Happy Monday! We are entering into the last week of April. Where is this year going? Soon summer will be upon us, and that means lots of sunny afternoons in the backyard, soaking up sunshine and reading terrific books. Have you started to think about your summer list yet? If not, I have a fantastic UF series that I enjoy. It is The Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson. This series features a heroine who is part wizard and part elf. Plus there are sexy dead pirates, shifters, werewolves and more all in New Orleans. I was thrilled to get a chance to read and review the latest book, Pirate's Alley, and I am lucky enough to have Suzanne Johnson here today to talk more about Jean Lafitte. First thing first, let's met Suzanne:
Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series from Tor Books. Royal Street, book one, came out in April 2012; River Road in November 2012. Book three, Elysian Fields, released on August 13, 2013 and Pirate's Alley book four came out April 21st 2015.
A longtime New Orleans resident, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction for higher education, including the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport.
Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters of RWA. You can find Suzanne on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Suzanne also writes the Penton Legacy under pen name Susannah Sandlin.
Please welcome Suzanne, she is here to tell us more about the real life Jean Lafitte and why she decided to feature him in her series (I am sure glad she did).
Tracking the Real Jean Lafitte by Suzanne Johnson
One of the biggest surprises in writing The Sentinels of New Orleans series has been the “real” Jean Lafitte. If I’m totally honest, in the earliest drafts of ROYAL STREET, the first book of the series, the “historically undead” pirate was in only one scene and bore an alarming resemblance to Captain Jack Sparrow of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise.
A close friend reading an early draft nixed my pirate. “Do some research on the real Lafitte,” she suggested.
I started trolling the Internet and bought a couple of books. Then a couple more books. Then everything on Lafitte I could get my hands on. Something unexpected had happened: I became obsessed with the last true “pirate of the Caribbean.”
As a result, of course, he became a major player in the Sentinels series and the new book, PIRATE’S ALLEY, is no exception. Readers love the rakish, deviously sexy pirate, and so do I.
How real is my undead Lafitte? He’s as close to the real man as I can make him, having to imagine him in the modern world, of course, and in a magic-laden world at that. Still, I like to think he’s not too far off base.
The real Jean Lafitte was fascinating. Here are some of the things we know, and some of the things we don’t know.
Jean Lafitte was likely born in France, in the Bordeaux region, about 1780. There’s also a chance he was born in the St. Malo or Bayonne or Pauillac areas of France, or even in the West Indies French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). We don’t know for sure because Captain Lafitte changed his story to suit whatever purpose he was trying to achieve; in other words, the man was prone to fudge a bit in the truth department. Historians lean toward Bordeaux.
We do know that had a brother, Pierre, at least ten years his senior, who was already smuggling merchandise in and out of the Gulf Coast area by 1806. At that time, the 26-year-old Jean Lafitte arrived as captain of his own ship. Only three years after France had sold the Louisiana Territory to the upstart United States, New Orleans was still predominantly French, so the Lafitte brothers fit right in.
Jean might have been younger than his brother, but he had a much more formidable personality, by all accounts. He dressed like a gentleman, had impeccable manners, enjoyed passing time in the city’s gambling dens and dance halls (although he kept his residence deep in the bayous with his men), and spoke at least enough English, Spanish, and Italian to communicate, although his primary language was French.
At the time he arrived, there were hundreds of smugglers and outlaws strewn across the lands south of New Orleans. They frequently fought among themselves and were in competition—until Jean Lafitte somehow made himself the leader of the whole bunch, wrangled them into one unit, and kept them in line. Everyone profited, and he was said to be meticulously fair and generous in distributing the wealth they took in. And he became very, very wealthy.
He was wildly popular among the French citizens of New Orleans, who bought the goods he stole from Spanish ships. (France was at war with Spain, so his men plundered only from the Spanish and called it not smuggling, but acts of war. That’s how he could claim to be a privateer and not a pirate.)
The American merchants who lost most of their business after being undercut by the “pirate,” however, weren’t fond of him at all, and kept pressure on the governor to try to arrest and hang both Lafitte brothers—piracy carried a death sentence. Pierre managed to get arrested, but Jean was never captured.
He never lost a duel, and he participated in quite a few.
He never married, although he was believed to have had numerous affairs (some even say with the governor’s wife, who was quite smitten with him—something that also didn’t increase his popularity with the governor).
Lafitte was 6-foot-2 in an age where the average man was 5-foot-7, had dark hair he wore a medium length, and was “fair of form and complexion.” Which I interpret as sexy and ripped ☺ No one agrees as to his eye color—dark blue, hazel, or black—so I picked blue. Despite many illustrations of him with beards or moustaches, he was said by chroniclers at the time to have been clean-shaven.
He could be quick-tempered and ruthless, and could change moods in the blink of an eye. The few men who challenged his authority found themselves shot, hanged, or set adrift at sea. At the height of his power, in the period from 1810-1815, he had more than a thousand men who pledged fealty to him and earned him the moniker of the “King of Barataria,” the area south of New Orleans.
However, things were stacking up against the Lafittes by 1814, with Pierre in jail and America still embroiled in the War of 1812 against the British.
The British made an offer to Jean Lafitte—clemency, a pile of cash, and continuation of his business if he would provide passage into the city for the British ships and troops. He asked them to give him a few days to think about it.
The crafty pirate—er, privateer—wrote a letter to the governor, offering to betray the British and lend his and his men’s support and supplies to the outnumbered Americans in exchange for a presidential pardon of all charges of piracy against him and his men.
