by Carolyn Elizabeth
Haunted by a vengeful past, Captain Branna Kelly embarks on a redemption quest with the Banshee’s new officer, Julia Farrow. They face a dangerous mission in a neighboring port, battling the merciless Ferryman and its captain, Isaac Shaw. When Julia proves herself in combat, her prowess stirs both pride and concern in Branna.
But their fiercest challenge isn’t their enemies—it’s the growing love between them. Ghosts from Branna’s past and Julia’s mysterious behavior weave a web of mistrust. Both love and loyalty are tested as Captain Kelly and Julia Farrow navigate treacherous waters—where their greatest threat may lie within.
Don’t miss this highly anticipated, swashbuckling sequel to The Raven and the Banshee.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"The siren song of writing more of the adventures of my two favorite 18th century Sapphic pirates aboard the Banshee could not be ignored and I am thrilled to share with you Branna and Julia's next action-packed tale of romantic and heroic exploits.
It's not all lady pirates enjoying another lady's lady parts, mind you. This story is fraught with peril and drama as Julia taps into her inner swashbuckler and Branna wades out into the tempestuous waters of emotional maturity.
Genevieve and Gus, Jack and Merri, Nat, and some new faces all have their part to play as Captain Kelly and the crew of the Banshee take on Captain Shaw and the Ferryman in a battle of wits and wills—until they need to get stabby.
And because I forgot to mention it in the acknowledgments, my wee short story At Word's Point, available only from Bella Books, slots in the timeline right around the early pages of this story. It's not necessary to read first—or at all—but you should read it because it's cute and fun and costs, like, a buck.
There can be more Banshee adventures. Just let me know."
Women Using Words
If you’re a sapphic reader with a love for action and adventure, then you’ll find something incredibly captivating about Carolyn Elizabeth’s The Heart of the Banshee. From the swashbuckling action on the high seas to the spirited camaraderie of the close-knit sailing crew, Elizabeth’s latest tale has a way of drawing readers in and keeping them hooked until the very last page.
Caitlin E. - I really enjoyed this fun pirate adventure! Carolyn Elizabeth is one of my favorite authors. When I had read her free short story At Words Point, I was ecstatic that it was being made into a full-fledged novel. The first book, The Raven and the Banshee was a good fun pirate story and this is just as good.
Leigh M. - …This romance was very well written, the bond between Captain Branna Kelly and Julia Farrow felt so real and emotional. I loved seeing how they dealt with the difficulties they had to face throughout the story. The book was gripping and kept me interested until the end. I would love to read more of Carolyn Elizabeth's work in the future.
Betty H. - Carolyn Elizabeth certainly knows how to create adventure filled, swashbuckling pirate tales! These stories are chock full of action, danger, and suspense, introducing us to characters that we will either fall in love with, or hate with equal passion.
Della B. - …If the high seas call to you, then The Heart of the Banshee should be your next port of call.
The Lesbian Review
The cast of characters is diverse and the adventures are scary, bloody and thrilling, as a reader would expect from a tale of eighteenth century high seas adventure.
Natalie T. - Carolyn Elizabeth crafts an enthralling sequel that is full of adventure and seasoned with the complexities of love and leadership.
Julia Farrow slipped the fingerless leather gloves over her hands, snugging them past her wrists and tightening the laces across the back with one hand and her teeth. She’d gotten quite good at that part and was more than a little grateful that with the gloves, her weapons training sessions with Jack Massey, quartermaster of the Banshee, no longer ended early due to her bleeding palms. She smiled to herself, recalling the unexpected trouble she and Branna ran into the day she had purchased them.
While the danger had been real and she never looked forward to Branna fighting, she was pleased to have made a new friend in the young street urchin Henry, who now followed her around every chance he got. The arrangement Branna had made with Josiah Coombs, a former agent of Captain Cyrus Jagger, to be her eyes and ears in and around Nassau had been working out even better than she’d hoped.
She really ought to make more of an effort to be less surprised. With Branna, the unexpected occurred far too frequently for it to even be considered unexpected. This was her life now, the one she had agreed to when she signed her name to the Banshee’s Articles and became the ship’s newest officer. Well, she hadn’t signed in blood exactly and Branna had been clear she could change her mind at any time, but she wanted to do this. She was determined, however foolishly, to share this life with Branna.
She curled her fingers, stretching the leather. She would have thought her hands were tough enough from sailing, but the braided leather grip of her cutlass was an entirely new assault on her palms to which she hadn’t yet grown accustomed.
