(Hint: Pay attention to your dreams)

Throughout my childhood, I heard tales of a woman named Mary Boland. The name, spoken in hushed tones by my mother and aunts, became legendary in my young brain. Mary was my great grandmother from Ireland, the mother of my grandmother, Nellie Kelly. Both Mary and Nellie had passed on before I was born and, as can happen to an impressionable girl child, my imagination took over.

When I was ten, a strange thing started happening. Every night, I dreamed about a young woman with curly red hair riding a horse bareback along a seacoast. Somehow, I knew this coast was in Ireland. When I was twelve, the nightly rider spoke to me for the first time. She said, “I’m Mary Boland. Write my story.”

As a single mom to four daughters, I was not able to embark on a novel-writing career as a young woman. Colleges loomed, and I needed to make money. While writing books seems glamorous, it is not necessarily a lucrative profession. Unless you’re a celebrity. Which I am decidedly not!

But after fifty years as a television executive, I decided it was time I listened to my dreams. However, with historical fiction, even guided by ghosts, research is necessary. Because if you make a mistake, some history buff is going to eviscerate you with a bad review. I traveled to Ireland seven times searching for clues to Mary.  And though I learned a ton about Irish history and the Great Famine, it seemed Mary Boland had disappeared into the mists and lore of Celtic memory. Still, she implored, “Write my story.” So, I asked her to guide me through dreams. And, did she ever!

The result of those dreams is a trilogy of books called DAUGHTERS OF IRELAND. The first novel is called SHANTY GOLD, and introduces Mary Boland as a girl child desperate to escape famine-ravished Ireland and find her father, recently moved to Boston in order to send money to his wife and children. In her grueling journey on foot to port, she meets a British woman who feeds her and offers her bliss in her first use of a herself on a coffin ship sold to the crew as a sex slave. Does she survive? To find out, read SHANTY GOLD.

LACE CURTAIN is the tale of Mary’s young adulthood in America and her marriage to Michael Kelly and the subsequent birth of their daughter, Nellie. Nellie, a beautiful and brilliant young woman will be her family’s initial college graduate when she becomes part of the first graduating class of a new women’s college called Wellesley. But when Nellie falls in love with a young Irishman, pregnancy destroys her bright future as a teacher.

The final book of the trilogy, SILK STOCKING, tells of Nellie’s disastrous marriage to Sean O’Halloran, a prominent young Boston lawyer—and a bastard of the highest order. Based on a pregnancy ruse, this union is doomed for failure and results in Nellie being committed to Danvers, Boston’s first insane asylum.

I think you’ll love Mary, Nellie, and Nellie’s daughter, Kathleen. As well as Kamua Okafor, the African slave boy who saves Mary on the coffin ship in the beginning of the trilogy and just may become an important love in her life. I hope my great grandma, Mary, is pleased with her story.


jeanne charters Jeanne Charters writes about the business of living your life to the fullest. Over the years through her magazine columns, books and blog posts, she has sought to help other women face life’s challenges through humor, strength and perseverance.