Friday, May 6, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Anna Taylor

I love African American history and I love romance. So when I can combine the two I’m every happiness cliché under the sun times two. My creative juices don’t just flow but flood with a torrent of “What ifs?” 
Eban Thurman, the hero of my upcoming release, One Breath Away, had me delving into the lives of “Black Jacks,” African-American sailors and loving everything I learned. Writing Eban into a romance, I could flavor his swagger and attitude with that of real life Black Jacks while still enjoying the magic of “What if?”
By the 1830’s more than one-fifth of sailors on the coastal cities of America were of African descent. Many were slaves hired out by their owners to make extra money. In his article on Black seamen, “Black Jacks: African American Mariners in Early America,” Cliff Odle writes that “The sea was one of the few places that a 40-year old man, white or black, could be called boy without offence.” Some of the famous Black sailors Odle mentions are James Forten, Paul Cuffe and Crispus Attucks. Eighteen thousand men and eleven women who can be named served in the U.S. naval forces during the Civil War, the majority coming from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. Going to sea helped many a runaway slave find freedom. Joseph P. Reidy in his online series Black Men in Navy Blue shares this: “By September 1861, the volume of requests from commanders of naval vessels regarding authorization to enlist fugitive slaves reached such proportions that Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, a Connecticut native of antislavery bent, felt obliged to act.”
Not that life at sea was ideal or any less rife with the prejudices all people of color faced in the US, but it did offer remuneration that other types of work could not. Already my historical romance heart is racing a mile a minute with wonderful what if possibilities. What if a free Black man wants to leave behind a broken heart and an unhappy past, why wouldn’t he turn to the sea for refuge? What id that life so compensates him, he’s able to return home rugged, rich and ripe for revenge? What if, when said sailor returns home from the sea to reclaim his lost love and his forfeited homestead, but instead he finds someone new?
This is Eban’s dilemma – and good fortune – when he returns to his hometown in 1872 and spies by my heroine, Mary Hamilton.
According to the first mate who swore by astrology, he’d perceived a special celestial alignment for Eban. The stars foretold a coupling resulting from a rescue in which Eban would meet his wife. Having found Mary, Eban knew that prophecy would be fulfilled.
 He’s equally grateful as he notices her first sight of him.
God created something unique from Africa’s ebony clay when He made this one. Eban’s broad nose and high cheekbones belonged on a statue in a museum for all to enjoy. Legs long enough to cross the length of Texas in five strides brought Eban in her direction. An expensively tailored jacket hung off shoulders that could span the banks of the Rio Grande. A ruby glinted in his left earlobe and conspired with his shaved head to give him an air of mystery and menace.

A man of mystery and menace, a Black Jack shaped by the sea and on a mission to win her heart and yours.
About the author
A native New Yorker, Anna Taylor is a United Church of Christ and Presbyterian USA pastor by day. She has been a member of Romance Writers of American since 2003 and has published inspirational and Gothic romance.

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