In the second novel of Julia Older's deeply researched trilogy, Thom Taylor is cast onto the lawless Isles of Shoals at the gateway to the New World. Bawdy butcher Babb and his saucy Barbadoes servant are but a few real-life characters and documented events that help and hinder the fictive narrator in this sweeping 17th century saga.
Although Shoals mistress Mary Babb, Hampton witch Goody Cole and Strawbery Banke marmalade madams are hardly mother figures, Thom holds onto their apron strings. Just when he's free from grueling cod fishing indenture, he's pressed on a forced march into wilderness by the Portsmouth Provincial Militia. He escapes a bloody northern Indian massacre only to be deployed by Major Walderne and Massachusetts officers in a “mock battle” betraying 300 Native Abenaki to West Indies slavers.
Longing for Babb's Barbadoes mistress, and sick of Shoals drink, dice, and deflowering, Thom sets sail with Mainer Captain Phips to salvage sunken gold. A mutinous plot cutting the voyage short returns him to a nest of pirates anchored at the Isles of Shoals. Summoned to testify at their trial, Thom and Judge Samuel Sewall are caught in the hanging fervor of Boston big-wig Cotton Mather.
Tight-laced Puritans are no match for the spirit and industry of these northerners in this ground-breaking novel. Shoalers and other early northerners are the real blood-and-guts founders of This Desired Place.