When a young military officer named Perry meets renegade lady-pirate, Charlotte Law, they are immediately drawn together by their lust for riches. Armed with a map, a secret, and a strange little golden scarab, they embark on a quest for the treasures of the legendary Captain Kidd. Enlisting the help of a naïve Irishman named Finnegan, they journey from the dank opium dens to the lush barrier islands of old Charleston. And along the way, one of them will live an adventure that will eventually turn into one of the most haunting and memorable escapades to grace early American literature.
Donna gives an overview of the book:
January 1828. Finnegan never imagined winters in the south could be so wicked. He paced the perimeter of the fort on cold, stiff legs, his rifle slung across his back. Apart from training, he had not fired the thing but once since joining the Army and then only to shoo away a wild dog. He brought his numb hands to his lips and blew on them for warmth. Through watery eyes, he scanned the inky Atlantic. At the far horizon, he could just make out the shape of ship sails, silhouetted against the Carolina moon.
He sighed, bored and looking forward to a drink of sweet Muscadine wine when Perry appeared suddenly at his side. Finnegan jumped.
"Time for a drink," said Perry, almost as if he had read Finnegan's mind. Perry had an odd, ghostly way of simply appearing and vanishing Finnegan did not especially like. Perry, who had been at Fort Moultrie since November, was an easy person to get on with despite his hollow, downcast eyes and somber tone of voice. Still, the stealthy way he always moved left Finnegan uneasy.
"Yes, a drink," Finnegan agreed. He clapped his hands to get some feeling back into them. "I'm not sure I'll ever thaw."
Perry spied the sails cutting across the indigo sky. "Ah, 'tis she. Charlotte Law, Mistress of the Sea."
"How can you tell from here, in this darkness?" Finnegan asked.
Perry laughed a not altogether merry sound. "No man would be as brazen as to sail this close to the reach of our cannons."
"She must be a fool, then. We could sink her with one shot. A woman knows nothing of sailing, anyway."
"Oh dear," Perry said, clearly dazzled. "This is not simply a woman, Private. This is an angel, a nymph. An exquisite creature of golden hair and eyes the color of the oceans far to the south." He fell silent a moment, contemplating the woman's arrival. "She haunts my dreams."
This revelation surprised Finnegan. He scarcely ever spoke to Perry. The man was usually alone or in the company of a certain Colonel Drayton, a congressman. Finnegan had heard murmurs of Perry's fragile mental state from some of the other enlistees. This was the first time he had ever heard anything other than gloom in Perry's voice.
"Nonsense," Finnegan countered. "Besides, how do you know her?"
Perry watched as the ship slipped past, cutting around the tiny island and southward to Charleston Harbor.
"Well? Tell me."
Perry clapped him on the back. "After your shift, come to my barracks. I have rum to warm you." He started away.
Finnegan frowned. "Rum? Where did y–"
Perry turned and winked. "Shhh. Tell no one. You'll thaw and learn how I know of the wonder that is Lady Charlotte Law."
* * *
Perry poured rum into a pair of tin beakers as Finnegan peeled off his tattered woolen gloves. Though he claimed to be twenty-two years of age, Finnegan had his doubts. How well would he handle the drink? Slightly built and not remarkably tall, he was a sharp contrast to Finnegan's well-built frame. Perry's dark, oily hair and hollowed eyes gave him the appearance of a sickly man, where Finnegan's fair hair and blue eyes gave away his deep-rooted Irish heritage.
The barracks offered little relief from the cold outside, but it kept out the cutting wind. There were so few enlisted at Moultrie now, so everyone had his own barracks. Finnegan preferred it that way. Judging from Perry's quarters, Finnegan doubted he could spend more than a few drinks with the man. Clutter covered every surface; papers strewn about, scrawled with sharp handwriting that was barely legible. Sketches of trees and maps had been pasted to the wall with pine rosin.
Finnegan walked around, scanning the papers. "What is all this?"
"Notes. I write. Sometimes."
Finnegan read aloud a short line, written in Perry's scrawl. "Near four bright suns–a temporary rest–an oasis in desert of the blest. Away- away- 'midseas of rays that roll–"
"Stop it," Perry said sharply. He snatched the tattered slip of stationery from the wall and shoved it into his pocket.
"Sorry," Finnegan answered. "It's quite good. Not much to write about around here, though. Sand and salt water and the occasional strange creature coming out of the brush." He sipped the rum. Shocking at first, like fire hitting the back of his throat. He wished for the sweet Muscadine wine he had hidden back in his own barracks, but at least he was quickly warming.
"Oh, there's more than you realize, Finnegan," Perry said with a mysterious smile. "Much, much more."