I am delighted to welcome Alicia Quigley back to the salon to chat about the City of Smugglers (now available on Amazon!) and share an extract from her latest release!
“La cite de Smoglers”
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Regency smuggling in the last couple years as I worked on The Contraband Courtship (released last summer) and Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy which will be published in May. A lot of this has been fascinating – both how mundane some of the business aspects of it were as well as how violent it could be, and the major financial impact of the guinea smuggling. One of the most interesting things I read about was the “City of Smugglers”.
In fact, the story of the City of Smugglers, a special cantonment built inside the city of Gravelines by Napoleon to support and control the activities of the smugglers plying their trade across the English Channel, is so interesting, that I made it a key plot element in my latest Regency romance. Gravelines and this enclave are mentioned in a number of 19th century books, but those of us without the time to peruse a dozen historical tomes owe a debt of gratitude to Gavin Daly for bringing all of this information together in a readable and interesting paper.
Napoleon visited Dunquerque in 1810 which was the hub of the smuggling trade at the time, and decided that it was far too easy for the smugglers to move around there, making it easier for the spies who also worked with the smugglers to ply their trade. Saying he wanted to reduce the impact of the rowdy smugglers on the local population, he built a special enclosed “city” within nearby Gravelines and moved the trade there. Maps of Gravelines and Dunkirk (right) give some insight as to why Gravelines was the preferred city. While Dunkirk is fortified with a large wall around much of it, there is an open area which must have made it very easy for people (or goods) arriving on smuggling boats to just disappear into the countryside. Since Napoleon had a mania for good administration and the collection of customs duties, in addition to his concerns about spying, a look at an old map of Gravelines (below) clearly shows why it was preferable. The fortifications go right around the city, along with a canal in most areas. It was far easier to control the smugglers here than in Dunkirk. Since my next book, Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy to be released in May, includes an escape from Gravelines, this map made me wonder how this was to be accomplished, and coming up with a plausible story line took some thought!
I mentioned customs officials earlier, and although I admit there is little interesting about the Douane in general, also uncovered some interesting information about the “Douane Imperiale” a semi-military unit of customs officials who moved with the French Army to conquered countries to ensure that the ports and trade came under Napoleon’s control swiftly. This unit even took part in skirmishes occasionally as part of their duties. They certainly were handsomely kitted out; here are some images of their striking green uniforms (left and below). This was too much fun to leave out of the book, so the Douane Imperiale makes an appearance in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy as well.
Gravelines was the port through which much of the golden guinea trade flowed, and had counting houses and connections to more than one merchant banking organization. It also had what sounds like a smugglers’ mall, in which over 50 merchants sold gin, fabrics, lace, wine, shawls, and anything else for which there was a market. The heroine in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy takes advantage of this smugglers’ mall as a means of getting needed information, as well as creating some interesting adventures.
Excerpt from Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy:
Sir Tarquin handed her to a seat in front of the fire, and then took a chair across from her, settling into it comfortably and crossing his elegantly booted ankles. “So, Mrs. Carlton, I find that I am almost vulgarly curious about your past. It is evident that you are a gentlewoman, yet I found you penniless and unescorted at the Angel this morning. How did that come to pass?”
Valerie gazed down at her hands, before looking at him. “I am the oldest daughter of Lord Upleadon and his first wife,” she answered, “and married Robert Carlton, an officer in the Light Division.”
“Upleadon?” exclaimed Sir Tarquin. “You are an Upleadon, yet I found you alone, penniless, and ready to board a mail coach?”
“My father did not approve of Mr. Carlton, I fear,” Valerie answered economically.
“That stiff rumped old tartar--” Sir Tarquin suddenly recalled that his listener was not only a lady, but also the daughter of the gentleman he was about to malign, and fell silent.
“Quite so,” Valerie responded with a definite hint of laughter in her voice. “In any event, when I insisted on marrying Mr. Carlton my father cut me off entirely. Even when my husband was among the dead at Sabugal he refused to see me.”
“While I’m not well acquainted with the baron, as he is a good deal older than I am and moves in very different circles, I’m sorry to say that I can easily imagine him lacking remorse. You must have been a mere child. How have you managed since then?”
“When I returned to England, several of my friends had married, and were happy to help me get on my feet. I was mourning my husband, and had no wish to remarry or to be a burden on them, however, so I quickly found a position as a governess.”
“But the Battle of Sabugal was three years since. Have you been a governess all this time?” Sir Tarquin asked.
She nodded. “I had only been with the Forneys for in a few months. When I first became a governess I was in charge of a young lady who needed some polishing before she came out, as her parents were not people of fashion. I enjoyed it very much; the daughter was charming and her mother and father were kind and grateful. Unfortunately the two positions that followed it have been much less satisfactory.”
