Wednesday, December 26, 2012


By Cynthia Owen

Hello Caroline and everyone! I’m so pleased to be here to share PLAYING FOR KEEPS, my latest historical romance novel and Book III of the Claddagh Series. Caroline, thanks so much for hosting me on A Writer’s Life.

The Claddagh Series is one I believe I was destined to write. I’ve been in love with Ireland and all things Irish since I was a girl, and studied the country, its history, its music, its myths and legends, and its people. So when I decided to write a book, there was no question as to where I would set it.

I chose post-Famine Ireland after asking myself that famous (or infamous) question that most writers ask themselves before starting to write a story: What if? Then I took it a step further and asked: What’s next? In this case, the “What’s next?” was what happened after the Famine? What happened to the people who stayed behind and survived?  How did they go on after so many of their family and friends either died from starvation or fled the country?

Thus was IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW born, the story of Rory O’Brien and Siobhán Desmond. Gambler and survivor. Landlord and tenant. A love that couldn’t be denied.

In COMING HOME, Siobhán’s daughter, Ashleen, shows an Irish-American war hero that you can find a home and a family where you least expect it.

And now there’s PLAYING FOR KEEPS, Katie’s story. This half-Irish beauty has finally returned to Baltimore to visit the family she barely remembers.

When I tell people I write historical romance novels, they often ask me why, since there’s so much research involved. My answer? Because I love the research! I love reading about a country’s history so I can create my own personal fictional village, as I did with Ballycashel, the tiny, wind-swept west-of-Ireland village in which my first two books are set.

PLAYING FOR KEEPS is set in Baltimore and Philadelphia, which meant a whole other set of research questions. Not only did I have to find out what those very real cities were like in 1860, but I had to be able to contrast those places with Katie’s Ireland.

My hero, Lucas, is an actor, so I had to study the theatre and the productions in which he starred. I loosely based my fictional Baltimore theatre, the Theatre Royale, on the Chestnut Street Theatre, an actual historic theatre in Philadelphia.

Later in the story, one of the characters suffers a debilitating stroke, and a good part of the story revolves around that character’s caregivers and how their lives are affected by the event. I found the American Stroke Association a huge help in my research.

I had a wonderful time tracking down the little details, too, whether it was a line from Shakespeare or Thomas Moore, what the theatre program might have looked like, and the kind of opera glasses Katie might have used when attending the premier production of the Scottish Play.

I admit it: I’m a research junkie!

Caroline, thank you so much for allowing me to talk about the Claddagh Series!

Here’s a little bit about PLAYING FOR KEEPS

He fled life in the shadows for a life in the limelight
Never as dutiful as his older brother, Lucas was a thinker, and a dreamer of dreams. When tragedy overtook his family, he fled to the bright lights of the stage. Can he make the Shannon Theatre Troupe a success – or is he doomed to once again be “the other son?”
She sought the past she barely remembered.

Mary Kathryn O’Brien returns to the genteel world her mother left behind – but can Irish Katie ever truly hope to belong? Or will old wounds and new rivalries destroy the threads of family forever?
Lucas and Katie must battle prejudice and buried secrets before they can learn to trust each other. Is their love just a brief intermission, or are they PLAYING FOR KEEPS?


Philadelphia, 1850
Luke stared in silent horror as glowing red flames devoured the warehouse.

What have you done this time?

The words resounded through Luke’s brain, condemning and inevitable, in his father’s disapproving tones.
What had he done? He’d secured the warehouses. He had, he was sure of it. He’d made certain all the forges were out.

Hadn’t he? Or had his head been too full of the play he’d been studying in secret, the characters he was determined to flesh out, the pages he’d obsessively filled with his own dreams and interpretations?
Clanging bells and pounding hooves hammered in his ears.

Thank you, God.

But as quickly as relief flared, terror chased close on its heels.

Dear God, was anyone still inside? Tobias, his father’s most trusted clerk—surely he’d left long ago. And the two young men Matt hired last month—hadn’t they spoken of going to The Dancing Horse to spend their first pay packets?

He struggled for breath, the acrid smell of burning wood and molten steel tearing at his throat.
Bleak realization swept through him. It was his fault. It had to be. But it was an accident…
Matthew. Matt would take care of everything. Matt always cleaned up his little brother’s messes, covered up Luke’s many shortcomings.

“Mr. Lucas? Mr. Lucas!”

Dazed, Luke stared in disbelief at the normally impeccable clerk. Tobias had lost his coat, his once pristine white linen shirt was torn and covered with soot. Luke’s gut clenched as he took in the other man’s wild hair, the bloody gash slashed cruelly across one cheek.

“Mr. Lucas!”

Luke grabbed Tobias’s arm, his head thudding, his fingers gripping convulsively. Fear struck ice cold in his heart. His entire body shaking, he ran his dry tongue over his ash-covered lips.

“Tobias, where’s Matt?”

The clerk gazed at Luke, pity darkening his eyes. Tears trailed slowly down his soot-blackened face.
“Mr. Matthew’s dead, sir.”

The Claddagh Series:




Print edition coming soon!
Cynthia Owens, Author

I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of  Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. My novels, IN SUNSHINE OR IN SHADOW and COMING HOME, set in post-Famine Ireland, are available from Highland Press. PLAYING FOR KEEPS, the third book in the Claddagh series, is now available from Highland Press.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two school-aged children.

Cynthia, thank you for sharing with us today. You and I share a love of Ireland and all things Irish. I look forward to reading PLAYING FOR KEEPS

Thanks for stopping by!


TisEyerish said...

When I have finished one of Cynthia's novels, I find myself saying, "More, more, more!" I hope that she continues to weave her wonderful tales for decades to come!

Cynthia Owens said...

TisEyerish, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I'm so gad you enjoy my stories, and I promise you I'll do my best to keep you supplied with books for as long as I can! Thanks for stopping by!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Welcome, Cynthia. I love Ireland and all things Irish as well. I'm eager to read PLAYING FOR KEEPS.

Cynthia Owens said...

Thanks so much for having me today, Caroline. Ireland is magical, isn't it? I hope you enjoy Playing For Keeps!

Cynthia Owens said...

As of today, the print version of PLAYING FOR KEEPS is available for pre-order. It should be available within the next day or so!

Julie Robinson said...

Sounds like another winner, Cynthia! My problem with researching history is that I don't know when to stop to actually write. It's a fine line, and kudos to you for being able to weave another fantastic story.

Cynthia Owens said...

Thanks, Julie, I certainly hope so! It's sometimes REALLY hard to stop researching, it's so fascinating. Hope you'll pick up a copy of PLAYING FOR KEEPS, and enjoy it! Thanks for visiting with me today! :)