“… a pleasurable and action-packed read … a delicious spin to the otherwise tired clichés of male captains … the joy of the open seas - as well as the danger churning below - pulses throughout this rip-roaring, hearty tale of the high seas.” - Kirkus Reviews
In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen - an enormous beast - to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
Based on true historical events, this is a tale about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a story about vengeance, this is a tale of heartbreak…
A man - I cannot say if he was wise or not - once said to me as he gently stroked my hair, as he slowly poured honeyed words into my ear with false affection: “Hush dear child, hush. ‘Tis best if you lay still. ‘Tis best you accept this gift I give you now without complaint my lovely, golden dove.”
I never knew this man’s name. Long years have passed since I heard those vile words. They haunt me still.
Blood. I saw a lot of blood as I stepped into my father’s shop that night.
I suppose the matter had to do with a debt unpaid, money owed to one clan or another. When I heard the voices of strange men inside our home arguing with my father, I had rushed downstairs out of curiosity with a candle in my hand, dressed only in my nightgown and barefoot.
And when I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw two brutes holding my father down against his wooden cutting table while a third man, a tall, sinewy fellow standing in front of him, stabbed him over and over again in the arms, the chest and stomach with a long knife. Then the tall man tossed his knife in the air with one hand and caught it by the handle with the other, as if he was performing some parlor trick, and slashed my father’s throat wide open with one, elegant swing. Sprays of blood spurted across the room. I watched my father’s eyes flutter for a bit before they closed on him forever.
But I am well accustomed with blood and gore. I am the butcher’s daughter.
No doubt I stared at my father’s three murders wide-eyed, confused, even in horror. But I did not scream. I did not cry out. I did not look or call for any help. I buried any urge to panic.
The tall, sinewy man with the knife fled when he saw me. His two companions did not. They had unfinished business. They released their grip on my father. They let his limp body slip to the floor with a dull thud and then slowly moved towards me - all smiles.
I was but twelve or so. I had never known a man before that day.
I cannot say if the man who commanded me to lie still after he forced me to the floor next to my father’s torn body, the man who thought of me as his lovely, golden dove, was wise or not for I only knew him for the briefest of moments. You see, that man died in my arms on top of me not long after he spoke those very words to me.
My memory of that night is clouded in my mind. No, that is not quite true. I have chosen to wrap that memory in cloud. But I can, if I wish to, remember that night - even now - with crystal clarity, in the most striking detail.
Aye, the man on top of me died in my arms that day. He died after he had torn my nightgown open, after he had thrust himself inside of me - he died after I removed his dagger from his belt and plunged it deep into his black heart. I can still hear the air escaping from his lungs. I can still smell the rot on his breath. I can still see the pupils of his eyes rolling up behind his skull as his life slipped away from him forever.
His companion had fared a little better. I stabbed him, skewered him really, through the mouth when he leaned over to pull his dying friend off me. The blade pierced one cheek and sliced through the other. The man screamed and fled outside, running wildly down New Market Street with the dagger still lewdly sticking out of both sides of his mouth. Not a mortal wound perhaps, but a man with scars on each cheek like that is not a hard man to find as you might imagine. Time and patience is all that is needed. A little time, a little patience, and you can easily find a man like that with matching scars at your leisure.
I can say, with absolute certainty, that this day was the last day of my childhood. But it was also the day-of-days - for this was the first day of my liberation, of my awakening, as well.
I had forewarned her gentle majesty of course. I had told her that a highborn lady, especially a queen, should not hear of such things so foul and impure.
But she ignored my warning. She leaned close to me and squeezed my hand reassuringly. “It is, dear sister,” she told me flatly, “a pitiless and putrid world ruled by pitiless and putrid men, men who think of us as little more than chattel. We would know your story. From start to finish, we would know how it is you came to rule over such cruel and loathsome men in a man’s cruel and loathsome world.”
Yes, it is true. Sitting in a chair across from me in my drab lodgings in the Tower of London, a place of luxury compared to the dungeon I had only days before been released from, the great and mighty Queen of England addressed me, a lowly commoner and a thief, as her sister...
About the author:
Born in 1954 in Indiana, Mark McMillin has lived in a number of states throughout the U.S. as well as overseas. He attended Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, focusing his studies mostly on military history, and served as a cadet in Canisius's nationally recognized ROTC program. After graduating in 1976, Mark was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and was stationed in Bad Kissingen, Germany where he served with the elite 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
In 1986, Mark received his J.D. degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois and began his legal career with a law firm in White Plains, New York focusing his attention on general corporate law. In 1994, Mark moved to Virginia and ventured out into hazardous world of litigation where, in 1999, he won what was reported to be at the time one of the largest and longest federal criminal trials in Virginia's history. Mark thereafter moved to Georgia where he resumed his general corporate practice and served as general counsel for several companies, including a $1B publicly-traded airline.
Mark has been a life-long student of military history. And he has always had a passion for reading and love for writing and wanted to someday write his own book. But write a book about what? Mark had no desire to write about some subject that 100 authors before him had already delved into. And then, almost by accident, this fascinating, little known story of Captain Luke Ryan fell into his lap. It was an opportunity was too good to pass on and so Mark began the long and tedious journey of researching, writing and rewriting. The twelve year project ended in 2011 with Gather the Shadowmen (The Lords of the Ocean), Prince of the Atlantic and Napoleon's Gold.
Mark currently lives in the Southeastern part of the United States.
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