The courtyard of Travers Trading Post at the port of Nassau was quiet this early. Genevieve Travers, owner and operator, had bustled around at dawn collecting glasses and emptying ash cans, and left a mug of coffee for Julia as was her custom this past week while Julia used the space to train for her new position as purser aboard the Banshee.
She drew her cutlass from the scabbard at her hip and began working through a series of warmup exercises while waiting for Jack. She enjoyed the feel of her strengthening muscles, warming and loosening with the movements, which a week ago was so very foreign to her and now something to which she looked forward.
“I was told I’d find you here.”
Julia whirled at the deep rumbling voice to find a large, dark-skinned man in the entryway, a short sword in each hand, and her heart rate picked up. Caught off guard, again, but only for a moment. She breathed deeply and squared her shoulders. “Are you here to fight me?”
He crossed the courtyard slowly, rotating the swords around as he approached. “I’m afraid so.”
“Afraid?” She sidestepped, keeping herself out of range and keeping a table between them, her lip twitching into a teasing smile. “Of me?”
He barked a laugh. “Best hope that wee blade of yours is as sharp as your tongue.”
“You’re about to find out, sir.”
Julia kicked a chair, sending it sliding hard into his knees. He grunted, staggering enough at the contact that Julia had him on his heels as she rounded the table and sent a slashing cut to his neck. He parried, forced back another step into a table behind, catching him behind the knees, unbalancing him further, and allowing her another opening.
Julia controlled her breathing like she’d practiced and worked everything she had learned in the past week, as well as a few improvised moves that just felt right. She couldn’t rely on strength to beat opponents and Jack had encouraged her to be creative.
She stayed on the offensive, forcing him to use both blades to fend her off as she slashed and cut from across and below, making sure to never overcommit and leave herself open to counterattack.
She knew he was toying with her. It had only been a week, and while she was a quick study, she had a lot to learn. He could have easily skewered her through the heart whenever he wanted, but he was putting her through her paces instead. She was willing to take whatever advantage he gave her.
She couldn’t keep it up, though. He was too big and too strong, and she was tiring quickly. She sent a flurry of crosscuts to his midsection before darting away, putting another table between them and allowing herself a few moments to rest. She was breathing hard and sweating harder. So was he.
He mopped across his bald head with the back of his left arm and sucked in a breath to speak. “I underestimated you. I thought this would be over much quicker.”
Julia allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction. “You can yield anytime.”
He smiled apologetically. “I cannot, miss. I have my orders.”
“What? Whose ord—bugger!”
He closed the distance in two long strides, using his much-greater height to rain chopping strikes down on her with both blades.
Iron against iron clanged a staccato beat as all Julia could do was raise her blade to take the blows, absorbing each impact with the quickly exhausting muscles of her shoulders and back. She had to move.
The next time their blades clashed, she twisted her hips and shoulders to the left, throwing his blade off and forcing him to step wide to keep his balance. She tucked and rolled between his splayed legs, coming up behind him onto her feet and twisting around into a powerful crosscut to his back that he barely blocked and not before her blade sliced his shirt open.
His eyes went wide. “Bloody hell!”
Julia sucked in a shocked breath at how close she came to severing his spine and hesitated. He took the opportunity to bring his right sword down sharply on her blade near the hilt, knocking it from her hand with a clatter while his left thrust out, the point stopping mere inches from her throat, forcing her back against a table.
Julia threw her hands behind her, groping for the table to keep from falling and closed her eyes. “I yield.”
“Are you all right, miss?” Nat Hooper, the Banshee’s bosun moved his swords to one hand and gripped her shoulder.
Julia cracked an eye and grinned. “I had you, Nat.”
“Aye, miss,” he agreed and helped her straighten off the table. “You may be right.”
“May be?” Julia dragged the back of her sleeve across her forehead to wipe sweat from her eyes. She collected her cutlass and sheathed it, then stuck her entire hand through the hole in the back of his shirt.
“Quite impressive, Julia!” Genevieve called from nearby where she’d apparently been watching. She had two large tankards of ale she held out to them. “I had no idea how far you’ve come. Branna will be pleased.”
Julia took the ale and guzzled some in a fashion that would have her mother turning over in her grave at her ill manners. “Speaking of our dear Captain. Did she send you?”
Nat shrugged shyly. “Aye, miss. She wants to know if you could handle yourself against a much larger threat.”
