Friday, February 15, 2019

Researching a Novel - Part 2 The Spice Islands & Cloves

by Elva Cobb Martin

I love researching stuff to make my novels richer and help readers learn something new while enjoying my historical Christian romances. My current wip will involve my hero sailing for spices to trade in the 1700's. 

The history of spices reveals a hazardous, exciting tale spread over centuries of daring, courage and greed. 

The Spice Islands or Maluku Islands lie in the Indonesian Pacific archipelago, north of Australia, south of Thailand,China, etc. You can see them in the bottom right corner of the map below.

Arab traders introduced cloves to Europeans around the fourth century but sought to keep their sources secret. The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, broke their monopoly by his voyage to India around the tip of Africa in 1497, and their later 16th century explorers found the islands themselves.

One of the Spice Island native traditions was to plant a clove tree when a child was born, symbolically linking the child to the tree's life. 

The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to twelve feet tall with large glossy leaves and crimson flowers in clusters that when ripe and dried become the cloves like we use in cooking.

In the 17th century the Dutch took over the islands and eradicated the clove trees from all the islands except Amboina in order to drive up the spice's scarcity and price. As a result, cloves became worth more than their weight in gold.

Now how will I weave some of this research into my current novel? Consider the danger and the great rewards in trading for spices. My hero Samuel Vargas will sail on a spice expedition with hopes of making a fortune that will buy a plantation in Charleston so he can settle down and marry my heroine, Georgia Ann Couper. But his capture, on the way, by the Spanish, will throw a wrench (maybe I should say an oar) in that plan. And grieving Georgia Ann, who was told his ship sank with no survivors, will have a devastating adventure herself when her father sends her on a trip to England to relieve her grief.

Think Spanish galley slavery and Barbary pirates! But also think high romance and HEA.  ( :

Thanks for stopping by. Please do share by clicking on the small icons below. And remember when you use cloves again to stick in that ham, or use the powdered form in an apple pie--a lot of "stuff" happened over centuries to get this spice so readily available on our kitchen shelves.

Elva Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is vice-president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels published with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. She has indie published a Bible study on Amazon, Power Over Satan, on the  believer's authority in Christ. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site,on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest    
 Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: