Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Best Swashbuckler Books Ever!

Books are the doorways to knowledge, the enabling of greater understanding, the point toward a more learned person. And besides all that, they can be just plain fun.

Obviously some people don't believe that. So a heads up if you are one of those people, this post is all about books.

My mother has told me how when she was younger she would go to the library weekly, borrow stacks of books, read every single one, and do the same next week. I have never been a very fast reader. I would borrow stacks of books and regret that I had to renew them, sometimes twice. But I still read. And read, and read. I loved all kinds of books but especially historical fiction and biographies. Hey, I like true drama. But don't think I am a boring old nerd, I've read a lot more than that and I love a good fairy-tale. Oh, and espionage.

Before I conclude #SwashbucklerMonth I want to talk about a few swashbuckler adventures I have had the privilege to read. Don't hesitate to chime in and tell me if you have read them or want to.

Treasure Island

I have actually read this one twice. The story is interesting, the scenario intriguing, the language inspiring. I love a good classic. Plus, I really like the steampunk animated version, Treasure Planet.

Captains Courageous

I read this one many years ago and then watched the old film with Spencer Tracy and Freddy Bartholomew. I really liked the "newbie takes a crash course on sailing" kind of plot.

The Spider Catcher

This is one by Gilbert Morris that I read many years ago. It has been too long ago for me to give you a synopsis, but I remember that I really loved how it made you aware of the ship and its workings more than other stories. I would definitely like to read this one again.

Legacy of The King's Pirate Series

These books were written by MaryLu Tyndall in 2006. I enjoyed the seafaring adventure, but found the romance a bit much. There were many inaccuracies in this series, I felt, and couldn't help comparing them to the best of all time swashbuckler books --

The Buccaneers Series

This series was written by Linda Chaikin in the mid-90's and it is the absolute best. I will dedicate the rest of this post to this superb series.

Synopsis of the best books ever!

It is the 1700s and Emerald Harwick has been looked down upon all her life by her father's wealthy family because of her mother's lack of breeding. She lives in shame of this and feels she will never attain the families good graces. Instead she falls in love with an indentured servant and plans to run away to marry him. Her only regret in leaving is the work she is doing in the Christian Singing School for slaves. But her plans to get away are abruptly halted as she runs into a murderous relation by the name of Rafael Levasseur, and a viscount disguised as a pirate captain. The viscount, Baret Buckington, happens to be her well-bred cousins fiance who, despite the family's plans for him, has an agenda more important than marriage at the moment. Having lost his father at sea long ago, his mission is to find him in spite of the common belief that he is dead. Emerald is thrown into his path continually making cousin Lavender jealous and bringing further disdain from the family. What is worse is her father's uncouth manner in attempting to trick Baret into marrying her instead of Lavender. Emerald must endure pirates, kidnapping, and temptation to lose faith as her life is turned upside down, while Baret risks everything, his title and position, to find his father and get revenge.

There are three books in this series, Port Royal, The Pirate and His Lady, and Jamaican Sunset. I read these many years ago and then read them again more recently. I think it is time to read them again...

The character of Chaikin's creations is so well woven you never feel as if she left anything out. The romance is well developed, and not overly dwelt upon, which is very important to me. I do not like harlequin romances and so often this is what Christian fiction, especially historical fiction, really adds up to. Dwelling too much on the romance instead of character and plot development creates a mere sensationalistic story and leaves much to be desired.

Historical accuracy is also a big point with me and I have no complaints with it in this series. Not only do the historical events meet well but each persons character fits the periods expectations. I especially like that Emerald has a passion of her own and does not instead put all her hopes on simply marrying well like so many others. She loves doing the Lord's work among the oppressed slaves and is distraught at the situation regarding slavery in her culture. Her intention to start a school of her own gives her quality beyond the average fiction heroine.

Baret Buckington, also known as Captain Foxworth is, I must admit, every girl's dream guy. He is dashing but focused, admirable but often infuriating, and the fact that he is a viscount who has run off to the sea really rings with me. (Guess why I like Jane Austen's Persuasion so much!) His mission to find his father and seek revenge is intriguing and the measures he goes to creates a great deal of tension and excitement.

