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When Julia Lovat is given a seventeenth-century embroidery pattern book as a break up gift, her life changes in more ways than she can predict. The book once belonged to young Catherine Ann Tregenna, who used the spaces between patterns to record her hopes and dreams of being a master embroiderer. Kidnapped by Barbary pirates along with her Cornish church congregation in 1625, the diary takes a black turn as Cat records the terrors of the voyage and her attempt to begin a new life as a slave in the Moroccan city of Sallee. Julia gives up her own struggling embroidery business to follow the lead of this intrepid young woman and finds more than she hoped for on the northern coast of Africa. It is a tale of love, loss, friendship and fate beautifully told, with some interesting descriptions of seventeenth century embroidery. For obvious reasons dictated completely by the plot, the embroidery takes second stage at points. For those of us who can't get enough of the stitching life, however, it provides plenty of inspiration while showcasing a little known time in history when millions of Europeans were systematically being sold into slavery in Africa.
Resources about places and people in this novel
Jane Johnson provides some historical perspective on the inspiration for her novel at the following link.
Kenegie Manor, where Cat lived before being kidnapped is a real place. It now boasts holiday cottages where you can stay.
The castle where Cat dreamed of living is also a real place.
A little history of Sallee.
And a 17th century map of the port.
Sallee is across the river from Rabat, but not as much of a tourist destination. It was difficult to find photos, but you can see some here.
Before Cat is kidnapped, she is working on an altar frontal. This link has a picture of a Spanish or Italian frontal from the same time period.
The novel discusses Embroidery in Africa as well as England. Use Amazon's "Look inside this book" feature to see some wonderful photos from Moroccan Textile Embroidery.
This short article provides some interesting history of English men who joined forces with the Sallee Raiders.