When Gayle Fortman was introduced in Endless Chain, then later made a quick appearance in Lover’s Knot, I wondered if she was trying to tell me something. First, here was a woman running a successful bed-and-breakfast inn while she raised three teenage boys, all as a single parent. As the mother of three boys and a girl myself, I could imagine the difficulties. There were days while my sons were teenagers when I wondered exactly how much testosterone one house could hold without an explosion.
So what had brought Gayle to this place in her life? Like many particularly competent people, she was much in demand. She was the president of the board of deacons at her church and active in fundraising activities. She managed all this, without a hint of a personal life.
In Lover’s Knot we did learn that Gayle’s ex was a successful broadcast journalist. Why hadn’t that marriage lasted? And what effect had the divorce had on her children? Clearly their father was no longer on the scene. Who was the male role model they needed to help them become men? After all, they were almost ready to fly.
Since the Shenandoah Album novels are set in real time, I imagined the work of a broadcast journalist in today’s social and political climate. Our journalists risk their lives every day to bring us the news. If Gayle’s ex-husband was the dedicated risk taker he appeared to be, then I could easily imagine him traveling to the world’s hot spots. Like Afghanistan.
At the same time I was imagining Eric Fortman’s career and Gayle’s busy life in Toms Brook, Virginia—not one of the world’s hot spots—I read a vague, and most likely imaginary, account of a sighting of a renowned assassin in Shenandoah County, at the end of the War Between the States (known locally as the War of Northern Aggression).
Put all this together? My imagination took flight. I hope you enjoy the result.