Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Quick to laugh, formidable when angry. That’s Jesamiah. Add to that: trouble follows him like a ship’s wake.
Not heard of him? Outside of fiction you would not have done, for Jesamiah is the protagonist of Helen Hollick’s seafaring adventure yarns, the Sea Witch Voyages.
She wrote the first in the series, Sea Witch, after enjoying the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie (The Curse of the Black Pearl). “I wanted to read something similar,” she said, “a dashing pirate hero who gets into (and out of) trouble. A beautiful ship, a robust crew, and a romance interest – all with a touch of fantasy included. And written for adults, with adult content.” Not finding anything – plenty of Young Adult stories, quite a few ‘straight’ nautical fiction, but nothing with that added extra of suspending belief or a slight addition of the supernatural. Sea Witch was her answer. “If I can’t find the book I want to read . . .” Hollick laughed. “. . . I write it myself!”
So Jesamiah Acorne? Who is he?
He was born on 4 December 1693, on a beach in North Devon, England, to Charles Mereno’s second wife, a Spanish beauty named Dona Sofia Calderón. Disagreeing with his father over a small matter of legitimacy and inheritance, Charles sailed away with his wife and baby son, never to return. At least, not openly, and not to see his father or sisters, although along with companion Henry Jennings, he regularly participated in a great deal of contraband smuggling during his long voyages away from the Virginia plantation where Jesamiah grew up.
Jesamiah’s childhood was not a happy one due to the bullying of his jealous and vindictive elder half-brother, Phillipe. The rare occasions when his father took Jesamiah aboard his ship were bliss because Phillipe had no taste for the sea – Jesamiah was a natural sailor, however.
Charles Mereno died of fever a few months before Jesamiah’s fifteenth birthday, with Dona passing away a week later. She had given Jesamiah his own small boat, which he called Acorn, but now that his vicious actions could go completely unchecked, Phillipe set fire to the boat on the evening of Dona’s funeral. Losing his bottled-up temper, Jesamiah turned on his half-brother and, believing he had beaten him to death, fled Virginia. Needing a new name in a hurry, he chose Acorne – with an e.
It was now 1708, and the escalation of piracy in the Caribbean. Jesamiah blagged his way aboard a ship at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and then jumped ship at their first port of call, Nassau in the Bahamas. He was in search of his father’s friend, Captain Malachias Taylor.
Under Malachias’s tutelage aboard Mermaid, Jesamiah learnt his trade as a sailor – and a pirate – working his way up to Quartermaster (second-in-command). When the crew were eventually arrested, Jesamiah escaped gaol, but Taylor was hanged.
A short while prior to this, Mermaid had attacked an East Indiaman, Christina Giselle, off the coast of South Africa. Aboard, and watching the ensuing fight, which Mermaid lost, was a dark-haired girl. Jesamiah was to meet her a few months later in Cape Town, although until a moment of panic triggered his memory, he’d had no recollection of her.
She was sixteen-year-old Tiola Oldstagh, who had fled with her companion, Jenna, from Cornwall, England, when her mother had murdered Tiola’s assumed father for attempting to assault her. Accused of witchcraft Tiola’s mother hanged – the irony, Tiola was the white witch.
Created millennia in the past, Tiola’s soul had transposed from grandmother to granddaughter through successive generations, her physical identity always the same, her gift of Craft, healing and midwifery, always staying with her. Through the long centuries Jesamiah’s male ancestors had occasionally crossed her path, but it was not until after Mermaid had attacked the Christina Giselle that Tiola and Jesamiah finally met. Injured while fleeing pirate hunters in Cape Town, Jesamiah was in trouble. Tiola rescued him and nursed him back to health. He fell in love – but he had the opportunity of gaining a ship from one of Tiola’s admirers. He had to choose, Tiola or the ship, which he was to call Sea Witch. What was more binding? Love or the call of the sea?
Their paths were to separate, but true love always wins and Tiola had to rescue Jesamiah again from the clutch of his foul brother and her other suitor, both of whom had their reasons for seeing Jesamiah dead.
In following Voyages, their relationship, like all people (real or imaginary) has ups and downs, and Jesamiah finds himself caught up in various situations usually involving beautiful spies, ex-lovers, and dastardly villains. He has to find a cargo of lost indigo, gets involved in rebellion on Hispaniola, and smuggles James Stuart – the Pretender Jacobite King – into England. And in the third Voyage, Bring It Close, he encounters Blackbeard.
Jesamiah Acorne, four and twenty years old, Captain of the Sea Witch, sat with his hands cradled around an almost empty tankard of rum, staring blankly at the drips of candle-wax that had hardened into intricate patterns down the sides of a glass bottle. The candle itself was leaning to one side as if drunk. As drunk as Jesamiah.
For maybe ten seconds he did not notice the two shabby ruffians sit down on the bench opposite him. One of them reached forward and snuffed out the guttering flame, pushed the bottle aside. Jesamiah looked up, stared at him as vacantly as he had been staring at the congealed rivers of wax.
One of the men, the one wearing a battered three-corner felt hat, leant his arms on the table, linking his tar and gunpowder-grimed fingers together. The other, a red-haired man with a beard like a weather-worn, abandoned bird’s nest, eased a dagger from the sheath on his belt and began cleaning his split and broken nails with its tip.
“We’ve been lookin’ fer you, Acorne,” the man with the hat said.
“Found me then, ain’t yer,” Jesamiah drawled. He dropped his usual educated accent and spoke in the clipped speech of a common foremast jack. He was a good mimic, had a natural talent to pick up languages and tonal cadences. Also knew when to play the simpleton or a gentleman.
He drained his tankard, held it high and whistled for Never-Say-No Nan, a wench built like a Spanish galleon and whose charms kept her as busy as a barber’s chair.
She ambled over to Jesamiah, the top half of her partially exposed, and extremely ample bosoms wobbling close to his face as she poured more rum.
“What about your friends?” she asked, nodding in their direction.
“Ain’t no friends of mine,” Jesamiah answered, lifting his tankard to sample the replenished liquor.
The man with the hat jerked his head, indicating she was to be gone. Nan sniffed haughtily and swept away, her laughter drifting behind as another man gained her attention by pinching her broad backside.
“Or to be more accurate, Acorne, Teach ’as been lookin’ for yer.”
Half-shrugging, Jesamiah made a fair pretence at nonchalance. “I ain’t exactly been ’iding, Gibbens. I’ve been openly anchored ’ere in Nassau ’arbour for several weeks.”
Since August in fact, apart from a brief excursion to Hispaniola – which Jesamiah was attempting to set behind him and forget about. Hence the rum.
“Aye, we ’eard as ’ow thee’ve signed for amnesty and put yer piece into Governor Rogers’ ’and,” Gibbens sneered, making an accompanying crude gesture near his crotch.
“Given up piracy?” Red Beard scoffed as he hoiked tobacco spittle on to the floor. “Gone soft ’ave thee? Barrel run dry, ’as it?” Added with malice, “Edward Teach weren’t interested in fairy-tale government amnesties, nor ’ollow pardons.” He drove his dagger into the wooden table where it quivered as menacing as the man who owned it.
That’s not what I’ve heard, Jesamiah thought but said nothing. He had no intention of going anywhere near Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, though Black Heart would be as appropriate. Even the scum and miscreants who roamed the seas of the Caribbean in search of easy loot and plunder avoided the brute of a pirate who was Blackbeard.
Aside, Jesamiah was no longer a pirate. As Gibbens had said, he had signed his name in Governor Rogers’ leather-bound book and accepted His Majesty King George’s royal pardon. Which was why he had nothing better to do than sit here in this tavern drinking rum. Piracy, plundering, pillaging, none of that was for him, not now. Now, Jesamiah Acorne, Captain of the Sea Witch, had a woman he was about to marry, a substantial fortune that he could start using if only he knew what to spend it on, and the dubious reputation of becoming a respectable man of leisure.
He was also bored.
Jesamiah is blackmailed into putting an end to Blackbeard, but you will not find his name in any official documentation for he forbade the Governor of Virginia to mention his part in the events of 22 November at the Ocracoke, North Carolina.
J. L. G. Ferris's depiction of Blackbeard's
confrontation with Lt. Robert Maynard
There are supernatural elements that he is unaware of – Tethys, the spirit of the sea wants his soul for herself; her daughter, Rain, is sent to watch him; he encounters the ghost of his father, and in the fifth Voyage a predatory Night Creature, the Nightm’n, appears on the scene. (And no, he is not a vampire, but what he is will not be revealed until a later Voyage.)
The Sea Witch Voyages are exciting tales of adventure, blending real characters, such as Henry Jennings, Calico Jack Rackham, William Dampier, and Woodes Rogers, alongside the fictitious (the Doones of Exmoor’s Lorna Doone, for instance) and the supernatural. They are sailors yarns, but with adult content (some bad language and sex). Jesamiah himself is a blend of Horatio Hornblower, Jack Sparrow, and Jack Aubrey, all mixed together with Richard Sharpe, James Bond, and Indiana Jones.
Exciting escapism for lovers of sea-faring tales
Sea Witch – Voyage One (excerpt)
Pirate Code – Voyage Two (review)
Bring It Close – Voyage Three (review)
Ripples in the Sand – Voyage Four (review)
On the Account – Voyage Five
(published July 2016, review coming August 2016)
Gallows Wake – Voyage Six
(to be published 2017/18)
About the Author:
Helen Hollick lives with her family in North Devon, England, in an eighteenth-century farmhouse surrounded by thirteen acres of fields and woodland. A variety of pets include horses, two Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and geese.
A passionate supporter of independent publishing, Helen is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and with her editor, Jo Field, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond (excerpt), a short advice guide for new and novice writers interested in self-publishing.
Her main passion is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of The Sea Witch Voyages, which carry the quality endorsement of Indie B.R.A.G. medallions. Helen is also published traditionally in the US, and became a USA Today Bestseller with The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) – the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (titled I Am the Chosen King in the US) is an acclaimed retelling of events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely acclaimed as a different telling of the Arthurian Myth.
Helen is published in various languages, including Turkish, Italian, and German.
Sea Witch Page
Copyrighted © 2016 Helen Hollick
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