13 May 2021

Special Guest Post by Emma Lombard, Author of Discerning Grace (The White Sails Series Book 1)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Discerning Grace captures the spirit of an independent woman whose feminine lens blows the ordered patriarchal decks of a 19th century tall ship to smithereens. Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.

Feisty Historical Heroines—Where to Find Them in History

My research for my historical romantic adventure on the high seas highlighted just how there much there is about men at sea in the history books but comparatively little about women. Certainly, records show us that women went to sea, whether with permission or not—as passengers or wives, but there is less evidence of what life was like aboard a tall ship for these women. 

Thankfully, I found some incredible resources that are a treasure trove of insights into the lives of many women at sea, drawn from newspaper articles, diaries and historical records. The personalised accounts from the women’s diaries gives so much more depth and emotion, outlining their hopes and fears as well as lamenting the loss of luxuries and comfort, than say a ship’s books recorded by a male clerk, which while brimming with factual information, is devoid of those personal encounters and inner thoughts.

Some of my favourite resources that reference women at sea include:

Seafaring Women by renowned historian, Linda Grant De Pauw

Female Tars by Suzanne J. Stark

Hen Frigates by maritime historian, Joan Durett

She Captains by maritime historian, Joan Durett

Modern Expectations vs Historical Reality

Any doubt I had about my fictional main character, Grace Baxter, being too modern and breaching the class or gender expectations of the time was securely put to bed by Elizabeth Gaskell’s series North and South. Here is a female author who published her works in 1854 with a recurring theme of complex social conflicts, including an entitled female protagonist who befriends working-class characters. 

As can be expected, Gaskell’s work received scathing critical reception for going against the prevailing views of the time but it is a great source for me, as a modern author, to know that these thoughts existed back then. It has enabled me to experiment with some unconventional relationships between my characters—the likes of which is going down well with my readers.

How I Avoided the Plague of the Sea

I had to do a lot of research about living aboard a naval vessel in the 19th century. The irony is, I can't even step foot on a ship because I suffer from sea sickness! There’s no wonder this affliction was called the plague of the sea. Ugh! However, I’ve managed to explore a few ship museums around the world. It has been fabulous to immerse myself in shipboard life, even if they aren’t quite of the era in which I’m writing.

Ship’s Museums I’ve Visited

Polly Woodside — three-masted barque permanently docked in Melbourne, Australia

Royal Yacht Britannia — Her Majesty The Queen’s former floating palace permanently docked in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Notorious — a travelling 15th century Portuguese Caravel replica that sailed into my hometown in Brisbane, Australia

A Captain’s Kingdom

While most Royal Navy captains commanded their ships under the governance of the Articles of War, there are plenty of tales of wayward commanders who either abused the punishments or were indifferent to complying with the regulations. Hollywood has also stretched these stereotypes rather far too. Though, let’s face it, once out on the open ocean for years at a time, a ship was the captain’s kingdom to command as he pleased. 

My research gave me a flavour of the dress, etiquette, food and expectations of shipboard life, which helped me thread this authenticity into my works—like discovering what rhea (large ostrich-like bird of South America) tasted like for the crew aboard my ship. For the record, it apparently tastes similar to young beef/veal.

Toning Down the Hollywood Drama

Interestingly enough, there were several scenes that I wrote based on factual events or characters that today’s modern audience (aka my beta readers and my editor) found implausible. So, I had to find that sweet spot between toning down some of the more colourful events and keeping the plot going, while still maintaining the historical flavour. I’m fortunate that one of my beta readers is lieutenant commander currently serving in the Royal Navy, who also happens to be a historian. Grahame’s fount of knowledge about shipboard life helped me iron out some of the Hollywood drama from my story.

As a historical fiction writer, you want to ensure you get the facts straight but sometimes there comes a point in your story where creative licence kicks in and certain events have to go a certain way to keep your readers engaged and entertained. Sorry, G! 

Ultimately, my goal as an author is to have my readers slam shut my book when they’re done and toss it beside them on the couch with a satisfied, “Ha! That was great!” 

If they’ve been entertained for the duration of reading my book and been able to escape for just a while, then mission accomplished.

Emma Lombard 

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About the Author

Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series. Find out more ar Emma's website www.emmalombardauthor.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @LombardEmma


  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Tony! Always a pleasure.

  2. Thank you so much for hosting today's blog tour stop.


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