Then there are other characters with stories for a well rounded plot, like Minette, a French relation of Emerald's who is even more looked down upon due to her mixed race. Captain Erik Farrows, a friend of Baret's, Earl Nigel, the controlling authority who thinks he can buy Emerald, and so on.

I was thoroughly pleased to discover these books in my younger days when the passion for pirate stories and sailing ships was especially strong. Having relied more on the classics to quench this interest I was always delighted to find a more modern story that still held some depth.

There is a series of Linda Chaikin's called Trade Winds that appears to be a sequel series to this one and I am dying to get my hands on them!

So tell me, have you read any of these books? Do you want to? What is your opinion? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Against All Flags (1952) | Movie Review

I can't believe #SwashbucklerMonth is already drawing to a close! I still have so many post ideas and I haven't done half of what I wanted to do. But, after all, a month is a month, and I only committed to that much. Plus I have all these other posts building up that aren't swashbuckler related. *Sigh* I can't be swashbuckler all the time.

But it is not over yet. This next post is about the third best swashbuckler ever, Against All Flags.

When I was younger, Errol Flynn was the man. He was my heartthrob, and every time my friends and I would get together we would gab about the last Errol Flynn movie we saw and how he was so awesome.

These days I am not so dramatic. Since then I have learned that he was more like his character in The Adventures of Don Juan than he was as Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk. But he was still an incredible adventure actor. And some of the movies he played are the best yet.

Also in this feature is my favorite actress, Maureen O'Hara. It seems I have picked all swashbucklers with her as the heroine to review. And it is no wonder. Whether she is simply the brown-haired love interest of pirate Jamie, the fiesty Spanish Condesa, or the pirate captain Spitfire Stevens, she plays the roles better than any actress I could imagine. I will have to review some of her non-seafaring adventures as well, such as At Sword's Point and Bagdad.

For now, here is my synopsis on the movie, Against All Flags.

A pirate fortress on the coast of Madagascar has been the scourge of any ship not engaging in piracy for too long because of their hidden defense fortifications. British naval officer Brian Hawke plans to go undercover and join the pirates as a deserter in an effort to find out the exact location of the guns and sabotage them before the arrival of a British man-o-war.

Hawke arrives with two other companions and is taken to Captain Roc Brasiliano. The pirate captain accuses them of being spies but says they will be tried before the captains of the coast before a decision is made. Hawke is surprised to see a female pirate captain by the name of Spitfire Stevens but he immediately lays on the charm. Spitfire is amused while Captain Roc, who considers her his woman, is infuriated. During the meeting of the captains of the coast they agree that there is no proof one way or the other of telling if the men are spies, so Hawke is given a position in Captain Roc's next venture where he can keep an eye on him.

Spitfire has already made up her mind to like Hawke, though trust being a different story. Upon hearing that she has the actual plans of the fortifications in her rooms, Hawke manages to worm his way into a meeting with her. He succeeds but also learns that though she may be attracted to him she is not one to be trifled with.

During the venture, Captain Roc attacks the ship of the grand moghul of India, despite Hawke's warning of the political dangers. While Roc burns the ship after divesting her of her spoils, Hawke manages to save a young woman whom he soon learns is the daughter of the moghul himself. Knowing what Roc would do if he found out, Hawke keeps it to himself.

Realizing the position he is in with his previous mission and now the objective to save the princess, he bids for her at the auction block but loses her to a bitter Spitfire who will do anything to keep her out of his hands.

Hawke then meets secretly with the princess's chaperone, the Scottish woman Molvina MacGregor, and convinces her to trust him in a new plot to get the princess to safety. Later, he and his men discover the guns and sabotage them. But on their way back to get the princess and MacGregor they are caught by Roc and Spitfire. At first the pirates are enraged at his underhandedness, but when they learn that the Indian girl is the princess, they begin to suspect Hawke of more. It is not long before they find the plans of the fortifications on them and realize they are indeed spies. Despite her declarations of love and trust only hours before, Spitfire feels betrayed and agrees with Roc that the men should die at the tide stakes in the morning.

Bound to the tide stakes where the crabs will rip the flesh from their bones for a slow and painful death, Hawke and his men appear to have reached their end. But Spitfire, in spite of her wounded pride at being betrayed, can't stand to see the man she loves suffer. She takes a knife and pretends to kill Hawke, though secretly freeing him.

