A Deadly Force Primer Part 1: The Fianna

To celebrate ONE DARK WISH‘s recent release, I’ve put together a primer about the Deadly Force Series. In today’s post, I’m discussing a secretive group of men that is threaded through these stories as both friend and foe of the ex-Green Beret heroes who populate the series. This group is known as the Fianna. 

In all of the Deadly Force books, the Fianna are led by a man known as the Prince. The men in the Fianna come from every army in the world. For personal reasons, each man leaves his men and his family and tithes to the Fianna where they then undergo extreme training for missions that are not sanctioned by any government. This army has more money than most nations and works completely on their own.  They are known for their assassinations although they perform many other missions that protect the innocent and bring justice where there was none previously. Governments and their armies stay out of their way.

But the idea of a secret army, that undergoes pagan-like training (including running naked in the woods during winter and speaking only in memorized Shakespearean verse) is not made up. My fictional army is based entirely on the life and history of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the hero of the Fenian cycle of Celtic Poetry. According to the exploits of Fionn and his men, they lived in Ireland prior to the Roman Invasions of Britain. As Rome expanded their empire, Fionn gathered men, trained them hard, and attacked the Romans before they could get a foothold in Ireland. Irish storytellers (and some historians) believe that Fionn’s army is the reason why Rome never settled Ireland.

These Irish fairytales about Fionn and his men are, of course, loaded with fairies and magic and druid priests, but there is some written historical evidence about a fierce tribe of young men who traveled from town to town, protecting them from all invaders—from Roman to Viking. The stories themselves are so much fun to read and the men, when they’re not fighting or falling in love, think up more and more brutal ways to train. The key thing about these men is that they are required to give up everything that ties them to this world—all their worldly goods and the people whom they love and who love them back.

So, as a fiction writer, I took all of these myths, and legends, and gossip and spun it into my books, adding my own tidbits along the way. Below is a list of terms used throughout the series to describe my fictional version of the Fianna.

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Prince:
 The leader of the Fianna. Any Fianna warrior can become the Prince if he challenges the current Prince  The challenging warrior must defeat the standing Prince in armed combat (of the standing Prince’s choice) and then complete his walk through the Gauntlet. If a warrior survives both, then the Council holds a vote of confidence. If the vote is unanimous, the warrior becomes the new Prince.

Warrior: A man who goes through the Fianna’s recruiting requirements and successfully becomes a foot soldier. In order to become a full-fledged warrior, a man must pass four stages of training, each one harder than the last, culminating in his Tithe. It could take up to two years to become a full-fledged warrior.

Recruit: A man going through the brutal process of becoming a warrior.

Pair: Fianna warriors always work in twos, also known as hunter/killer pairs. Once two men are paired, they stay together for life. If one dies, then the other takes another partner or may be given the option of becoming a Ghost.

Ghost: A seasoned warrior who no longer works in hunter/killer pairs and works on his own under the Prince’s direct command. A Ghost has more options and flexility with how he runs his operations.

Prince’s Second: the warrior who is the Prince’s second-in-command. This warrior is in charge of recruitment of potential warriors and all Fianna training.

Council: A group of ten warriors, chosen by the entire Fianna army, who sits in judgment of rogue warriors who’ve broken the honor codes. The Council also votes on the new Prince. A new council is chosen every two years and any warrior in good standing may run for a seat.

Misericord: All warriors carry a misericord which is a thin, very sharp retractable sword. When retracted, it’s is about ten inches long. Made of steel, it’s a deadly blade that when slipped beneath the armpit can pierce the heart. When slipped behind the ear, it takes out the brain stem. It’s a fierce, silent weapon that leaves a small entrance wound and little blood behind.

Intellectual Training: The first of the four stages of Fianna training. All recruits learn how to speak Latin, memorize all of the words in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, learn to speak in verse from these plays and sonnets, keep a nightly diary in Latin, pass exams to prove advanced proficiency in math, science, and languages. All recruits must know all military history and memorize strategy.

Physical Training: The second of the four stages of Fianna training. All recruits undergo a brutal, medieval form of training including: fighting naked in the middle of winter, being hunted through the woods by other warriors, sword/misericord training, sniper rifle training, small arms combat training, urban fighting techniques, hand-to-hand-combat including knives, rocks, etc., must be able to swim five miles in a freezing cold lake, and various other horrible things I don’t want to add here.

Gauntlet: The third of the four stages of Fianna training. When a recruit has completed the first two stages, he must suffer the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is an alley with forty full-fledged warriors (twenty on each side), each one holding a weapon. The recruit must fight his way through this column of forty men. If he makes it to the end, and is still alive, he can go on to the fourth stage.

Tithe: The fourth stage of Fianna training. If a recruit makes it through the Gauntlet, he is given the choice to make his tithe. The Prince chooses an individual tithe for each recruit. A tithe can be a gift from the recruit to the Prince, or is a promise to give something up for the Fianna. Each warrior’s tithe, though, strips him of the thing that he loves most in the world, the thing that ties him to the world. It could be a demand for a warrior’s life-long celibacy or the demand for poverty or a demand that the warrior leaves behind those he loves forever. Whatever the tithe is, it will cut each warrior off from what he loves most in the world. Thereby tying the warrior to the Fianna brotherhood forever.

Name: After a recruit makes it through the four stages of training and becomes a warrior, the Prince will give him a new name derived from one of Shakespeare’s works or the original Fenian Cycle of Irish poetry.

Tattoo: After a warrior is named, his left arm is tattooed with a sword piercing a heart. His new warrior name is inked below the pierced heart.

Honor Codes: A list of rules all Fianna warriors live by based on the original rules Fionn Mac Cumhaill required of his own men in old Ireland.

Ember Runs: Four times a year, during the Ember Days that separate the seasons, recruits are stripped naked, their hair (which has grown longer) is braided, and they’re hunted through the woods at night by seasoned warriors. Each recruit must run until he is captured. If he makes any noise (breaks twigs, grunt, etc), or if one hair is out of his braid, points are deducted. Once captured, they’re buried in a hole in the ground with only one arm free and holding a stick. With this stick, he must fight off the warriors who captured him until he can no longer defend himself. He is then given points based on how far he ran before his capture, given points for how long he fought with one arm, and given points for how many warriors he took out on his own. If a recruit doesn’t get the required minimum points, he must leave the training program and will never become a warrior. If he succeeds, he’s allowed to continue the training program.

Next month, part two will introduce the heroes of the Deadly Force Series!!


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, will come out September 24, 2019 and is available for preorder here: Amazon |  Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Cover Reveal for IN SEARCH OF TRUTH

IN SEARCH OF TRUTH, and its cover, have been a long time in the making. The book and the cover went through tons of revisions and I think we’re finally at the end point–I hope!!! Especially since this book comes out February 24!!

IN SEARCH OF TRUTH is the third book in the Deadly Force series and follows Zack and Allison while they search for an infamous 17th Century’s pirate’s treasure while trying to save each other and all of Zack’s men.

Here’s the blurb for IN SEARCH OF TRUTH

Some treasure is hidden in plain sight…Anthropologist Allison Pinckney is stunned when she inherits the key to a seventeenth century pirate cipher that makes her the target of two brutal arms dealers. Now, to save those she loves, she must solve the cipher. With this perilous mission growing ever more dangerous, she reluctantly seeks help from ex-Green Beret Zack Tremaine, the one man she’s been avoiding. Because if she gives into her long-buried feelings for him, it could cost them their lives.

Zack Tremaine is haunted by regrets. Years ago, he betrayed his men and lost the only woman he ever loved. Now that his men are caught in a fierce rivalry between two deadly enemies, his only hope is to team up with Allison. She holds the secret to a pirate treasure, and he must take the chance to save his men and redeem his honor. Even if she breaks his heart…again.

And here’s the cover!!
Thank you all for your love and support! It means everything to me!!
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Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Amazon bestselling Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her bestselling debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife. It’s available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google | Books-a-Million | Audible

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, a passionate redemption of Othello with a HEA, is about an ex-Green Beret who must give up the woman he loves in order to redeem his honor and save the life of his men. It’s available at: Amazon |  Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google | Kobo |IndieBound | Audible

Fun Facts About ONE DARK WISH

ONE DARK WISH, the second book in my Deadly Forces series just released this past Tuesday. ONE DARK WISH has an action-packed, National Treasure-type plot with lots of romance and intrigue. But because I do so much research for this series, I thought I’d share some fun facts. Because the stories aren’t all about racing from villains and having sexy times. 🙂

Fun Fact #1: The truth about the Fianna

One of the villains in the Deadly Force series, and ONE DARK WISH in particular, is a fictional secret army of assassins known as the Fianna. The Fianna are led by a man known as the Prince. The men in the Fianna come from every army in the world. For personal reasons, each man leaves his men and his family and tithes to the Fianna. They then undergo extreme training for missions not sanctioned by any government. The Fianna army has more money than most nations and works completely on their own.  They are known for their assassinations although they perform many other missions that protect the innocent and bring justice where there was none previously. Governments and their armies, as well as the ex-Green Berets heroes in the Deadly Force series, stay out of their way.

But the idea of a secret army, that undergoes pagan-like training (including running naked in the woods during winter and speaking only in memorized Shakespearean verse) is not made up. My fictional army is based on the life and history of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the hero of the Fenian cycle of Celtic Poetry. Fionn and his men lived in Ireland prior to the Roman Invasions of Britain. As Rome expanded their empire, Fionn gathered men, trained them hard, and attacked the Romans before they could get a foothold in Ireland. Irish storytellers (and some historians) believe that Fionn’s army is the reason why Rome never settled Ireland.

These Irish fairytales about Fionn and his men are loaded with fairies and magic and druid priests, but there is written historical evidence about a fierce tribe of young men who traveled from town to town, protecting villagers from all invaders—from Roman to Viking. The key thing about these men is that they were required to give up everything that tied them to this world—all their worldly goods and the people whom they loved and who loved them back.

Fun Fact #2: Pirate Ciphers

ONE DARK WISH is a romantic suspense story, with a National Treasure-type plot. The heroine, Sarah Munro, is a historian who specializes in 17thcentury pirates. Her hero, ex-Green Beret Nate Walker, has just been released from the U.S. Army’s secret prison hospital in Maine.

When Sarah and Nate meet in a remote colonial-era cemetery outside of Savannah, GA, and they’re threatened by a Fianna assassin, Sarah and Nate realize their very different lives are somehow connected.

Unfortunately for them, that connection is a 17thcentury unsolved pirate cipher.

17thand 18thcentury pirates were known—paradoxically—for both their brutality and their fairness. While movies and books treat these men as mindless beasts, the opposite is true. Many pirates were educated and smart, often having been officers themselves once. In order to hunt down well-armed ships, and out-maneuver senior naval officers, they also had to be clever in their tactics and communications. One way pirates secretly communicated with each other was with ciphers.

From the 15ththrough the 18thcenturies, pirate ciphers used two-part substitution encryption. The first part is a code, like a poem or a page from a book. This part is known as plaintext. The second part is a key that pulls out the message from the plaintext. It wasn’t sophisticated, but if you didn’t have both parts the message would never be revealed.

A popular type of plaintext would be a common poem even an illiterate man could remember, like one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Then the key would pick specific letters in each sentence. When you string those letters together, you have your message. It was crude but effective. So effective in fact that, during the Revolutionary War, George Washington adopted this technique to communicate with his officers in the field.

Fun Fact #3: Herbal remedies do work!

I used to work as a chemical and patent librarian for a major pharmaceutical research lab. During our weekly meetings, we often talked about whether or not herbal remedies worked in a more complex, modern world. We had one lab that only studied chemical properties in common herbal cures like peppermint tea, dandelion flowers, elderberry syrup, etc. While the cost of researching herbal cures was too expensive (considering the potential future profit), they discovered that herbal remedies used during the 17thand 18thcenturies, especially in the colonies, had some positive effect on mild illnesses. It wasn’t enough of an effect to be worth the cost of developing a new drug, but we all started making homemade elderberry syrup to ward off the flu and drank ginger lemon tea to help with headaches.

In ONE DARK WISH, Sarah inherited a recipe box on her 16thbirthday. The box, from her grandmother, was filled with 17thcentury herbal remedies and is one of the things that made Sarah want to be a 17thcentury historian. When the story starts, Sarah has spent years reformulating these recipes and has come up with an herbal tea to help her father with his migraines. Then she meets Nate who is suffering from serious headaches from his time being tortured in an Afghan POW camp. When she encourages him to drink her headache tea, he reluctantly agrees. It works but it has a disgusting taste and he hates it. As they fall in love, solve ciphers, and outsmart villains, she has to find alternate ways to get him to drink it. Then she starts to blackmail him into drinking it—in those special, sexy ways known to romance novel heroines. J


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Amazon bestselling Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her bestselling debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife. It’s available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble |iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google | Books-a-Million | Audible

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, a passionate redemption of Othello with a HEA, is about an ex-Green Beret who must give up the woman he loves in order to redeem his honor and save the life of his men. It’s available at: Amazon |  Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google | Kobo|IndieBound | Audible

ONE DARK WISH and a Recipe for Strawberry Pie

JUNE BRINGS A PRE-ORDER LINK FOR ONE DARK WISH AND A RECIPE FOR STRAWBERRY PIE!

“Twisty plots, fantastic characters, and pitch-perfect pacing. Fabulous!” ―ALLISON BRENNANNew York Times bestselling author

Her life must be forfeit for his to be redeemed

Historian Sarah Munro is not used to being shot at, but that’s just what happens while she’s poking around cemeteries on Georgia’s Isle of Grace, searching for the key to a centuries-old cipher. Her quest has unwittingly drawn the attention of two deadly enemies intent on destroying each other―and anyone who gets in their way.

Ex–Green Beret Major Nate Walker is on a mission of his own: to restore the honor of his men. To do that, he is required to stop Sarah―or one of his own men will die. Caught in the middle of a deadly rivalry, Nate can’t afford to trust the woman standing in his way. But his heart says he can’t afford not to…

ONE DARK WISH, the second book in my Deadly Force series, is a fast-paced story filled with all the staples of a romantic suspense, including a race through the historic city of Savannah and discovering hidden tombs in a long-forgotten cemetery, as well as sexy times. Yet Nate and Sarah do have a few moments to pause, reflect, and figure out what to do next. I guess you could call these “dates”. lol

On one of these dates, Nate buys Sarah a slice of strawberry pie. Being from Boston, Sarah has never had a fruit pie that includes cointreau, kirsch, and whipped cream. And she falls in love. 🙂

I’ve included the recipe below for Sarah’s Strawberry Pie. I hope you love it, and ONE DARK WISH, as much as she does!

Strawberry Pie

1 9” pre-baked pie shell

2 pints fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

1 envelope plus 1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¾ cup warm water

1 cup sugar

¼ cup kirsch

1 Tablespoon Cointreau

Slice each berry into 3-4 lengthwise slices. Blend enough of the berries to make 1 cup of berry puree. Chill remaining berry slices.

In a small bowl, combine gelatin and cold water, stirring to dissolve. Set aside.

In a saucepan, add ¾ cup warm water and berry puree. Stir until mixture boils. Add sugar until dissolved and transfer puree to a medium bowl.

Add gelatin/water mixture to berry puree and stir until dissolved.

Strain berry puree through a fine-meshed strainer to remove seeds.

Partly fill a large bowl with ice and put medium bowl on top. Stir until mixture thickens into a syrup.

Stir in Kirsch, Cointreau, and the remaining chilled berry slices.

Mix well but gently and turn into the prepared pie shell. Chill for at least 4 hours.

Serve with whipped cream.


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

Every Deep Desire was Born . . . and Now It’s Time to Let Go

It’s been almost a week since EVERY DEEP DESIRE entered the world, and I’m back at work revising book 2 in the Deadly Force series, ONE DARK WISH and writing book 3.  And I’m exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that  comes after having a baby or moving to another country (both of which I’ve done). It’s not just a lack of sleep kind of tired, but an emotional withdrawal. After so many wonderful notes, emails, tweets, etc., I feel this intense need to crawl into bed and hide under the covers.

I wrote for a long time (14 years) before seeing my book on a bookshelf in a store, and I thought I understood all that would mean. But I’ve realized in the last week that the writing and getting published–while hard–isn’t the hardest part. The hardest part is letting go.

This book is no longer mine. This book now belongs to the world. This book now belongs to the reader. And how the reader interprets the characters, and brings the world of this series into their mind and heart, is an intensely personal experience. An experience that allows no room for the author.

And somehow my heart missed the message. Yet, as a long-time reader and librarian, it makes perfect sense. The story was only mine while I was crafting it, and now it’s yours to interpret as you wish.

That’s the incredible thing about the imagination: I write something and someone else feels something. Yet, while I can control (somewhat) what I write, I can’t control how anyone else feels. And, as an author, that’s hard. I want everyone to feel sad during the “sad scenes” and happy at the end, but that’s not my job. Nor should it be. My job as the author is to present the story with all of its beauty and warts (because there are always warts) and let you, the reader, do with it what you will.

Which means it’s time for me to take a deep breath, take a long walk, and hope that you enjoy this story as much as I loved writing it.

So now I’d like to introduce the Deadly Force series: Where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines redeem Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

The series is about a team of ex-Special Forces soldiers, accused of vicious war crimes, who are desperate to prove their innocence and find their enemies before they attack again. As these men struggle to rebuild their lives and redeem their honor, it’s the women they love who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE , the first book in the series, is a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet that takes place in Savannah, GA. The story answers the question of what kind of marriage the lovers would’ve had if they’d won their happy ending.

My main characters, Rafe and Juliet, were married young until Rafe abandoned Juliet and deserted his Green Beret unit to work for a secretive army known as the Fianna. Now, eight years later, he’s been released from prison and needs to win Juliet’s trust if he’s to save everyone he loves. He knows she’ll never forgive him—or love him again—but he’ll do everything in his power to protect her.

After eight years away, Rafe returns and Juliet learns that Rafe went AWOL and abandoned her to work for the Fianna—a mysterious group of assassins who trace their lineage back to pagan Ireland. Now, one of Rafe’s old enemies wants something hidden on Juliet’s land or bad things will happen.

Except Rafe has been gone a long time and Juliet, who’s rebuilt her life, has no interest in having her heart broken again. No matter that he’s returned a fully-grown, sexy man who still loves her. What she doesn’t realize is that if she helps him, and if they succeed, they won’t just save those they love—they’ll be separated forever.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, and hopefully sticking with me as I continue. There will be fumbles and missteps, but also love and laughter. Which pretty much describes all of our lives! 


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

Her debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

You can find Sharon on:

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads |  Bookbub | Amazon