Inspired to Write the Donovan Family Saga

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Gifford MacShane. Today, Gifford shares interesting tidbits about her historical fiction series.

Here’s Gifford!

Thanks so much, Joanne, for inviting me to share ten interesting things about my Historical Fiction Series, THE DONOVAN FAMILY SAGA, as a guest on your blog today! Childhood and history came together, inspiring me to create these books.

1. From the beginning, as a member of a large Irish-American clan, I wondered how other families interacted. I was one of seven siblings, and had a hard time understanding what girls with only one brother or sister did for fun, and if they could understand how close we were.

2. When I was a kid, station wagons ruled the roads. There were no DVDs playing on trips to my grandparents, so my father encouraged singing, as it was the least physical activity—with 7 siblings crammed together, “Punch Bug” could soon become a free-for-all! He taught us songs that were easy to remember; as a result, I’m addicted to traditional folk music and there are many snippets of traditional lyrics contained in my works.

3. At the same time, cowboys rode the airwaves, and I really, really wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. Not a cowgirl—they wore silly skirts and sat sideways on horses. I even had a cowboy name—it included “Junior”, as that was the only way I knew to designate myself as a boy. When asked in school (I think I was 8) who the greatest hero in history was, I answered “Roy Rogers”. When the teacher told me he wasn’t a “real hero”, I burst into tears.

4. My first library was a BookMobile. My grandparents lived in a tiny hamlet in Ocean County NJ. The Bookmobile would park at the local grocery store for several hours every week. Tired of kids’ books by the time I was 10, I asked the librarian to recommend something, and she gave me The Virginian by Owen Wister. Slam! Bam!! hooked on Westerns as a literary form. As a result, I read through my father’s entire collection of Zane Grey novels by the end of that summer, and still have and re-read those wonderful books.

Most of the heroes of Grey’s books lived by a code of honor. They may have stumbled from time to time, but they always came back to that moral center. I think that appealed to me so much because I knew the men I looked up to (my father, grandfather and uncle) lived by the same code. And they subsequently became the heroes in my books.

5. I was also influenced by my grandfather in another way. He was stricken with emphysema in his 40s, spent the last 20 years of his life confined to bed, but seldom complained. I learned from him that one must go on, no matter how challenging life might become.

6. Now my family history steps in: my father’s family were Irish immigrants. According to family history, my Great-uncle Sean was chased out of Ireland by the English, escaping by the skin of his teeth. The injustice of that hit me first: a man fighting for freedom from the overlords who invaded his country hundreds of years ago just shouldn’t have been hounded out of the only home he’d known.

7. More recently, I read about a memorial sculpture installed in County Cork that celebrated the aid the Choctaw Tribe in America gave to the Irish during the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852. My mother has a smidgen of native blood, so the article caught my eye.

The beautiful sculpture, titled Kindred Spirits, was created by Alex Pentek at the Sculpture Factory in Cork, and represents the Choctaw Indians with nine unique feathers, shaped in a bowl that represents a bowl full of food.

8. Shortly before I saw this, my cousin began to create a genealogy of my father’s family. Comparing that history with the dates of the famine, I realized that his ancestors—coming from County Clare as they did—had to have lived through it. I dug into the details and learned it was a totally avoidable disaster that decimated Ireland’s population while food was being exported to England at astronomical rates.

I felt compelled to tell the stories of the survivors—the ones who somehow held body and soul together and found a way to prosper. I began, sporadically, to write.

9. Then, in my late 40s, illness struck. A genetic flaw on my father’s side made itself known. I was fortunate in two ways: I had cousins going through the same thing with whom I could commiserate and share ideas; and I’d finally have enough time to write the books that were stuck in my head for so long, even it was only an hour or so a day.

10. I initially had no plans to go beyond the original manuscript, Whispers In The Canyon. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the fourth Donovan son, Daniel, was developing into someone quite unique—a Zane Grey-type hero, a man with a code of honor that withstood almost every adversity, and a deep and abiding love for a woman he never thought could be his. Because of all that, I believed Daniel deserved his own book, if only to see if he could find happiness with Annie. Since I’m not a plotter by nature, I had to write the book to find out.

Outcome: The Knight of the Range met up with a family of Irish immigrants. Together, they were generously sprinkled with folksongs and legends, and gave birth to the Donovan Family Saga. The series now consists of the original book, Whispers in the Canyon; the second book about Daniel, The Woodsman’s Rose; and a prequel novella, The Winds of Morning, which I wrote after readers requested more details about the family’s origins in Ireland.

Each story includes romance, traditional song lyrics and a dash of Celtic mysticism. On occasion, I’ve been told by a reader that they’d love living next door to the Donovans. To me, that’s the highest praise ever.


A woman’s survival depends upon the man who shot her brother.

Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother’s deeds, Jesse Travers is not sorry to hear he’s been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it’s Adam Donovan, the man who shot him, who brings her the news.

Traumatized by years of abuse, Jesse doubts she can trust any man—especially this Irish immigrant with his volatile temper and gunfighter’s reputation. But now she’s alone, and he’s offered to help put her bankrupt ranch back on solid footing. A profound love for her canyon home is stronger than her trepidation, and she accepts his assistance.

As they work together to improve her ranch, Jesse begins to see that Adam’s true nature is far removed from his notoriety. She feels the first stirrings of love―an emotion she’s never known before. Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance and she is left with a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or trust her heart and reveal her tragic secret, in the hope that Adam is the man she believes him to be.

Deceptively simple and poetic, this heartfelt western historical romance will tug at your emotions, make you laugh, cry, and even get a little angry, as it handles difficult topics with a sensitive touch.

Author Bio and Links

Gifford MacShane is the author of historical fiction that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. Her novels feature a family of Irish immigrants who settle in the Arizona Territory. With an accessible literary style, MacShane draws out her characters’ hidden flaws and strengths as they grapple with both physical and emotional conflicts.

MacShane is a member of the Historical Novel Society and an #OwnVoices writer. A self-professed grammar nerd who still loves diagramming sentences, Giff currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Richard, the Pied Piper of stray cats.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

All my books are listed on my author page at Books2Read.


I’d appreciate it if you’d use this buy link rather than the individual Amazon links, as the two later books are available in many formats.


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