American Colonel Andrew Jackson hated the idea, but President James Monroe agreed, and Pierre Lafitte mysteriously “escaped” from prison. Jean Lafitte set up the British, threw in his lot with the Americans, helped the U.S. win the Battle of New Orleans, and became a legal citizen.
Then he went back to being a pirate, moving his base of operations to Galveston, Texas. At age 43, he set fire to his compound in Galveston and sailed away. We don’t know what happened to him. The three main theories were that he was killed at sea, that he died of malaria and was buried in Mexico, and that he changed his name, moved to St. Louis, married, and lived into his 70s.
A handwritten “autobiography” supposedly written by Jean was found in the St. Louis area and now resides at the University of Texas, where debates continue over whether or not it was, indeed, penned by an aging Lafitte before his death.
In the meantime, he lives on in the Sentinels of New Orleans series!
Do you have a favorite pirate or pirate story? Leave a comment to win a $10 Amazon gift card or, if outside the U.S., an equivalent from Book Depository. As Jean Lafitte would say, “Merci!”
Thanks so much, Suzanne, I loved getting to know more about Jean. He is my favorite character in the series. Suzanne isn't stopping by empty handed. Today she is offering up a chance to win a $10.00 Amazon Gift card for leaving a comment. (Please note, Suzanne will choose the winner and distribute the prize.
Here is my review:
Pirate's Alley(Sentinels of New Orleans #4) by Suzanne Johnson
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.
Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.
Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.
Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.
War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published: April 21st 2015 by Tor Books
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review
Four stars: Another exciting and thrilling installment! Don't miss this series.
DJ lights the fire, grateful for the heat. She still doesn't have a working heating system in her house, post Hurricane Katrina. Alex is supposed to install it, but he hasn't gotten around to it yet. So DJ is spending some time with her best friend Eugenia. The girls night quickly turns sour as Eugenia isn't feeling well. It turns out her illness is more than a stomach bug. Eugenia's illness becomes just one of DJ's worries as New Orleans is inundated with a freak weather pattern that delivers feet of snow. Treachery is afoot in the High Council when the acting First Elder is implicated in a murderous plot. DJ is thrown into situation after situation which has questioning her morales and loyalties. Will DJ find her way and make the right choices?
What I Liked:
- A book in the Sentinels of New Orleans Series never disappoints me. Once again, I was thrown into DJ's chaotic world. This time around, DJ is dealing with a couple of underhanded plots that will throw the paranormal world into disarray. This was a book with plenty of treachery, mischief and mayhem and lots of the sexy pirate Jean Lafitte.
- Speaking of Jean Lafitte, he has a large and active presence in this one. I have really grown to love this rascally pirate as has DJ. Jean manages to get into some trouble and help prevent some as well. He makes me laugh with his antics. If you are like me and you love Jean, you will pleased with his role in this book. He is turning out to be the dashing hero.
- Like any book in this series, there are several story threads to keep track of, and even though at first they seem a bit chaotic and unrelated, once everything is revealed, they all neatly interweave. I loved seeing how everything came together, and I was surprised a couple of times at the outcome.
- Even though this is an Urban Fantasy series, it features a romance. I appreciate that the romance is low key and not a main focus of the story. However, it is a romance that is still trying to gain its footing. This time around, DJ finds herself truly questioning whether she is going to be able to stay in the relationship for the long haul. I liked that she took her time to do some soul searching and the conclusion she came to. I was surprised and pleased with how it all worked out, even though I was left in a bit of a lurch with the end. I am eager to see how it will continue to develop from here.
- In the past, I have had a few niggling issues with DJ being a bit too rash and not thinking things through. In this installment, she has grown significantly. I didn't see her jumping in without thinking everything over. Instead she takes her time to talk things out and ponder the best outcome. I was most impressed with her new found maturity. I especially liked that she made the right choices when it came to protecting those she loves despite the consequences. I felt like I really connected with her in this book.
- This book is a bit different from its predecessors. It is one that is setting the stage for what could be a paranormal war. There is a lot going on, and many things in the works. Even though I missed that it wasn't as action packed as the others, I liked the plotting and scheming. Ms. Johnson is setting the table for something big, and I can't wait for what comes next.
And The Not So Much:
- This one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Not a throw your book against the wall type ending, but still, everything is up in the air. I need the next book now. Please don't make me wait a year and a half for more.
- I had a bit of a struggle keeping track of all the players and their motives. The story centers around treachery in the High Council, and there were many people involved. It was a bit difficult to keep everyone straight. There are many characters, motives and a lot to keep track of. You have to be patient with this one.
- I missed the action. Normally, DJ is getting herself out of one scrape after another, and fighting for her life. She is still landing into plenty of hot water, but it is of a different type. The problems she faces are the type she has to mentally work through instead of physically. This one lacked a bit of the action I have grown to love. Not a big deal, but I missed a bit of the mayhem, especially after the last book with the crazed Ax Murderer and the battle in the ruined Six Flags Park.
- This is absolutely a series you must read in order. I have read every book, and I struggled a bit with book amnesia as I tried to recall all the intricate plot details from the previous books. There is no way you can plunge into this book without having read the others, you would be hopelessly lost. No big deal, just grab the first three books and have fun. Nothing like some binge reading.
Pirate's Alley is another exciting and engaging book in The Sentinels of New Orleans Series. I love that this series is complicated, smart and filled with many interesting paranormal characters. If you want a sophisticated and thrilling UF series, I urge you to check out this series. I am a big fan and eagerly awaiting the next book.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Be sure to check out all the books in The Sentinels of New Orleans Series: