The Brambles on the Branches of a Family Tree [GUEST POST]

Looking up at the branches of a leafless tree against the sky

Every family tree has its secrets. But some just won’t stay hidden, especially when there’s a writer among its branches. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

For as long as we can remember, we’ve loved reading romantic suspense fiction, especially novels filled with deeply buried family secrets. Recently, award-winning author Linda Hughes appeared on our radar, and she’s fearless when it comes to throwing open tightly sealed closet doors and digging up old family skeletons, which makes stories like Secrets of the Island, the second volume in her Secrets trilogy, so delicious. In today’s guest post, find out how her own family tree inspired her to write her latest novel. Enjoy! —J&H

Aunt Mary and Uncle Don weren’t married, because Uncle Don was already married to Aunt Mary’s sister, who was in an “asylum.” Great-grandpa Borden married the hired helper who nursed his first wife during her illness and eventual death. They had an unclear number of children together, leaving the mother of our grandmother in question. A woman named Polly, who no one had ever heard of, was discovered in an abandoned cemetery. She was listed as our great-great-grandfather’s wife. That isn’t the wife we knew about.

Well, go figure. Once we start digging into our family trees all kinds of dirt surfaces.

For years I’ve done memoir writing workshops and helped with ancestry research, and also gave my college students an “ancestry quest” assignment. The things I’ve heard that were discovered! A great-grandmother was a prostitute in Nazi Germany, the only way the widow had of feeding her six children. A young woman found out she was a test-tube baby. An ancestor was filthy rich but left descendants dirt poor.

All those real-life stories couldn’t help but cultivate my interest in the mysteries of ancestry, which led to my Secrets trilogy of romantic suspense novels, as well as other historical fiction books I’ve written.

My most curious discovery has been that question about my grandmother’s parentage. Her father’s first wife was Mary Elizabeth, but was known as Lizzie. According to my grandmother, now deceased, so I can’t ask her again, that was her mother. Her stepmother, she said, her father’s second wife, hated her. That woman’s name was Elizabeth. Confusing.

However, grandma’s birth certificate, which we found after her death, says that wife #2, Elizabeth, was her mother. Then we found a form saying her birth certificate had been changed a year after her birth, with two neighbor witnesses. That form is dated the same day as the birth certificate we found. We have no idea what the original one said or why it was changed.

That brings up all kinds of obvious questions. Did the original list a different mother? Or a different birth date? Were her father and wife #2 hiding something?

We don’t know, and deep digging hasn’t come up with an original birth certificate so we can find out. Ah, the brambles on the branches of family trees.

If we had the ability to go back in time and talk to the people who made us, I believe we’d all be shocked at what we’d find, bad and good. No family is as perfect or as horrible as they may think.

One thing is certain: We all have within us the strength of all our ancestors. Those who valiantly made it through life’s trials and tribulations are part of our DNA. They live within us. Their strength is our own. We are not alone and we never have been.

Keep that in mind the next time life gets you down. Thousands of people contributed to the making of you. Honor them by making their efforts worthwhile.


Deeds Publishing


Do you think you know your heritage? Think again. Dark secrets lurk below the surface of every family tree, as the Sullivan clan discovers in this story about living in the aftermath of generations of deceit.

When Red Cross nurse Harriet escapes the trauma of World War II and sequesters herself in her grandfather’s cottage on Mackinac Island, she has no inkling about her heritage. But as one shocking clue after another surface—disclosing lies, corruption, madness, and murder—she realizes her family isn’t what, or who, it seems. She’s not the first to hold unspeakable secrets in her soul.

Can she conquer her trials and tribulations, like some of them did? Or will she be defeated by life, like others?

Secrets of the Island, the second book in the Secrets trilogy, is a tale of romantic suspense that begs the question: what secrets are buried within your family tree?

Linda Hughes

Linda Hughes
(Photo courtesy Deeds Publishing)


As a native Michigander, award-winning author Linda Hughes has been visiting Mackinac Island since she was a kid. She’s spent countless hours riding a bike around the shoreline, and perusing the library and church records to learn about island history. She’s built many a cairn, witnessed the Northern Lights on several occasions, and eaten more than her fair share of chocolate fudge. She’s a world traveler, having worked in thirteen countries and visited a couple dozen more, but Mackinac Island remains one of her favorite places.

Her writing honors come from the National Writers Association, Writer’s Digest, the American Screenwriters Association, Ippy (Independent Publishers), and Indie Book of the Day.

For more information, please visit Linda Hughes’ website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

By Linda Hughes
296 pgs. Deeds Publishing. $18.95

HFVBT_Logo_Banner TwitterPurchase Secrets of the Island at one of these fine online retailers: Deeds Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and IndieBound.

Secrets of the Island is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Linda Hughes
Linda Hughes is an award-winning author who enjoys writing romantic suspense, historical fiction, personal narratives and ancenstry quests, and has published a dozen books. For 20 years, she traveled the world doing seminars on life balance, civility, and community building. After that, whe worked as a college professor. Currently, she lives with her husband Joe in Arkansas' beautiful Ozark Mountains, where she focuses on her storytelling.

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