Shelley Shepard Gray: The Story Behind The Book

We’re very happy to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to the corral for a visit. She’s going to give us an interesting overview and the background of her newest book Love Held Captive


Every so often, I come across something while doing research that surprises me. Discovering that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp on Johnson Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, was one of those things!

Months before that discovery, I had been making dinner with my husband and told him about my idea for a series. I wanted to focus on a band of brothers who made a vow to be there for each other after the War Between the States. One idea led to another, and by the time we sat down to eat, I had the outline for a three book series.  The leader of this group was Captain Devin Monroe. I knew he was going to be the heart and the soul of this group of men. So well respected, he was almost larger than life. All of that was good. I just couldn’t figure out how the men had formed their bond. I came up with several scenarios, covering everything from being neighbors to meeting during basic training, to forming a bond during specific battles.

Then I discovered the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. During my research, I read one thing that stuck with me-that the best of the Confederacy was being guarded by the worst the Union had. I learned that these officers were carted up to Sandusky, Ohio by train and marched across the ice to Johnson’s Island. Then, these generals and captains and first lieutenants were essentially left to govern themselves. They made gardens, they whittled, and they cared for each other. One group of men even wrote a play. I knew right then and there that I had my men’s bonding experience!

Of course, no matter how much it differed from other encampments, it was still a POW camp. Dozens of men died while being incarcerated and the officers buried them on the island. When the war ended, groups from several southern states raised funds so the men would have tombstones. The cemetery is still there.

Right before I began writing the first book in the series, my husband and I drove up to Sandusky and visited a Veterans Home. A kind gentlemen took us up to the third floor of the museum there and showed us the many artifacts that remained from the camp. Then, after a few wrong turns and more than a couple dead ends, we finally found the Confederate cemetery. The site of it took my breath away.

People ask all the time how much research I feel I need to do for my historicals. For me, the story and the characters always come first…but the experience of actually being where my characters might have walked? Well, for me, it was priceless.

Love Held Captive is the last book in my Lone Star Hero’s Love Story series. It features both Captain Devin Monroe’s and Major Ethan Kelly’s stories. It takes place in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and on Johnson’s Island. At its heart, it’s a romance about two men and two women who truly deserve their happiness. But it’s also about perseverance and grit. And about surviving, forging friendships, and clinging to hope in even the darkest of circumstances.  I hope you will enjoy the book.

Here’s the link to the website, so you can get a copy in your favorite format.

We are very pleased that Shelley is giving one reader, who leaves a comment,

a boxed set of her series.

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39 thoughts on “Shelley Shepard Gray: The Story Behind The Book”

  1. Wow Shelly what a discovery you made with the POW camp! That couldn’t have come at a better time 🙂 I really enjoy it when I read what kind of research an author does for their story, especially for historical fiction. To actually walk where soldiers walked many years ago must have been some kind of experience! I can see where that would spark a writers mind and imagination. To tie three characters together with that same idea must have excited you. As does these books for me. I’ve seen them around, but now I know the story behind the story 🙂

    How fun! Thanks for the post today, I learned a bit more about history along with you. And thank you for the giveaway chance! These sound like the kind of stories I love.

  2. I have visited quite a few Confederate graveyards in the south. I never thought about them in the north. I live in the northeast corner of Indiana and I don’t think Sandusky, Ohio is that far away. My husband and I might have to take a road trip. We love history and digging into the Civil War’s history.

    Please include me in your giveaway and thank you for the chance.

    Cindy W.

    • Hi Cindy W. You’re right, you don’t live too far away from Sandusky at all! I’ve been to northern Indiana several times doing research for my Amish novels. Thank you for your interest!

  3. Wow, I have never heard of that island story before! I am not too far from there, I will have to get hubby to go on a road trip and see it all myself. (I just looked up and read Cindy said the same thing!!) It is sad how horrible people were treated in prison camps during the war. Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Oh my! I must read this series. I am a huge fan of the Civil War Era but I’ve never heard of Johnson Island. Thank you for sharing this fascinating info.

  5. I loved this post, a POW camp near where you are. I love this type of book and Ican’t wait to read this series. I love books set during the Civil War.

  6. I love these type of books! the war between the states has always drew me. i recently found out about a prisoner of war camp here in alabama, that really touched me.

  7. POW camp also on rock island between iowa and illinois from the civil war. Confederate cemetary untouched. union cementary moved about a mile. Over 200 confederates died and are buried there. Thanks for sharing

  8. I usually don’t read alot of historical books, but recently read one of yours about the fair in Chicago and fell in love with it. I’d love to win and read this series of books!

  9. Thanks for sharing about the island. Will have to check it out if I can get down to Ohio! Looking forward to reading the books.

  10. I love reading historicals. It adds to the books enjoyment when an author does great research and I learn lots of facts that I never knew before. I would love to read Shelly’s books.

  11. I can’t wait to read more of this series! I had no idea what life must have been like after the Civil War. The bond the men developed was incredible. Congratulations Shelley on another wonderful series.

  12. Wow, it’s always nice to hear how authors come up with their ideas.
    I learned more about Shelley today, I like that her characters come together first!

    And boy what a great find with the cemetery. I love the photo that was posted.

    I LOVE reading Shelley’s books!

    Thank you for an opportunity to win this series!

  13. Thanks for sharing your research, Shelley. I always find it fascinating to stand or walk in the places where “history” took place.
    I’ve read the first two books on Kindle, I’d love a chance to win a boxed set. Thank you!

  14. My husband and I were honored to be a part of a re enactment of the war between the English and Indians, I was an indian woman, my husband a merchant. I like history, I read your books, now, I would like to read these. Thank you for the opportunity. Blessings.

  15. Shelley, I’m so glad to have you as our guest. I loved, loved your post. Like you, I happened onto Andersonville Prison in Camp Sumter, Georgia. Then on our way back from Florida we stopped again and they were having their annual festival with reenactments. It was a fantastic experience and I came home and outlined four historical books about heroes who were in Andersonville or had relatives there. I haven’t written them yet, but it’ll be my next series in historical westerns. That prison camp then led me to the Sultana steamship explosion. I love research and I think just coming across something that makes your creative juices flow is just about the ultimate high for a writer. Again, thank you for visiting the Corral and sure am going in to order your book. Come back and see us soon. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  16. Your books are great. I love the friendship among the men. I think of the interesting things you get to witness while researching. Thank you for sharing these stories with us.

  17. Thank you Shelley fr this post and the information on the POW Camp I love reading about the research an Author does for their books. This was very interesting. I do love History. Look forward to reading this series.
    Carol Luciano

  18. Wow. What a great amount of research you did to bring us the series! I’ve read book 2 and 3 of the series and loved them. I need to go back to book 1 and read Robert’s story. Thanks for the giveaway!

  19. Hi Shelly. This sounds so good. I love these stories. I had a brother, two brother-in-laws, cousins, and friends served in WW ii. Maxie

  20. Appreciate the insight into the research on this excellent series. I have the first book and read the second one courtesy of my library, and I am looking forward to this final book in the series. In doing genealogical research on family members during the Civil War, I have done quite a bit of reading on prison camps in the North but have not had an opportunity to visit in person.

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