Highlighting Historical Romance: Regan Walker on Guernsey and The French Isles
In my new Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind, the hero, Jean Donet, comte de Saintonge, while giving up his privateering with the end of the American War, is not immune to a bit of smuggling to keep England in brandy and tea. Jean Donet kept his warehouse, full of goods to be smuggled, on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, or as they were known in 1784, “the French Isles”.
Guernsey has a beautiful coastline with sandy beaches and flower-covered dunes, rock pools, coves and rustic harbors. Just the sort of place a former pirate might like.
You get an idea of the hero’s thoughts of Guernsey from this passage from my story:
In his cabin, Jean looked up from the chart, feeling the ship surge against its moorings as it responded to the rising tide. Setting aside the chart, he headed for the weather deck.
A blast of cold wet wind hit him as he emerged from the aft hatch. Above him, dark clouds hovered over the Thames, the same gray color as the waters of the river.
He scanned the deck for his quartermaster and found Émile amidships, his back to Jean, watching the crew preparing to set sail.
Jean acknowledged Lucien Ricard’s salute from the helm and strode to meet his second in command. “Tide’s turned, mon ami,” he said to Émile. “Have the crew clear the moorings and take her out.”
“Oui, Capitaine,” came Émile’s rough voice. “The men are anxious to exchange the stink of London for the flowers of Guernsey and the agréable harbor of St. Peter Port.”
Guernsey was a favorite place of Jean’s. Neither English nor French, the island had been an entrepôt for goods, particularly smuggled goods, for a very long time. While not as warm as Lorient, Guernsey was pleasantly mild, bringing to mind cliffs blanketed in flowers.
It might be a dependency of the English Crown, but Guernsey was independently governed with its own laws and its own way of looking at things. Being a free port, the British Parliament had no right to levy taxes there. Which made it home to many privateers. Not surprisingly, much of the island’s businesses were French. After all, the island was closer to France than to England.
In short, Guernsey was an ideal spot for his warehouse.
The Channel Islands—mainly, Alderney, Guernsey, Sark and Jersey— lie twenty miles off the coast of Normandy. They have a long history, dating back at least to the Romans. They were fought over by the English and French for centuries, but by the late eighteenth century, they had become a “Crown Dependency” of England. Still, the Islands were autonomous and the English Parliament had no authority over them. (French was the official language until 1926.)
Being free ports, and the Islands themselves not wishing to levy taxes on goods brought to and exported from the islands, the local merchants would buy up and supply goods at favorable prices, especially goods taken by privateers. There were no restrictions on who the goods were sold to, and no liability if the ship subsequently landed those goods without declaring them and paying taxes at their destination.
In other words, the islands were perfect entrepôts, or places to store and distribute goods such as brandy, tea, lace and silk, duty free—goods a French smuggler might deliver to England’s south coast.
About the Book: Echo in the Wind
“Walker sweeps you away to a time and place you’ll NEVER want to leave!”
~ NY Times Bestselling author Danelle Harmon
England and France 1784
Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.
As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.
Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.
Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?