Meet Eliza Knight

A big Riskies welcome to Eliza Knight, who’s offering a free copy of her e-novella Her Captain Returns to one lucky commentor today. Eliza is the author of multiple sizzling historical romances and Highlander time travel erotic romance novellas published by The Wild Rose Press. She is a freelance copy editor, Newsletter Editor for Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and President of the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. Eliza is the author of the award-winning blog History Undressed and has published numerous articles in various newsletters. She presents workshops on history, researching techniques and writing craft, to writing groups online.

How could anything considered sinful feel so good?

That is what Miss Corinne Claymore asked herself as she gave into the titillating suggestions of Captain Ryder Montgomery. Corinne never knew what she was getting into with her innocent flirtations with Ryder. Scandal ensues as they are discovered in an amorous embrace in the gardens at Lady Covington’s ball. Corinne finds herself not only married to Ryder, but abandoned. A short letter tells her he will be gone for several years …

Thank you Risky Regencies for having me today!

In light of my recent Regency release, Her Captain Returns, part of my Men of the Sea series, I thought I would take today to talk about Royal Navy Captains in the Regency era. Let us travel through the hero of my novella, Captain Ryder Montgomery’s training, and life at sea.

Ryder was born the second son of an earl, and from his earliest days, had a penchant for the sea. It was only natural for him to join the navy at the age of thirteen as a mid-shipman. He certainly did his share of scrubbing the deck and tying knots, but when he was a little older he was allowed to take care of the log line, and sometimes delegate sailing duties. By the age of twenty, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and by 23, was Captain of his own ship, HMS Conqueror.

Ryder himself was only flogged once, but several of his shipmates were flogged regularly. What for, you ask? Ryder himself was given ten lashes for neglect of duty. Ever hear the term poor salt on a wound? Well that’s exactly what the ship’s surgeon did when he was taken there after his punishment… We must remember, poor Ryder was only fourteen at the time, and he wasn’t exactly neglecting on purpose, he was in fact heaving his guts out from dinner the night before.

Food on the ship wasn’t exactly appetizing, although, most sailors were excited to have regular meals, as when they were on land, eating three times a day wasn’t always a guarantee. The main staples of a navy diet, included salted meat, which was sometimes so rancid it was inedible by some, and even when boiled for hours the meat could still be as hard as a rock, unless they hadn’t been at sea very long and “fresh meat” in the form of livestock was onboard. This would be made into a stew with whatever fresh or dried veggies were available and rice or oats. Instead of bread, they had ships biscuits that were either filled with weevils. Sounds tasty! For breakfast it was porridge sweetened with molasses. To drink, if the fresh water had already turned a slimy green, they had watered down ale, watered down wine or watered down rum.

As a member of the crew, Ryder slept in a hammock twenty inches from the next hammock. When he became a captain he got his own room aboard the ship, but had a hammock placed inside, as he found after ten years at sea, it was much easier to sleep on.

The life of a Naval Officer wasn’t all pomp and squalor. While most of them lived privileged lives, they had to earn it. Some were second or third sons of the nobility, and some were sons of well to do merchants. And there were even those who were born at the bottom of the barrel and made their way to the top.

During the Regency era, a ship’s captain could become quite wealthy. How? Was the king paying well? The salary for a seaman was meager, and for a captain also wasn’t opulent—most would try to marry for money. No, most captain’s made their riches from other captains, especially during the Napoleonic campaigns. When a ship’s captain commandeered another ship, the whole crew shared in the spoils.

Officers in the military were well respected by the people, and since most came from well to-do families, they often hob-nobbed with the rich and the aristocrats.

In Her Captain Returns, Ryder ends up going away on a mission for several years, and isn’t allowed contact with anyone outside, including his wife. One of the things I wanted to illustrate in this story, was how hard it was for the wife of a man of the sea. Just as it is today with a military wife, it was much the same back then, except they didn’t have television to see what was happening, and their news stories were a lot more delayed. A wife may have still been receiving correspondence from her husband, only to learn he’d been dead for two months.

To end this blog, I leave you with a couple of fun naval terms:

Bitter End – Have you heard the phrase “faithful to the bitter end”? Well, it is a naval term! The wooden or iron posts sticking through a ships deck were called a bitt. Turning a line around them was called, the bitter end.

Chewing the Fat – Remember my description of the nasty meat? Well some men would chew on it for hours, and referred to it as, chewing the fat.

He knows the ropes – Nowadays this means someone is pretty skilled at what they’re doing. Back in the day though, it meant literally, novice and that all he knew were the ropes.

Took the wind out of his sails – this originally described a battle move where one ship would get so close to the other it would take the wind away, and slow down the opposing ship.

Your comment or question will enter you into a drawing to win a copy of Her Captain Returns, so come and chat with Eliza!

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Renee Knowles
13 years ago

Hi Eliza! Fabulous historical insights as always! I had no idea “bitter end” was a a naval term 🙂

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge. Oh, and I already have a copy of the fabulous Her Captian Returns!


