Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Cathy Mansell - Galway Girl

A big welcome back to Heart of Fiction to the lovely, Cathy Mansell.

Cathy was a 2012 Finalist for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award with her first book, Shadow Across the Liffey. Her book, Her Father's Daughter, earned Cathy the 2013 Novel of the Year Award at the Leicester Writer's Group in the UK.

Today, Cathy introduces us to her latest tale, Galway Girl. This book follows in the wake of the previous two, with her protagonist crossing the Irish Sea between Ireland and England, as this story develops.

Tamara Redmond is a member of Ireland's gypsy community, an interesting community of Irish traveling people who live by their own laws and within their own community. Men of the family are the head of household, and women do what they're told.

At the tender age of 16, Tamara overhears her parents making plans for her arranged marriage to a powerful community member who is hated and despised by many -- Jake Travis. A young woman with ideas of her own for the man she'll marry, she leaves her family and everything she holds dear, as she makes her escape from Travis' wrath. She stows away aboard the ship, Maryanne, but is discovered and thrown into prison when the ship docks in Liverpool. Once released, Tamara joins a traveling circus. What better place to hide?! It's not long before she falls in love with the daring trapeze artist, Kit Trevlyn. But when she's kicked out of the circus, accused of stealing, all of her fears re-awaken that Jake Travis will find her. Living rough in Covent Garden is no place for a young woman on her own. And when Travis finally tracks her down and kidnaps her, all hope for a future on her own terms spiral out of control. Secrets surround Tamara, and when she learns a harsh truth, not only could things change for her, but they could be catastrophic for her entire future.

Galway Girl is a gripping page-turner of a read. Tamara's character practically leaps off the page as we follow her back and forth across the Irish Sea. We see what a strong willed and courageous woman she is, even as the story begins in her 16th year. Cathy's way with words awakens a vision of Ireland at the turn of the last century, and of England. It's not difficult to hear, in Cathy's words, the creak of the ship's hull as it sails across the sea, or the jangling of harnesses in the confines of a circus tent. This is a deeply engrossing story which draws readers in on many levels, letting us experience the life and times of the early 20th century Ireland and Great Britain . . . a time shortly before Ireland's Easter Rising, when tempers were hot, cultures clashed, and in the background, and oft-forgotten segment of the Irish population made their own laws. I dare say, Galway Girl is Cathy's best story yet!

Before we get to an excerpt, be sure to drop Cathy a note in the comments below **with your email address** to enter the draw for a copy of this book.

• • •

Feisty Irish gypsy girl, Tamara Redmond is just sixteen when she overhears her parents planning her wedding to the powerful and hated Jake Travis. In desperation, she leaves Galway, a place she loves, and stows away on a ship with disastrous consequences. On her release from a cell in Liverpool, she takes refuge in a travelling circus and falls in love with Kit Trevlyn, a trapeze artist.

Accused of stealing, she is thrown out. She sleeps rough in Covent Garden where her fear of Jake Travis finding her dominates her waking hours. When he kidnaps her and keeps her captive, her life spirals downwards. Then Tamara hears a truth, a truth that will change her life and her very existence forever.


The girl lay in the sand dunes, her green cape camouflaged by the tall grasses. Her breath came in gasps. She was lucky to have come this far. The gypsy camp was only a couple of miles behind her. It wasn’t far enough, and if her escape failed, she wouldn’t live to see her seventeenth birthday.

She could hear the sea lapping the shore, taste the salt spray of the waves lashing the rocks below. Seagulls screeched overhead. Black-horned rams roamed the hilltops. Turf smoke curled from chimneys in the stone cottages in the nearby village. Straining forward, she looked down at the deserted beach. She watched and waited.

The September sun faded and a bitter wind blew in across the bay. She drew her cape tighter around her shoulders when the vessel came into view. The sight of its white sails made her excited. She turned her head as the ship moored alongside the pier and anchored in the bay. She could hear the raucous laughter of the men. They climbed from the vessel and strode towards the beach, their boots crunching the shingle.