Suddenly the alarm that the island is under attack rings out and Roc gives the command to get to the guns. When the man-o-war is within their sites, the guns fire but explode. Roc decides to make a break for it, taking the princess with him for protection. Spitfire, tired and with the only hope for a better life destroyed, agrees to go with him and marry him.


As they endeavor to get past the British warship, using the Indian princess as a shield, Hawke and his men slip aboard. The sword battle is fierce but they are victorious and soon the pirates are subdued. The British commander offers Hawke anything he wants in reward for such a splendid job and Hawke requests Spitfires involvement be forgotten. The Commander is amused but agrees. Spitfire has obviously forgiven him and now has the promise of a better life.

It is disputed as to whether or not the pirate colony of Libertatia was historical or fictional. Due to the book A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson published in 1724, there has been much discussion of its existence, and much has been made legendary because of it. The leader and founder of the colony was said to be Captain Henry Avery, the man responsible for the start of the golden age of piracy, though he is not featured in this movie.

The fact that the writers of this film used possible historical locations and stories is all the more intriguing to me. I am a history fan at heart.

So what do you think? Will you be watching this one soon? How do you like my review? Most importantly, how have you enjoyed #SwashbucklerMonth so far? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

My next (and last Swashbuckler post) will be coming soon. But keep a lookout, I have a few scrapbook posts coming up!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Buccaneer's Girl (1950) | Long Gowns and Trousers

So far for #SwashbucklerMonth I have stuck to the cavalier days of bucket boots and rapiers. But today we are going to advance in years a little.

DeCarlo in a formal white gown.

The early 1800s saw a drastic change in clothing for both men and women. Wigs were thrown out and full, thick skirts with it. The French wanted nothing to do with the aristocratic fashion at the end of the revolution. And as it were, what the French say in fashion goes. There are many portraits of women sporting the new style of gauzy dress that looked like something from the Greeks. Waists sat just below the bosom and the former rigid aspects of fashion, such as multiple petticoats, yards of fabric, and corsets, were tossed out as well.

Yellow gown from 1823

As the years passed, the style began to reform again and the material of dresses became thicker and more modest. The waist also dropped a few inches preparing for the fuller skirts of the Civil War era.

The film Buccaneer's Girl (1950) was based in this era. Yvonne DeCarlo wears straight gowns with moderately high waists, and Philip Friend wears the "modern" trousers instead of breeches, with the top hat replacing the cavalier hat.

This film is actually a recent addition to our swashbuckler addiction. After finding it on the internet a few years ago it quickly became another favorite, making our list of buccaneer films a little more extensive.

DeCarlo in a pink gown with black overlay.

DeCarlo plays a saucy lower class girl who has stowed away on a ship bound for New Orleans. She has the misfortune to get entangled with a gentleman playing the part of pirate for heroic reasons and soon becomes embroiled in the plot herself.

Madame Brizar (played by the always animated Elsa Lanchester) takes her in hand in an attempt to make her more genteel, but Debbie, as she is called, decides to get her the man she wants her own way.

The costumes in this film are grand, even if they tend to follow a similar pattern.

Friend in a light blue suit with a high collar. Dashing.

DeCarlo in a gold gown with Greek overtones. Friend in buccaneer costume, also dashing.

Men's wear changes slightly less over the years, it seems. Here the pirate Batiste wears the earlier breeches and boots, but at other times in the film he wears the more modern trousers and heeled shoes.

DeCarlo in a red and pale blue gown.

Of all the gowns DeCarlo wears, this one has to be my least favorite. I can't see why anyone would want to put a dark red with a pale blue.

Pale blue gown with red shawl from 1822.

Then I ran across this image. I was greatly surprised to see the colors so directly associated. Could the costumers have referred to this exact picture? Seems a little much to assume but who knows what inspired the designers of this film.

It is exciting to be able to identify time periods by costume or other little things. But after all, in the days when this film was put out, there wasn't always as much care for authenticity as I would like. Many times our heroine might wear an 18th century dress and then 1940's makeup and hairstyle. It's funny to laugh at, and I don't take it too seriously.