“Does she now?” Julia’s brows rose. “And what will you be telling her, Mr. Hooper?”
“That she needn’t worry so much, miss.”
Julia hid her smile behind another drink of ale.
They all turned at the shout from the entryway to see Gus scowling, hands on hips.
“We’re waitin’ on you lot,” he barked and hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Tide’s turnin’ now. Captain’s ready to go.”
Julia’s heart beat hard with a jolt of excitement. It was time. She was as prepared as she was going to get in the time they had. Her life, repaired and restored, just like the Banshee, started now.
“Fair winds!” Genevieve called before going back to her work.
A week of nonstop intense training with Jack, and Branna sent Nat to test her. Julia was both annoyed with Branna and pleased with herself. She knew she didn’t really beat him. He could have ended that fight anytime. Nevertheless, she held her own and that was a tremendous accomplishment. She didn’t need anyone to tell her that, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t hope Nat spoke well of her to Branna.
Her distracted thoughts led her to slow, dropping behind Nat and Gus as they wended their way down the busy dock toward the boat waiting to take them out to the ship and get underway.
The harbor was always busy at high tide with ships both coming and going, loading and unloading. Merchants, sailors, dockworkers, and errand boys crowded the limited space, dodging each other and crates of cargo and supplies stacked haphazardly on every available flat surface.
She jumped out of the way of a rushing young sailor and bumped into the back of a man who appeared to be urinating off the dock. He swore and staggered around to face her.
Julia’s face flamed with embarrassment, and she quickly looked away while he buttoned his stained breeches with one hand and swilled from a grimy bottle with the other.
“Watch where yer goin’,” he growled, wiping his face with the back of his arm.
Julia’s gaze flicked over him, and she grimaced as his rum-soaked breath and sour body odor washed over her. She knew him and he was drunker and filthier than when she’d seen him a week ago—likely having neither washed nor stopped drinking since. “Are you all right?”
He swayed. “Don’ I look all right?”
She peered down to the end of the dock and could see the boat, Nat at the oars, bobbing in the water, and a very annoyed-looking Gus scanning the crowds for her.
“I’m in a bit of a hurry, Mr. Blythe, but I could take a few minutes to help—”
“Don’t need no help,” he slurred, his eyes narrowing. “An’ how the ’ell do ya know my name?”
“We met a few days ago at the tavern. I’m Julia Far—”
“Right. Right.” He wagged a greasy finger. “I ’member now. Yer Kelly’s slag.”
Julia took a step back at the insult. While she understood the source of his anger toward Branna, she was no longer interested in helping him unless she was helping him off the edge of the dock with her boot in his arse. She turned with a wave of her hand. “Carry on, then.”
She yelped when his hand clamped hard around her right arm. She tried to pull away and his grip tightened painfully. “Let me go,” she gasped, her pulse pounding with shock and a jolt of fear.
He jerked her back toward him and snarled in her ear, “Kelly ain’t who ya think. She’s a liar an’ coward. Don’ let ’er fool ya inta believin’ otherwise.”
Her fear quickly turned to anger at the insult to Branna and she bent her arm and twisted sharply away from him, breaking his hold. She spun back, sending her elbow into his throat, just like Jack had showed her.
Thomas Blythe gagged, clutching his neck, and staggered backward over a crate onto his arse. Julia made no move to help when he vomited all over himself.
“Well done, Julia,” Gus said.
Julia rubbed her arm, still feeling the press of his hand against her skin. “How much did you see?”
“Enough.” He reached for her arm. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine. Just a bruise. It’s nothing.”
Gus started them walking toward the end of the dock. “Since we’re heading out, Blythe gets a reprieve, but I assure you, Branna will take care of him when we—”
“No. It was a misunderstanding.”
“Branna will not see it that way.”
“Don’t tell her.”
He stopped. “Julia, I have to tell—”
“You don’t.” Julia fixed him with her gaze. “I’m fine. Thomas Blythe is…”
She knew the haunted look in his eyes all too well. The difference was, she had help to deal with her trauma—family, friends, financial security. And bodies to bury. She knew what happened to her crew and she could make peace with that. Without knowing what happened to the Windswept, Thomas Blythe would continue to suffer as if it happened just yesterday. Julia cleared her throat, tears threatening. “In a lot of pain. Pain I understand and I don’t want to add to.”
Gus sighed heavily and nodded. “This may come back around, Julia. I hope you’re prepared if it does.”
“I know. I’ll handle it.”