In my latest historical novel, one of my characters stakes his entire financial future on two blockade runners to travel between North Carolina and England. Blockade runners during the Civil War were the fastest ships available and came armed and armored, enabling them to outrun Union ships on blockade patrol. Their operations were risky since the Union Navy wouldn’t hesitate to fire on them. However, the potential profits (economically or militarily) from a successful crossing were tremendous. The Union government sought to cut off all trade with the Confederacy and patrolled 12 major ports and 3,500 miles of southern coastline. Great Britain played a major role on the blockade running business, since they had huge investments in the South, and were the recipients of their cash crops, especially tobacco and cotton. Great Britain also controlled the neutral ports of the Caribbean, such as the Bahamas and Bermuda. Among the more notable of these premier vessels was the CSS Advance which completed more than 20 successful runs through the Union Naval blockade before being captured. By the end of the Civil War the Union Navy had captured more than 1,100 blockade runners and had destroyed or run aground another 355 vessels.
The Last Heiress is a stand-alone historical romance, also set during the American Civil War. My heroine, Amanda Dunn is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. When the blockade of southern ports curtails the supply of cotton, her father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton factor, and also lives in Wilmington. When Amanda falls for a local shopkeeper, class distinction, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance. The risky business of outmaneuvering the Union Navy became one of my favorite research assignments in The Last Heiress, available now in bookstores and online.