But on the other hand, modern movies have no excuse. I am very critical of any attempt to recreate a period. So it is very satisfying when they succeed.

What do you think? Are you very familiar with this periods fashion? Have you seen Buccaneer's Girl? Leave me a comment!

Portraits from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1820s_in_Western_fashion

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Do Your Intentions Reach Action Level?

We're nearing the middle of the month already (I can hardly believe it) and today I want to take a break from #SwashbucklerMonth.

Instead I want to share with you what has been on my mind.

I am a passionate person with some solid dreams. Okay, that sounds too glorious. Let me see... From a very young age I knew that I wanted to be a missionary. Growing up, whenever anyone asked me what I had in mind for life I would tell them just that. It was always accompanied by a surprised but admiring compliment. I hesitated to tell people at times because I felt like I was not yet worthy of the proverbial "pat on the back". I've read many biographies. I've heard the stories. My favorite "heroes of the faith" have been Jim Elliot and Amy Carmichael, one who walked a short and hard road, and another that walked a long and hard road. There is no glamour.

One of my greatest fears have been coming to the moment all seem to come to when years down the road, they have given their all to a cause and appeared to reap no reward.

My greatest fear though, is being asked to give the greatest sacrifice. The question for myself has always been, "What will I do in that moment?" God forbid that I would falter then at the last and most important moment.

Over the years I feel my calling has taken a broader shape as I have desired to be part of ministry in general. I've thought of many different ways to do it in my current situation, and dreamed of bigger ways to do it were I able. But here I am, halfway through my twenties with hardly anything to show for myself in terms of ministry. I can see where this post could get quite depressing. But I would be digressing, so don't worry.

While I sit here asking myself what God has in mind for me, why He hasn't shown me already, and what if He has shown me and I'm not seeing it, I am also aware of the fact that I have a responsibility to the immediate life. Serving others now in the situation God has put me in, to be more exact. Which is ministry as well.

Just the other day I read an article by Erin Davis on Lies Young Women Believe called 50 Ways to Serve Others. I have been battling the feeling of uselessness nearly all year and this article piqued my interest. Erin lists some very simple and easy ways to serve others in your life. While reading it, I was brought back to a conversation I had had with my mother a few days ago. For some reason I can't remember, I began listing the many times I had encouraged in words but neglected to act. We've all done this.

For instance, not long ago I missed a friends wedding after all but promising her I would be there. Granted, I lacked transportation, and we haven't seen each other in years. But I still feel guilty for not making more of an effort, even if it turned out the same way in the end.

Another time I missed a friends' mothers funeral after telling her that I was there for her if she needed me. Once again, we aren't super close and have only talked occasionally. I am not the shoulder she cries on in her troubles, so I really wouldn't be missed, right? It's not like she expected me.

And then recently my Papaw died and my Grandma has been very lonely. I considered going to visit her but, you guessed it, have not yet. There is still trouble with transportation, and then there is the fact that my Grandma and I aren't just super close. It would be a little out of the ordinary for me to go and visit.

But do you see the problem here? I have good excuses, but are they really good enough? When it comes to being there for someone you love, be they distant friend or relative, it is more important then all the excuses in the world.

I felt smote. This thought just crept upon me, is God quiet because I have not proven myself faithful in the small things? Am I too comfortable in my little life, even with its many flaws?

God has given me the gift of service. My desire is to serve. But you can't serve without taking a step outside of your comfort zone.

Now obviously I am being harder on myself than others would feel necessary. And that is often the case. We are, as they say, our worst critics. But I find the only way to make myself get truly serious about something is to be scathingly hard.

We all fail at times but the question is whether we are going to keep up the pattern or break it and try for something better.

Have you seen yourself in my confession? Have you passed up opportunities to be there for others and opted for a good excuse out instead? Consequently, have you been struggling with a feeling of uselessness, as if there were things you could do but don't know where to start?

Any advice I have I give to myself first. Resolve to be motivated and don't let opportunities to help others slip by. You can't help everyone, and it is not your job to do so. But, as Proverbs 3:27 says,

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so."

What do you think? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below!

Come back soon as I resume #SwashbucklerMonth!