Eliza Knight
13 years ago

Thank you Renee!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 Pretty intertesting huh? There were so many terms it was hard to choose the few I did.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

Hi Eliza,
love the info on the naval terms–it’s fascinating how much of the English language, particularly that of the Regency, uses terms that derive from the navy. I’ve noticed that Regency dirty talk often used naval language, e.g. “board her,” etc. etc.
I heard just yesterday that “three square meals” is a naval term, because the crew was fed regularly on square plates. Why square plates??

Emma Lai
13 years ago

Great info Eliza! I shiver when I think about ship travel back then. I couldn’t imagine actually crewing one.

Denisse Alicea
13 years ago

Thanks for sharing the naval terms. You always bring something interesting to the table in regards to your works. I also loved the story of Ryder and Corinne.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
13 years ago

Congratulations Eliza. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Regency captains. I can’t wait to read Her Captain Returns.

Joanna Waugh
13 years ago

Congratulations and good luck with Her Captain Returns. It’s amazing how many of our expressions are rooted in naval life. One of my favorites is “not enough room to swing a cat.” Most people picture someone twirling a cat by the tail over their heads but, in fact, the cat referred to is the cat-o-nine-tails used to flog seamen.

Mercury Gray
13 years ago

Great post! Being “between the devil and the deep” is a naval term, too — used to refer to the space in between the last deck of the ship and the ship’s hull. I’ll have to look into the rest of your books, as they sound fascinating!

Ms. Lucy
13 years ago

Eliza, thanks for such an informative post- I’velearned so much! Not only about the terms, but also about the food on ships. So interesting!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Hi, Eliza,
I think the life of a navy man would have been AWFUL.

Thanks for visiting us!


Miriam Newman
13 years ago

Really interesting commentary as always, Michelle. Best of luck with this great-looking book!

Eliza Knight
13 years ago

Hi Janet, thanks for your comments and for having me here!

Yes “board her” “Lay the plank” I’ll have to think of some more, that could be fun!

I’ve heard a couple things about the square plates. For one thing, the plate was acutally a square with a large dent in the middle like a bowl. Some say they did this because the bowl was larger in this shape than round. Others say it fit better on the table with all the sailors. Another thing I’ve heard is that it is easier to make and store a square plate than a round one.

Thanks Emma…me either!

Denise, thank you so much, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and the story!

Thank you Elizabeth!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you enjoy the story!

Thank you Joanna, I can totally see a cat flying around, but I know its the cat-o-nine-tails, which I had no idea before I started all this research…

Thank you so much Mercury! Another term is “the devil to pay” this referred to caulking with “pay” the longest seam in the ship, the “devil” Funny how we change things huh?

Thank you Lucy! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Diane, I agree 100%!!! Thanks for having me here 🙂

Thank you so much Miriam!!!

Nixy Valentine
13 years ago

Ooh.. your book sounds interesting! And what a fascinating article. I would love to win a copy of it.

13 years ago

Great information on the navy and the phrases we use so often but of which we rarely know the origin.
I feel for your poor heroine. It is hard enough to have one’s husband go off when you have children to take up your time or if you have a job. So much worse to be newly married and to have him disappear for years. She would be married but not a wife . I guess I’ll have to read the book to see how she copes.

Helen Hardt
13 years ago

Very interesting post, Eliza. Thank you for sharing! And I’m looking forward to having you at my blog tomorrow!


Amy E. Nichols
13 years ago


This was great and reminded me of the Horatio Hornblower series on A&E. I wondered how they made their fortunes at sea as we knew the pay was low.

Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading your novella.


Keira Soleore
13 years ago

Eliza, just reading about the food on board makes me highly queasy. And this is the Royal Navy. We swoon about pirates and those daring seamen (which they were), but man, the food must’ve sucked worse on those scuttle-ships.

Oh, and please take me out of the running for Eliza’s book. I have it already.

Eliza Knight
13 years ago

Nixy, thank you so much for your comments 🙂

Anonymous, thank you for your comments! I will share, that two weeks after I was married, my husband left for a 6-month tour of duty in the Navy, it was very hard, perhaps where I got a little inspiration for this story.

Thank you for your comments Helen 🙂 I look forward to it!

Amy, than you for your comments! I haven’t seen that series, I will have to check it out.

Keira, tell me about it! We romanticize about it so much, and in fact, I have in one of my upcoming stories, made the meal a little more tasty…but I can’t imagine what pirates ate, especially the unsuccessful ones…shudder…Thanks for your comments! And I hope you liked the story!

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Welcome to RR, Eliza! What a great post. I also recently had a book come out with a sea setting (though earlier) and the research was fascinating. Wouldn’t want to live such a life myself, though. 🙂

Amy S.
13 years ago

Her Captain Returns sounds great!

Cara King
13 years ago

Thanks for being here, Eliza!

And I love the Anne and Wentworth pic – he’s my favorite naval man. (Okay, I love Gruffudd’s Hornblower and Crowe’s Aubrey, but Hinds’s Wentworth will always be my #1….) 🙂


Eliza Knight
13 years ago

Thank you Amanda! I saw that, and its on my TBR pile 🙂

Thank you Amy!

Thank you Cara! Janet found those 🙂 They are fabulous aren’t they?

Tiffany James
13 years ago


Fascinating post! I love to learn the origins of the sayings we throw around so casually everyday.