Valerie fell silent, looking down at her hands, and Sir Tarquin, finding himself appreciating the sight of her blonde curls, fine figure, and aura of calm, didn’t need to stretch his imagination far to imagine the son of the Forney household had been unable to resist the temptation of the pretty governess.
“It makes me angry to think of you being preyed upon,” he said abruptly, much to his own surprise.
“It is a common enough problem, and far worse has befallen others. He did not force me and, while Mrs. Forney was unkind, I left of my own volition,” said Valerie uncomfortably. “My friends have helped me before and will help me now. I would rather spend my time with children, but perhaps I will have to seek employment as a companion to an older lady instead.”
“You do not deserve a life as a drudge to children or as the companion of elderly harridan, who will doubtless have a horrid grandson who will treat you as Mr. Forney did,” Sir Tarquin exclaimed. “You are young, and have given far too much.”
“Whatever do you mean?” she asked.
“You sacrificed a husband and a family to your country, did you not?”
“I suppose you could say so, although it has been three long years since then.” A wistful look came over her face. “It seems so long ago. Thinking of it now, Robert and I were both practically children; it is almost as though it happened to someone else, or was a story someone told to me.”
“Yet you are still all but penniless and without protection as a result, are you not? That is not much of an ending to the story.”
She gazed at him thoughtfully. “It was my decision, though I was far too young to understand the possible consequences. In some ways it was worth it all the same; I loved Robert as much as an eighteen-year-old can love anyone, and perhaps even more, I loved following the drum.”
Sir Tarquin looked startled. “Did you really? Surely it was a very hard life for a gently bred and sheltered young lady?”
Valerie laughed. “Indeed it was! I had no notion that such hardships were ahead of me. Yet the sense of purpose, of being needed and useful, and of having a meaning to my life was so powerful, that it overcame them all. I was always rather bookish, and never truly enjoyed the rounds of parties and balls, to my stepmother’s despair.”
“Even in the tail of the Army with all the camp followers, and rabble you felt so?” Sir Tarquin asked curiously.
“Oh, I rode with the column, Sir Tarquin,” she exclaimed proudly. “I had no children to care for and I was handy with horses even before I went on campaign, for my father’s stables are renowned and I spent a great deal of time in them as a child. I soon learned to kill and stew a chicken, and make sure that there was always something to eat at our billet, so it was not long before many of the other officers were to be found at our table.”
“You rode with the column?” her companion echoed in surprise.
“Except when an engagement was imminent, yes. In many respects it was as safe as being in the tail of the Army, for Robert’s friends would watch out for me. I moved rearward when there was any real danger.”
“But it must have been difficult to be so far ahead without any servants to help you.”
“Oh, my husband engaged a woman for me, a large, rather foul mouthed Scotswoman, who was a match for most of the men! She did much of the heaviest work, although I helped, of course.” Sir Tarquin watched as Valerie’s eyes filled with memories that were clearly dear to her. “His batman was also there, and it never seemed as though things were unmanageable. Difficult yes, but even the worst days were just another challenge to rise to…” Valerie’s voice trailed off, and she gazed into the fire, seeing another place and time.
Sir Tarquin watched her in pensive silence, for a moment and then stood, shaking his head to dispel the thoughts that filled it. “My glass is empty. May I pour you some more punch as well, Mrs. Carlton?”
Valerie shook off her memories, and handed him her empty glass. “Thank you, Sir Tarquin. You have a way with a punchbowl, it seems.” She watched as he walked away, enjoying the wide set of his shoulders, and athleticism of his gait. After some moments he returned and offered her the cup, now full of warm, spicy liquid. Her fingers brushed his slightly as she took it. She looked away, taking a sip.
“I so miss feeling part of something bigger than me,” she murmured. “A governess makes herself useful, I suppose, but it is not the same. Being a paid companion would be even duller, I fear.”
Sir Tarquin, who still stood beside her chair, reached out with one long finger and tipped her chin up, gazing into her face intently.
“You most assuredly must not be a companion to a querulous dowager,” he murmured. “It would be an utter waste.”
Valerie stared back at him, at a loss to answer. In the quiet and warmth of the private parlor they seemed removed from the world, and she simply waited for him to act. He gave a tiny sigh, and then lowered his mouth to hers, pressing her lips firmly yet gently as he sought the right pressure. Her mouth trembled a little, and he lifted his, only to press it against hers at a slightly different angle before drawing back, to kiss her cheek, and then one of her eyelids, which had fluttered closed, before releasing her chin and stepping away.
About the Author:
Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.
Website, Social Media:
Written content of this post copyright © Alicia Quigley, 2016.