Cheryl St.John: Irish Brides Set Sail

When Harlequin does a continuity series, a group of editors come up with a concept and invite the authors they want to participate. The authors are given what is termed ‘the bible,’ a two or three page synopsis of each story and a brief sketch of each character. An overall concept is included, explaining how the threads connect the stories.

After that, it’s up to the authors to put their heads together and collectively figure out how they’re going to make this idea work—and how they will create their individual stories to keep the plots logical and the stories exciting enough to carry them through however many pages.

I’ve participated in several Montana Mavericks continuities, both historical and contemporary, as well as a contemporary continuity about a fertility clinic. One of the most critical parts of this whole process is the brainstorming and chemistry between the participating authors. A good group makes all the difference, so I was delighted after Love Inspired Historical asked me to write the first book in the Irish Brides trilogy I learned Renee Ryan and Winnie Griggs were the other two authors.

I’m fortunate that Winnie is my sister Filly here at Wildflower Junction and Renee is a member of my RWA chapter, so the three of us already knew each other. Working with them was a joy, and I can only hope they feel the same way about my participation. We plotted and shared and wrangled plot points until each of us had a great story to write.

The premise and setting set me back for only a few minutes. Three orphaned Irish sisters leave their homeland and travel to America in hopes of finding a man they discover loved their mother. They need a place to live as well as a new start. I’d only ever written American-set stories and only a couple set as early as 1850. As soon as I began my research I was hooked. The history of these sisters came to life for me, and I had the privilege of setting up each character—with Renee and Winnie’s guidance of course.

I prepared myself for the narrative and dialogue by watching every Irish movie I could fit into my schedule. Quite a hardship I assure you. My favorite is always Far and Away, but there are other great ones.

I enjoyed populating the sailing vessel, the Annie McGee with colorful sojourners and creating conflicts for my character, Maeve Murphy. I slipped in one cowboy, who is traveling back home–couldn’t resist. The tale of The Wedding Journey unfolds onboard the ship, as Maeve is given a position as the physician’s assistant, and their trip is underway. Renee and Winnie have written the stories of Bridget and Nora, Maeve’s older sisters, whose tales begin once the ship docks in Boston Harbor.

Once my story was finished, Harlequin asked me to write a free online serial for their website, and gave me free license to come up with a prequel to the Irish Brides. Again I dove into research for something to snag my interest and found stories of the poor starving Irish being sent to penitentiaries for stealing food or not paying their landowners. The story sprang to life from there.

In 1850 Ireland, Darcy Keegan secretly plans to escape the drudgery of the prison where her father is warden to start a life elsewhere. Her plans are thwarted by a young boy who’s been imprisoned and whom she can’t bring herself to leave until she knows he will be safe.

Vaughn Donnelly has recently returned to Castleville to add a wing to the penitentiary, and is captivated by the young lass he observes in the prison yard. His job prevents him from staying, so love and marriage are out of the question–or are they? When he intervenes on behalf of a lad being mistreated, he wins the admiration of the Irish lass he admires.

Their shared concern for the laddie quickly turns into something more–read Donnelly’s Promise FREE on the Harlequin website: CLICK HERE

By the time I finished with these two stories I thought and dreamed everything with an Irish accent! I had so much fun with these characters and their tales of love that I can’t wait for readers to discover them.

The Wedding Journey is available for pre-order.

Thanks for stopping by!