A few weeks ago, I wrote about my Work in Progress: Celestial Persuasion. If you missed the original post, you can read it here: https://mirtainestruppauthor.com/2021/02/19/the-viceroyalty-of-rio-de-la-plata-a-peek-into-a-new-jewish-austen-fan-fiction/
I’m getting closer to Publishing Day and I can’t wait to share it with you. In the mean time, please take a minute to watch this short trailer. The painting of Mariquita Sanchez de Thompson (shown in the thumbnail below) was the inspiration for the entire project. Please enjoy!
I meant to do a cover reveal, but I didn’t time it right with the release of the video on YouTube. Oh, well! It will all work out in the end. I wonder what Jane would have thought about cover reveals, blog tours and the various platforms of social media we have at our disposal. I suppose she would have placed an announcement in The Times or some such. Would she have included a blurb to promote her book? I don’t know, but here is mine:
Abigail Isaacs fears ever again falling under the power of love and dedicates her life to studying the heavens. However, upon her father’s demise she finds herself in reduced circumstances and must write to her brother, who has long been away at sea. When instead Captain Wentworth of the HMS Laconia sends a tragic reply, Abigail is asked to set aside her own ambitions and fulfill her brother’s dreams in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata.
In his relentless pursuit for justice, Lieutenant Raphael Gabay lends his sword to the Spanish American cause. But as he prepares to set sail with the others, he is entrusted with the care of a young woman. She is quite unlike anyone he has ever known, and Raphael wonders whether the brilliant astronomer will see beyond his frivolous façade and recognize his true nature.
Their destinies have been plotted beyond the celestial veil; their charts foretell of adventure. Can these two troubled souls be persuaded to heed the stars and find love—and their purpose—in this fledgling nation?
Set against the backdrop of Argentina’s struggle for independence, this Jewish historical fiction may be considered a prequel to Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
And here is an excerpt…
Soon after the HMS Laconia dropped anchor in Gibraltar’s port, Captain Wentworth received a packet with journals and orders from London, as well as several pieces of mail that had finally caught up with him. After supplying these articles of interest, the midshipman reported that the HMS Argo was also in port. The captain accepted this news, along with his correspondence, with a fleeting grin and a nod of his head. Excusing the crewman, he began reviewing the letters from home. He always looked for one name in particular, cursing himself for raising his hopes all the while.
The letter from Sophia was set aside with a sigh. His sister’s gossip and questions could wait. He fingered through the rest with idle curiosity, but stopped short when he came upon two missives from a Miss Abigail Isaacs of Devonshire. One letter was addressed to Mr. Jonathan Isaacs, in care of the HMS Laconia, and the other was directed to her captain. The remitter had apparently been unaware that his friend, and ship’s physician, had been ordered to serve under Captain Lawrence, when last they met in Plymouth.
How providential, he thought. The Argo was now harbored alongside his vessel. Wasting no time, Captain Wentworth took pen in hand and directed his attention to the first matter at hand.
12th of August, 1811
Isaacs, my good fellow,
What luck! We have only just arrived and I was informed that the Argo is here as well. I am eager to hear of your journey and to share the news of home. You have had a letter. Your sister has written. I am in receipt of the correspondence, as she has directed it in care of the Laconia. Have you not written since you left us, then? You are the devil himself! My own sister would have my hide if I allowed any significant time to pass without satisfying her curiosity and calming her fears.
As we find ourselves safe and sound, I propose we celebrate this rare and happy occasion of dropping anchor in the same port. Let us meet for supper this evening. I heard Lord Fife has been traveling with you. Ask the earl to join us, if you please, for I have not had the pleasure of his company for quite some time. What say you to meeting at La Serena at seven bells?
Sealing the note, he rang for the marine private standing guard at his door. With directions to see the letter delivered at once, he was now at liberty to undertake the next task. Setting aside his sister’s missive, the captain sliced open the carefully folded correspondence in Miss Isaacs’s feathery script and settled down to ease his curiosity. Scanning the date, he immediately winced at the letter’s contents and damned himself for a fool. There was nothing for it. He would have to wait until the evening to share the news with his friend and offer him solace.
It was later that day, when Captain Wentworth was overseeing the work on the quarterdeck, that his bosun sought him out to deliver a note from the Argo. The captain assumed it was from Isaacs confirming the plans for their evening meal, but soon discovered his mistake.
12th of August, 1811
My dear Captain,
I regret that neither I nor Mr. Isaacs may have the pleasure of dining with you this evening, but if you are at liberty, I beseech you come directly to the address named above. Forgive my rashness, but I have little time to spare. Isaacs has been thrashed mercilessly.
Captain Lawrence has had him removed from the Argo, along with a feverish midshipman, to a surgeon’s hovel by the docks. I have been informed that Lawrence leaves for Bermuda as soon as the repairs to his vessel have been completed.
Earl of Fife
Wentworth had heard the rumors of the Argo’s captain, of course. Even the Admiralty had known of the man’s brutal methods of discipline, but a ship’s captain was the law onboard his vessel, according to the Articles of War. He was judge, jury, and if need be, executioner. Captain Wentworth was disgusted by Lawrence’s reputation and had been understandably concerned when Isaacs had received new orders. Most ships were manned by mere surgeons, but the Argo had been plagued with illness and continual injuries. The Admiralty had therefore assigned Jonathan Isaacs, a newly minted physician and Warrant officer of Wardroom rank, to that beleaguered crew with the hopes of getting the men up to snuff.