They passed by with jute sacks slung across their shoulders. Two bearded and bareheaded, the rest wore caps and rough sea-jackets. She knew they were on their way to the tavern in the village.

The moon was rising over Claddagh; a sight she would never tire of, a place she loved but doubted she would ever see again. Listening to the tide receding, she waited until dark. Then, with one last look at the wild coastline and the misty shapes of the Aran Islands in the distance, she scrambled down the slopes, slipping and sliding in her haste. Her legs stung from nettles, and her bare feet were numb and bleeding. She stepped across the uneven pebbles, her feet squelching the seaweed, her cape billowing, and her red curls tumbling around her shoulders. Making sure no one saw her, she lifted her long skirts and waded through the water. The sea was cold as it rushed over her bruised feet and ankles. Close up, the ship was not as big as she had thought, but it was the only one moored that night.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she used her hands and feet to clamber onto the pier. Her feet slipping on the wet stone, she raced along the jetty, only pausing long enough to read the name, Maryanne, on the side of the ship. She climbed down onto the deck of the cutter with no idea where it would take her; she had nothing but the clothes she stood up in and a small bundle under her arm. In it, she carried a change of clothes, a hairbrush and a copy of Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, given to her by her grandmother when she first learned to read.

• • •

Cathy Mansell writes romantic fiction. Her recently written family sagas are set in her home country of Ireland. One of these sagas closely explores her affinities with Dublin and Leicester. Her children's stories are frequently broadcast on local radio and she also writes newspaper and magazine articles. Cathy has lived in Leicester for fifty years. She belongs to Leicester Writers' Club and edited an Arts Council-funded anthology of work by Lutterworth Writers, of which she is president.

Find Cathy Online --

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address for the draw!


  1. Welcome back to Heart of Fiction, Cathy, and congratulations on your latest publication -- Galway Girl. Love the cover on all your books, but this one is really lovely.

    What can you tell us about this book? What inspired you to write about an Irish gypsy girl who runs away to join the circus . . . among other situations she gets involved in through the story? Secret desire to join the circus yourself? ;-)

    1. Hi Kem. I love this site and I'm thrilled to be back here again with Galway Girl.
      When I was a teenager I read a book about a gypsy, called Gypsy Lady, and it stayed in
      my mind for years. I'm not sure this was what inspired me to write Galway Girl, but after a visit to Galway, three years ago, with my daughter, Sharon, the story began to develop in my mind. As a child I loved the circus and went to see many, so this fitted into my story very well. My youngest daughter, Samantha had a pony for many years and I loved watching her ride. The rest is purely from my imagination. I really enjoyed writing Galway Girl. It was the most challenging of my books so far.

    2. Isn't it wonderful how stories develop? And I have to admit, running away with the circus is a great plot. No better place to hide than in plain sight, but also the make up and costumes help too. And really, would a man like Jake Travis go to the circus for his entertainment?

      Galway is a lovely city. I would have loved to see the original Claddagh part of the city.

      I think you've established you have a pretty great imagination!

      Was there a favorite scene you enjoyed writing the most? (no spoilers! ;-) )

  2. What an absolutely gorgeous cover Cathy. I'm so looking forward to reading Galway Girl and I promise to put a review on Amazon. Your success is so well deserved.

    1. Margaret, One of our cover designers at Tirgearr Publishing is Amanda Stephanie. She does all of Cathy's covers. I think this one is particularly nice.

    2. Thanks for your comment Margaret. Kemberlee had to work hours to find the right theme
      for this cover and Amanda did a brilliant job. I'm so happy with it.

    3. To answer your question, Kemberlee: I enjoyed writing many of the scenes in Galway Girl, mainly, I enjoyed the challenge of writing out of my comfort zone. One is when she is finally discovered as a stowaway and is brought before the captain. I also loved writing her escape from the ship, and when she discovers the prostitute in the cell in Liverpool.