Lady Ferreira is, of course, the mother of Duilio Ferreira from D-day. She is a selkie, a shapechanger who can switch from seal to human by removing her pelt. In “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy” we don’t get to see much of her personality because she’s missing her pelt (it was stolen prior to the outset of the story). However, we do get a glimpse of her true colors near the end of the story…which I won’t spoil in case there’s someone out there who wants to read the thing.
Unlike most selkies, she’s educated. Her mother, while already pregnant with her, saved an Italian sailor from drowning, and he carried her away to Sardinia and raised the child as his own. (Yes, he knew she wasn’t, but he was a nice guy.) When Lady Ferreira* was fifteen, an unpleasant encounter with the son of the richest family in town drove her to take her pelt and leave the island. She swam back toward Portugal (her mother’s homeland) and never saw her family again.
Being a clever girl, she came into a load of money along the way–which she hid, since seals don’t have pockets. She arrived on the Portuguese coast and was quickly drawn into one of the harems there. She bore a male child and quickly ended up as queen of the harem. However, her age and her relative civilization made her a target for other females wanting to advance (oh, harem politics!) so when a human took an interest in the girl, the male selkie let her go with him. And thus she ended up married to a wealthy trader, Alexandre Ferreira.
By the time we get to the story, she’s been a fixture of society for long enough that hardly anyone knows she isn’t human…which is a good thing in a city where non-humans are banned on pain of death. But someone knows–whoever stole her pelt.
*I know what her given name is but, like many characters from that time period, she’s never addressed by it. Maybe it will come out in the second book…maybe.