Calling for his first lieutenant, the captain relayed his orders for the remainder of the evening. He then prepared to disembark and find his friends. The address given by Lord Fife was apparently well known amongst the locals. Captain Wentworth questioned the first sailor he met stumbling down the pier and quickly ascertained its location. The surgeon’s accommodations, so close to the harbor, were necessitated by the danger and filth to which sailors were habitually exposed. The captain paid little mind to the surroundings, but made his presence known as he pounded on the shack’s wooden door. Upon given entry, he pushed passed the tired woman who made way for his purposeful stride, as he hastened to Isaacs’s bedside.
“What has happened here?” he bellowed at the sight of his friend.
Jonathan Isaacs attempted to speak at the sound of this new and familiar voice, but the air he expelled only turned into a painful groan and he shut his eyes against the pain.
“It is good of you to come, Captain,” said Lord Fife, seated at Isaacs’s bedside. “I wish we could have met again under happier circumstances, but here we are. Allow me to apprise you of the situation. I was a passenger on the Argo, with orders to meet certain officials in Gibraltar. Isaacs and I have been much thrown together on the journey, though I have known his father for quite some time. We have become friends and I know his story well.” The earl paused and changed the compress on the patient’s feverish brow. “You must know, sir, that Captain Lawrence is a tyrant. Devil take him! The man treats his crew abominably; he starves and beats the men—the lads too.” Raising his chin, he gestured to show that there was another patient lying in pain at the back of the room.
“I am aware of Captain Lawrence’s record,” Wentworth said with a grimace. “But how did Isaacs incur his wrath?”
“That midshipman—Musgrove is his name—was being held to account for some violation or another. Truth be told, there seemed to be a display of discipline on a daily basis throughout this tiresome journey. Isaacs was present for Musgrove’s punishment, of course, as were all the officers. He could not remain silent when the boy became senseless and brought the proceedings to a halt. Captain Lawrence decreed that Isaacs would receive Musgrove’s punishment, and a dozen more, for laying hands upon his superior.”
“He has gone too far! Even such a blackguard as Lawrence must understand that he has crossed the line. To impose corporal punishment upon an officer is simply not done.”
“He was a man possessed, I tell you. The captain took his pleasure on Isaacs. He had him flogged for insubordination and—I am certain of it—for being a Jew. The lad, as you see him, had not yet recovered from his previous punishment. His wounds have festered and he is burning with fever.”
Jonathan stirred just then, and Captain Wentworth lowered his head to capture his whisper. “You must take Musgrove.”
The captain shook his head, though his friend’s eyes were closed once more and could not see his vexation. “I cannot simply take a crewman from another vessel,” he said. “Fife, surely you understand…”
“Tell him,” Jonathan insisted.
“Be at ease, my friend,” the earl replied and turned to face the captain. “You see, we had discussed the matter last week, when we witnessed Musgrove being thrashed by the gunner’s mate. I, of course, had never seen anything like it, but Isaacs explained that it was a common method of punishment. The lad was made to lean over a cannon whilst the crewman whipped him with a knotted cable. ‘Hugging the gunner’s daughter’ was what the men call it. I turned away in disgust; and it was then that Isaacs thought of applying to Admiral Croft.”
“What’s this? Croft you say?”
“The admiral and I have long been acquainted. Our ties go back to our younger days and we have come to each other’s aid throughout the years. Good sort of fellow, that Croft.”
“Yes, I know him well. My sister is married to the admiral.”
“Please—Captain—” Jonathan managed to utter. “The boy—”
“Save your strength, Isaacs. I will do what I must, but what is to become of you?” Captain Wentworth stood and looked about the dreary room. “Where is the surgeon?”
“Quite foxed, I daresay,” the earl replied. “The housekeeper was just clearing out several bottles of rum when I arrived. The surgeon is as incompetent a man as ever was. I fear Lawrence left our friend here to die. As I understand it, he plans on replenishing his supplies and continuing his journey sans physician. Heaven help that crew. There’s one more thing I should mention. If the captain is to be believed, Isaacs was destined for the yardarm for his crimes.”
“Crimes, indeed!” cried Captain Wentworth. “Devil take the man and his sick arrogance. But what of Isaacs? Needless to say, we cannot leave him here.”
“Let me die in peace,” Jonathan uttered on a ragged breath.
“Stop that nonsense,” the captain ordered. “I will not abandon you— Isaacs! I nearly forgot. You have had a letter. Your sister sent it in care of the Laconia. I received a note as well. Miss Isaacs feared your plans had changed and she needed to ensure your notification…”
“Yes.” Glancing at the earl, the captain shook his head. “I regret having to tell you, my friend, but your father has passed on. Your sister has enquired of your whereabouts and when you might be expected to obtain leave. Miss Isaacs informs me that your father’s solicitor has been round. It appears she has been left in rather reduced circumstances. Something about a speculation—”
“Papa—gone?” Jonathan moaned. With strength that just moments ago would have seemed impossible, he cried out. “Avi! What will become of my poor Avi? I should have warned her…”
“Calm yourself,” Lord Fife demanded, “and lie still!” Speaking directly to the captain, the earl continued. “The business deal, I fear, is my doing. Last year, when the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata declared independence from Spain, many of us in England saw a great opportunity. Indeed, Isaacs’s father invested a handsome sum. He must have thought there would have been time to replenish his accounts…”
Drained by his outburst, Jonathan gasped one last time. “Pray—take care of my sister.”
“Can I count on your aid, Wentworth?” his lordship entreated. “My conscience is burdened. I would see things set to rights.”
“Yes, of course,” the captain replied. “Tell me what you require.”
I hope you are enticed! Stay tuned; and for more information on Jewish Historical Fiction, please visit me here: https://mirtainestruppauthor.com