American War. One of the fiercest theaters of that war was that stretch of water between the Keys and Cuba, and our heroes find themselves right in it.

At the same time in history, Key West was quite the society. Considering themselves the Southern equivalent of other coastal towns like Charleston or Savannah, the “uppity folk” drew distinctive lines among the residents, labelling those who were nouveaux riche the “codfish aristocracy.”  But it was true that many entrepreneurs in the city got rich quick salvaging shipwrecks—before modern technology, passing along the rocky shores of the Keys could be treacherous. This history figures strongly into PROPHECIES AND PROMISES, both in establishing Tamsyn’s family in the city and also as a fundraising proposition for our pirate, Drake Ashton.

Here’s a little snippet of what that was like:

Drake leaned over the railing and peered down into the clear water. Most places along the shore, one could see through to the bottom, even as deep as fifteen or twenty feet. Here, in the vicinity of the recent wreck of the Osmond, the sand was stirred up below, and the water darkened from its usual sparkling aquamarine. Closer to shore, the water shaded more green; farther out into the Gulf, a deeper blue.

As the heavy equipment and the manual air pumps in their bulky wooden cabinets were brought up, several of the crew studied the copper helmets and heavy canvas suits with trepidation. Long rubber hoses trailed along the deck behind the men carrying them, each some fifty feet long. Only a few of the crew enjoyed the deeper dives. Sinking into the water with only a thin tube to provide air from the surface, weighted with heavy lead bars, wearing a suit that weighed more than 190 pounds…

 Drake could see why they were reluctant. He didn’t do the deep dives, himself. Some of the men excelled at it. The policy of the Raven had been agreed among the crew. The job was strictly volunteer, with those who performed the dive receiving an extra share of the proceeds of whatever they recovered.

 He gave the high sign to begin. The ship’s five suits were shared among the volunteers. Each diver needed the help of several other sailors to wriggle into the bulky suits, which were worn over their clothes. The lower portion was a solid sheet of rubber sealed between layers of canvas. The arms of each suit ended in gloves, and the legs of the suits ended in thick “socks,” made extra sturdy to protect against puncturing the suit on barnacles or the jagged edges of the wreck. They wore shoes with metal toes to protect their feet.

The thick rubber collar was then clamped to the corselet making the joint waterproof. The inner bib, made of the same material as the suit, was pulled up inside the corselet and around the diver’s neck. There were some controls on the suit that the diver could manipulate, but their main communication method was by pre-arranged signals of tugs on the hose.

Drake studied the operation, double-checking each diver’s suit before they were ready to go overboard. Feeling personally responsible for each of them, he helped secure the bolts that attached the helmets to the corselets, then affixed weights to the helmets.

The men could see out the left, front and right via tiny glass plates, and Drake made sure he saw the sparkle in their eyes to indicate they were set. He tightened the safety lock at the rear of the helmet that kept it from rotating loose. They were ready.

The divers waddled to the edge of the deck, where a piece of the railing had been retracted. There, they lined up, each receiving a handful of large canvas bags, which were already secured to a line that would be monitored by a sailor on board. When they’d filled it to their satisfaction—and most importantly, Drake’s—they would tug on the line, and the sailor would haul up their treasures.

Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? Many lost their lives. But for those who came up with the coveted gold or antiques, they had the money to set up the rest of their lives. Even modern-day speculators who want to try their luck can dive off the coast now, with much safer equipment. The known dive spots are regulated and monitored by various groups, but there’s always the chance that you might come up with a miraculous find.

Are you game?

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Title: Prophecies and Promises
Series: N/A
Author: Alana Lorens
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: General
Length: 100,000 words/364 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: May 30, 2022

When the ‘good’ man is bad, and the ‘bad’ man is good, how’s a young woman to choose?

Blurb:  Tamsyn McKiernan thinks her dreams have come true. She’s engaged to a dashing Key West bachelor and finally in her widowed father’s good graces. But in her heart, she knows something’s wrong. She loves the ocean and the quiet pleasures of nature—so what does the aristocratic life she’ll lead truly hold for her?

Mercenary captain Drake Ashton is neck deep in preparations for the Spanish-American War, running guns and other supplies to Cuban natives who want out from under their Spanish masters. He and his brother Freddie risk their lives daily, focused on saving his friends on the island. Nothing else matters but his mission.

A chance encounter with a spiny sea urchin brings the two together, and neither of their lives will ever be the same again.

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He said, “An old Cuban woman taught me one evening as we sat around a fire at a rebel camp, drums beating in the distance, smoke in the air. She leaned close to me and took my hand, just as I’m holding yours now, and told me my future, showing me how the lines of my palm intersected and moved apart.” He examined her face, more serious. “I never believed a word until now.”

Tamsyn was thoroughly intrigued, her curious streak in high gear. “What did she say?”

“She told me a time would come when a young woman would rescue me. That woman, she said, would be…” He stared at her, intently watching her face.

His deep gaze hypnotized her. She could almost smell the camp smoke, so taken was she. “Would be what?”

“Would be—” He shook his head. “It’s not important. Something about love.”

Tamsyn pulled her hand back sharply. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with me, then.” She turned and walked away in the direction of her carriage. But she lost one of her sandals in a sudden rush of water and stepped hard onto white coral rock. “Ow!”

“Allow me,” he said behind her. Before she could argue, he scooped her up in his arms. As she protested, he replied, “I told you I was in your debt. Please permit me to repay you.” Ashton’s boots easily traversed the rocks, his arms strong around her. He smelled of salt water and the ocean breeze, and she felt gentleness within him as he carried her.

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Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.

Follow Alana:  Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads

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