Highlighting the history behind the fiction with Rue Allyn and her research into the Office of Ordnance.
Caroline, my thanks to you personally and your followers for the opportunity to share an obscure bit of English history about The Office of Ordnance—the organization responsible for arming the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars. It was my hero, Captain Brandon Gilroy, who set me on a search for details about how His Majesty’s Navy obtained the canon, powder, shot and other armaments necessary to defeat Napoleon after he supposedly escaped Elba. (However, that’s a different piece of historical research.)
At the start of the latest Bluestocking Belles novella collection, Storm & Shelter, I knew I needed a hero and heroine who would end up stranded together at a ramshackle inn on the English coast somewhere south of Great Yarmouth. My heroine, Esmeralda Crobbin had introduced herself to me several years before. (She’s a very forceful young woman—I can’t call her a lady because she’s a pirate, well actually a privateer, but that also is a different research topic. I digress.) However, I had no concept of exactly who her hero would be other than a shadowy impression that he was a British Naval officer with whom Esme had fought three years previously. That and the setting of Storm & Shelter set me on the course of research that led me to the Office of Ordnance
An initial search into the history of the story revealed that in 1815 Great Yarmouth was one of the naval shipyards—for lack of a better term—where ships were launched, outfitted and repaired for duty in the North Sea, the part of the coast where our stormy story is set. Since I knew my hero was a naval officer, it made a great deal of sense to me that he be on his way to Great Yarmouth when the storm strikes and strands him at the inn where he re-encounters the female pirate he’d been unable to forget.
But why was he going there? Surely the Great Yarmouth shipyard held the answer. “And why,” he asked me without even bothering to introduce himself, “am I in civilian clothes and not in uniform?” (Brandon is nothing if not direct—Captains have no time to dilly dally over niceties and politesse). I had to read the entire text of an obscure book titled Arming the Royal Navy, 1793-1815: The Office of Ordnance and State by Gareth Cole (Routledge; London, 2016 republished).
I expected a dry, boring academic recitation of dates and well documented events. Mr. Cole’s book is refreshingly readable, and I gobbled up the pages of information like the traditional starving woman. I discovered fodder for an entire series of books (not unusual when an author falls down the research rabbit hole). I learned that the Office of Ordnance was responsible for the quantity and quality (and sometimes the manufacture) of canon and gun powder among other armaments that were purchased or made for the exclusive [italics mine] use of His Majesty’s Navy. That word ‘exclusive’ was the key to opening the mystery of why Captain Brandon Gilroy was traveling incognito to the Great Yarmouth shipyard.
After digesting Mr. Cole’s text, it was obvious to me, that Captain Gilroy had been dispatched by the Admiralty to investigate discrepancies—reported by a number of ships captains—in the quality and quantity of shipboard armaments obtained at the Great Yarmouth shipyard. I must digress to say that these discrepancies are a part of my fiction. Mr. Cole’s text made clear the careful double and triplicate keeping of records by the Office of Ordnance.
Captain Gilroy accepted his assignment with resignation. He’d hoped to be offered a ship to captain in the coming fight with Napoleon. However, news had reached the admiralty that Gilroy’s uncle—a duke—was inconveniently dying and needed his heir at home. Hence, the investigation was the Captain’s last duty assignment for His Majesty’s Navy.
The Office of Ordnance itself plays a relatively small part in the novella, Wait for Me, that is my contribution to the Storm & Shelter collection. However, understanding that office, its operation, and its purposes was key to understanding my hero and his motivations, especially when he discovers the nefarious Esmeralda Crobbin is in the area. Brandon is immediately suspicious of what a pirate (let us not quibble over the niceties of pirate vs privateer), of her renown might be doing at an inn so close to Great Yarmouth—and where was her ship, why was she afoot and masquerading as a demure young miss? “That woman is anything but demure,” Brandon remarks over my shoulder. “I should know. I’ve felt the blade of her cutlass at my throat.”
