I’m pleased to welcome Shelley Shephard Gray to the Story behind the Story this week. She has a new Civil War book out. Here’s a little bit about it.
Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.
After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.
Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.
He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.
Sounds like a great read, Shelley. What inspired you to write the book?
I love Google. I use it to find images for books and guide me in my research. For The Loyal Heart, when I was researching Civil War prisoner of war camps, I honestly didn’t know what I would find. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp in the middle of Lake Erie!
I knew right then and there that I had to go visit it.
It just so happened that I had a library visit scheduled in Ada, Ohio, so my husband and I took a long weekend and decided to drive to Sandusky after I spoke at the library. When we got to Sandusky, we toured a beautiful Veterans’ Home. There I met the kindest gentleman who had spent much of the last twenty years doing research on nearby Johnson Island and the POW camp that had once been there. He took Tom and I upstairs to several rooms dedicated to the camp, walked us around, explained artifacts, and told me all kinds of stories about the men who were imprisoned there.
Eventually, Tom and I did make it to Johnson Island and toured the Confederate Cemetery. It was fascinating and so sad, too. I started thinking that the men who had been buried there needed to be remembered.
Once that decision was done, I began entertaining different ideas about where to set the main storyline in The Loyal Heart. I knew I wanted my heroes to be from different areas of Texas, and I loved the idea of setting The Loyal Heart in Galveston. I grew up in Houston, and spent many weekends heading to the beach with my girlfriend Tiffany and her family. So, I called her up and we made a date to get together. Weeks later, Tom and I were walking on the beach with Tiffany and touring The Strand in downtown Galveston. We even stayed at the historic Tremont Hotel.
All these visits made the settings for the novel come to life for me. I hope the reader will be just as intrigued as I was with these places! That’s why I love writing historicals so much. It’s great fun to imagine a different time and place, then do my best to immerse myself in the research.
Thanks, Shelley. I agree that research is the best part of writing historicals.
Shelley Shepard Gray writes Amish romances for Harper Collins inspirational line, Avon Inspire and historical romances as Shelley Gray for Harper Collins Christian Publishers. Her novels have been Holt Medallion winners and Inspirational Readers Choice and Carol finalists. Shelley’s novels have appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.
To date, Shelley has published over fifty novels for a variety of publishers. Her novels have been highlighted in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Washington Post, Time Magazine, and USA Today. She has also been interviewed on NPR as well as numerous regional radio stations.
Shelley is doing a giveaway of her book. Follow the directions below to enter.
Thanks for joining us, Shelley!