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Secondary Characters or, Those Who Make the Story – Guest Post by Cynthia Owens, Author of My Dark Rose

My Dark Rose, An Irish Historical Romance by Cynthia Owens

Hi, thanks so much for having me today. I’m so thrilled to be talking about My Dark Rose, Book III in the Wild Geese Series.

I fell in love with My Dark Rose, partly because it’s a tender, sweep-you-off-your-feet romance guaranteed to make you believe in the healing power of love. But there was another reason I love this story—or perhaps I should say a lot of reasons. Those reasons were the delightful cast of secondary characters.

There’s something about secondary characters. They’re the glue that holds the story together. And in My Dark Rose, there are a lot of them. But somehow, they cooperated beautifully to make the story better than even I dreamed.

Part of the premise of My Dark Rose is my heroine, Róisín Donavan’s large family. She’s the sole caregiver for her five younger siblings. Oh, and what a fascinating lot they are! First there’s Joe, the spoiled, selfish young man with a charming smile and sweet word. His jobs rarely last more than a few weeks, and he spends his pay at the pubs—or buying extravagant gifts for his sister Nuala. Eighteen-year-old Nuala is “the pretty one,” spoiled by her late father and the whole family. She dreams of finding a rich husband and wearing pretty clothes and jewels. Then there’s Tim, fifteen and ready to take on the world—or the English. He’s got Fenian leanings, and longs to play a part in freeing Ireland. Twelve-year-old Caitlin has ambitions to go to college and become a teacher—if Róisín can find the money. And Róisín is more a mother than a sister to five-year-old Eilish.

I loved writing about Róisín’s family. But I enjoyed writing about her friends, the Schoenbergs, just as much. Erik Schoenberg is a university professor of music. He and his wife, Clara, look on Róisín as a daughter. Róisín acts as Clara’s companion and receives singing lessons from Erik.

While I first began writing My Dark Rose, I looked over this large cast of characters and panicked. There were so many of them! And these were secondary characters! How could I possibly keep them from taking over the story from Róisín and her hero, Dary Greely?

A writer has to walk a fine line with her secondary characters. She has to make them endearing and three-dimensional. They must have at least some interaction with the hero and heroine without taking over the story. And they must never appear to have been placed in the story as window dressing. They should help to move the story forward and add depth to the main characters.

I hope that’s what my characters do.

A giveaway! I’m giving away reader’s choice of a signed print copy of one of the Wild Geese stories: Deceptive Hearts (Book I) or Keeper of the Light (Book II). Do you have a favorite secondary character, one that really stood out, in a book you’ve read?

…Like the Wild Geese of Old Ireland, five boys grew to manhood despite hunger, war, and the mean streets of New York…

He was the lucky one…

Dary Greely is the only one of his brothers and sisters to survive the hunger in Ireland and the coffin ship to America. He was the one whose parents made a bit of money, the one who emerged from the war virtually unscathed. He was the lucky one…but when the war ended, his luck ran out.

She was burdened by too many responsibilities…

Róisín Donavan is an Irish girl who lives in a Five Points tenement room. She dreams of a future as a great diva and sings Irish songs at Paddy Ryan’s Pub. But her stubborn Irish pride won’t allow her to abandon her family, even if it means sacrificing everything for them.

Can Dary make Róisín see her true worth? Can Róisín heal the festering wounds that tear at Dary’s soul? And can love truly mend their grieving hearts?


The Sally Malone, Black ‘47

On the Atlantic Ocean

They slid into the water with scarcely a sound.

Dary Greely clung to his father’s hand, watching as the bodies, clad in little more than rags, were tossed over the side of the ship. The children first: his little brother and two sisters. Then Mrs. Morrissey, his new friend Declan’s ma. Shane MacDermott’s da, and the twins’ ma and their granny.

His ma’s thin fingers bit into his shoulder. She was sobbing into a threadbare handkerchief, her eyes red and swollen from crying. He looked up at her, then at Da. A shudder ran through him that had nothing to do with the cold wind blowing in from the sea.

Da’s eyes were dead. Their bright green was dimmed with sorrow. His dark-red hair blew across his face, but he made no move to shove it back with his big, callused workman’s hand. He stared out to sea, a muscle in his jaw jerking rhythmically.

Dary swallowed hard, glancing around him. He saw Shane, clutching his wee brother’s hand, one arm about his ma’s shoulders as she tried to soothe the fussy gossoon in her arms. Kieran and Cathal Donnelly stood close together, drawing silent comfort from each other as tears ran down their da’s face. Declan, self-controlled as always, stared into the water, his face full of sorrow, tears in his eyes that he refused to shed.

When the last victim of the ship’s fever sank to the bottom of the sea, the steerage passengers turned away, their muffled sobs and soft keening carried away on the rising wind. They’d left Ireland for a better life in America, but would any of them survive to see that land of promise?

As they turned to go, his father suddenly knelt before him, clutching Dary’s shoulders and staring into his eyes. “Ye are the last one, Dary.” His deep voice shook with the intensity of his grief. “The last o’ the Greelys. ’Tis ye will live on to tell the stories o’ us all. Ye’re the lucky lad, Dary, so ye are. Always remember that.”

The words rang bitter in Dary’s ears. The urge to vomit clutched at his throat with ruthless fingers. But he managed a nod. “Aye, Da. I’ll always remember, I promise. I’m the lucky one.”

At that moment, Dary made a fierce, silent vow to himself. He would survive to see America. He would go to school in America, make something of himself, just as Da had told him he could. He’d learn to read and write and do sums. He’d make his parents proud.

He was the lucky one.

You can buy My Dark Rose at:

The Wild Geese Series:

Deceptive Hearts – Book 1

Keeper of the Light – Book 2

Cynthia Owens, Author of My Dark Rose, An Irish Historical Romance Bio:

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 17th Century “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.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.

I’m 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 teen-aged children.

You can find Cynthia at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page


11 thoughts on “Secondary Characters or, Those Who Make the Story – Guest Post by Cynthia Owens, Author of My Dark Rose”

  1. When I read Deceptive Hearts, I love Cathal Donnelly, who was an Irish rebel! He then became the main character in Keeper of the Light!
    Congratulations for the release of your third book!

    1. Thank you, Nicole, so glad you enjoy my stories! I must confess, Dary Greely is my favorite of the Wild Geese, though Cathal also holds a soft spot in my heart, too. Okay, I guess ALL the guys are special to me, and I hope it won’t be long before Kieran and Declan tell me their stories, too! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Kieran, without a doubt—Declan’s best friend, a tough guy who can fight but who hides his sensitivity and artistic talent due to some emotional scar, even as he willingly draws pictures for Declan’s little girl.

    1. Heavens! I mean Shane’s best friend!! I was reading your comment about your favorite characters and guess I still had Declan on the brain.

      1. LOL Julie! I love Kieran, too! I’ll be writing his story in the very near future. He’s got some issues that I hope to work out very soon. Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. Great post, Cynthia. I so know what you mean about secondary characters taking over! I’ve got one in my current WIP I’ve had to have a good ‘talking to’ about that tendency, lol.
    Good stuff, here.

    1. Hi sjmn60, I’ve had a few chats with my secondary characters too, particularly with My Dark Rose. But I promised them that if they were patient and cooperative, I might just have a story for them one day. Thanks for visiting!

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