“And you lived to tell the tale?” I question.
“Well, uhm, er, I am not at liberty to discuss the incident. Naval regulations and all that, you know.”
I cast a glance at him and discover he’s blushing and looking rather sheepish. Captain Gilroy and I will be having a serious discussion about events both before and after those of Wait for Me. Perhaps there is another book about Brandon and Esmeralda to be written.
If you’d like to know more about Storm & Shelter and Wait for Me, read on. Otherwise, please skip to the comments and let me know what you think of my investigations and their results. Thank you for reading.
About the Story: Wait for Me
Enemies by nature—Esmeralda Crobbin, aka the pirate Irish Red, and Captain, Lord Brandon Gilroy have met before.
Fate trumps nature—When a fierce storm creates a chance encounter and forced proximity, Erstwhile pirate, Esmeralda discovers Captain Gilroy is more than a uniform stuffed with rules and regulations. Gilroy learns the pirate is a woman of serious honor and responsibility. Both love the sea with boundless passion, but can they love each other?
She landed with the expected splat but unexpectedly not in the mud. Whatever she’d tripped over had broken her fall and kept her breathing. The object was large, seemed to be covered in cloth, and as she pushed up into a seated position, she discovered it was rather lumpy. It also groaned. A very human sounding groan.
Good lord I’ve landed on a man. Well, it might be another woman, but the size and shape of the body beneath her was more suited to a male. Aware of where she sat, she scrambled off to lean over him, her knees sinking into the muck.
She leaned closer and peered through the soggy light, feeling with her hands to locate his head and check for injuries. She found only a shallow bump on the rear of his crown. Thank heaven he lay on his back. The rain had kept his face clear of sludge, and beneath her palms his chest rose and fell. He was alive for now. But how long had he been here, and what caused him to be lying in the mud?
On that thought, his eyes opened. They were blue, though she couldn’t see the exact color in the rainy dawn. They might have been gray.
He blinked rapidly. She fished in a pocket for her handkerchief. Damp as it was, it would clear his vision. She used the kerchief to wipe water from his eyes and face. She bent to place the cloth in her pocket, and when she returned her gaze to his, he glared at her. A very familiar glare. A glare that had haunted her for the past three years. Now I know fate is laughing at me. Before her lay the one man who hated her most in the world. The storm had placed him exactly where she would to trip over him then feel compelled to help him before she had any clue as to his identity. “By all that’s holy, Lieutenant Gilroy.”
“You! What are you doing here? Why am I lying in this muck with you atop me like a doxy? And my rank is now Captain.”
Captain or not, she wasn’t atop him, but accuracy seemed irrelevant at the moment. To put him in his place she stood. “I might ask the same of you. I found you lying here unconscious.” He doesn’t need to know I tripped over him. “I was checking for injuries just before you woke. Had I known it was you, I would have left you to drown in the flood. However, having gotten completely filthy attempting to aid a stranger, I might as well help you up.” She held out a hand.
He lifted himself to a sitting position and looked at her hand.
As the rain began to patter again, his hesitation was completely unreasonable. “What’s the matter? My hand is no dirtier than your own.” She noted his lack of uniform. “You are or were a naval officer and cannot possibly be so fastidious that a bit of mud would deter you from accepting assistance.”
About the Book: Storm & Shelter
A Regency Anthology
When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.
One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.
Authors: Grace Burrowes, Mary Lancaster, Jude Knight, Sherry Ewing, Rue Allyn, Alina K Field, Cerise Deland, Caroline Warfield
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3kgRmLG
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3lZYHja
About Rue Allyn
Author of historical and contemporary romances Rue Allyn is insatiably curious, an avid reader and traveler. She loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real-life adventures. Crazy Cat stories are especially welcome. Contact her at Rue@RueAllyn.com..She can’t wait to hear from you. Keep up with Rue Allyn by subscribing to her newsletter and get a free download of one of Rue’s books.
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[This article originally appeared at https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/ on March 3, 2021.]