Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Cathy Mansell: Where the Shamrocks Grow

A great big welcome to our friend, Cathy Mansell.

Cathy is originally from South Dublin, Ireland but now calls Leicester England home, where she lives with her lovely husband.

Cathy was a 2012 Finalist for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award with her first book, Shadow Across the Liffey, which has now gone on to become a best seller at Tirgearr Publishing.

Her second book, Her Father's Daughter, earned Cathy the 2013 Novel of the Year Award at the Leicester Writer's Group in the UK.

And her third book, Galway Girl, has been receiving some wonderful recognition, as well. Just published this past May, no doubt this book will climb the popularity charts along with the first two books.

Today, Cathy introduces us to another heroine -- Jo Kingsley -- in Where the Shamrocks Grow.

This story begins in 1917, a year after the Easter Rising in Ireland and just as the War for Independence begins. Outside of Ireland, the world is engaged in the First World War. But Jo Kingsley is fighting her own battles. Having grown up in a life of servitude, she dreams of a better life. She hope that by taking a job in Chateau Colbert that her life will change. Then she meets her employer's son, Jean-Pierre. He's instantly smitten with her and whisks Jo away to Paris. It's there Jo becomes a woman in the real sense of the word. But she soon becomes unhappy. With the war over by now, America is the land of milk and honey. At first, things are looking up for Jo when she arrives in New York. She meets and falls in love with Mike PasiƄski, but Fate has other plans for Jo. She's lonely and desperate, and with the Wall Street crash, she finds she longs for home. Ireland.

Typically of Cathy's stories, Where the Shamrocks Grow introduces us to a strong heroine who's a woman of her times, yet a woman of her own mind and with her own hopes and dreams for a better life. The reader will quickly become endeared to Jo as she travels from Ireland to France and onto America. Jo's emotions are palpable and we can't help but feel the same joys and sadnesses as she does. Cathy's expert research gives us a flavor of the times and glimpses of the settings which makes this a well-rounded read. This story is fully immersive. You'll be glad you read it.

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.

• • •

Set in 1917 against the backdrop of the Irish civil war, young Jo Kingsley is transported from her turbulent childhood of domestic servitude, to the sophisticated life of the upper classes at the beautiful Chateau Colbert. Here she meets Jean-Pierre, the grandson of her employer, Madame Colbert, and visits Paris where she discovers the desires of men. But Jo’s destiny takes her to America where she experiences more than her dreams of becoming a music teacher.

During prohibition, in the mysterious haunts of Greenwich Village, she falls deeply in love with Mike a free-spirit; and a son of Polish emigrants. However, loneliness, loss and hardship follow during the Wall Street crash.

Will the beautiful Jo let go of her demons and learn to love again?

Dublin City 1917

Jo Kingsley awoke from a troubled sleep. Her eyes flickered open, and her gaze rested on the thick velvet curtains, partly drawn across the bedroom window. The street lamp shone through, casting shadows on the ceiling. She glanced at the holy pictures on the wall that had always been a source of comfort to her. But tonight the Virgin Mary did not appear to be smiling down on thirteen-year-old Jo. A distant scream reverberated around the room. She felt a stab of fear and reached across the bed to her grandmother.

‘Grandma. Grandma, please wake up.’ With trembling fingers, she traced the outline of her grandmother’s face. It was cold. Startled and distressed, she drew back in the clear knowledge that the wailing sound was none other than the Banshee.

Jo scrambled from the bed, hurried down the stairs, grabbed her black woollen coat from the hallstand, and ran barefoot from the house. Her long fair hair flew out behind her as she raced down the street to her mother’s cottage. The Dublin streets were dark and dimly lit, and the frosty pavement made her feet tingle as she hammered on the door. Her stepfather, Tom, wheezing and gasping for breath, finally opened it. She stepped inside.

‘Ma! Ma! Come quickly, something’s happened to Grandma.’

Kate, a thin woman in her early forties, appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. ‘What in the name of God brings you out at this time of the night, girl?’

‘I think me grandma’s dead,’ Jo cried. ‘I… I heard the Banshee.’

Kate sprang into action. ‘You look after things here, Jo-Jo. Sleep on the couch for now.’ In minutes, her mother was dressed and rushing up the street.

Five-year-old Liam cried out in his sleep, and Tom handed her a cover before going back into the bedroom and closing the door behind him. Jo held the thin well-worn blanket close to her shivering body. She didn’t want to be here. A dull ache gripped her. How could her grandma be dead? She’d been all right when they’d bid each other good night. Powerless to stem the tears that trickled down her cold face, she sat in the darkness. What would happen to her now? She bit her nails, digging into the tops of her fingers until they hurt.

The room smelt damp and Jo had no recollection of ever living here. Now, whenever she had cause to visit her mother, it was a sharp reminder of how lucky she was to have been brought up by her grandmother. She curled up on the couch but couldn’t sleep.

She heard coughing, and a shaft of light appeared in the doorway. Tom shuffled into the room clearing his throat, carrying the twins. Jo swung her feet from the couch onto the cold floor. ‘Is there anything I can do?’

He shook his head, too breathless to speak, and placed the whimpering babies down next to her. He lit the lamp on the table and turned up the wick. The light threw shadows across the room, the wallpaper peeling from the walls. Jo looked down at the children’s thin frames and spindly legs, and covered them with her blanket. Innocent eyes looked up at her, the same blue as hers, except theirs were hollow and lacked lustre. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm. The reality of her mother’s life hit her and brought a lump to her throat. She felt sorry for the children, who, in spite of the cold, had fallen asleep.

Feeling wretched and helpless, she made a fire from the turf piled up in the corner by the hearth, hoping it would take the chill from the room. She glanced across to where Tom was lying with his head down on the table, his bald patch visible and a blanket pulled across his thin shoulders. There was no sound apart from his laboured breathing as he dozed, and the sparks from the fire as the turf ignited. She filled the black kettle and hung it on one of the hooks over the fire.

The cupboard was bare apart from a packet of oats, and she wondered if her mother was drinking again! She made the porridge. It was tasteless, watery with little substance, unlike her grandmother’s creamy porridge. Her poor grandma! She had looked after her for as far back as Jo could remember.

Tom stirred and looked across at the sleeping babies, yawned and stretched his long thin arms. The kettle hissed and spouted water, almost extinguishing the fire. Jo got up and made a fresh pot of tea. She poured Tom a mugful and placed it on the table next to him. He was coughing again, beating his chest with his clenched fist. His consumption seemed worse and she pitied him. ‘Tis always worse at night,’ he told her.

‘The porridge is a bit thin, but it’s the best I could do.’

‘Aye! It’s grand.’

When at last daylight seeped through the thin curtains, her mother hadn’t returned.

The room depressed her and she wanted to go home to her grandma’s.

‘I’m going back now, will you be all right?’

‘Aye. Thanks,’ he managed between a fit of coughing, calling out to her when she reached the door. ‘Sorry… for your trouble, Jo.’

• • •

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 --

Cathy Mansell - http://www.cathymansell.com
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/cathy.mansell4
Twitter - https://twitter.com/cathymansell3
LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=164084748
Blog - http://blog.cathymansell.com
Grassroots - http://www.transculturalwriting.com/Grassroutes/content/Cathy_Mansell.htm
AuthorsDen - http://www.authorsden.com/cathymansell
Tirgearr Publishing - http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Mansell_Cathy

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


  1. Welcome back to Heart of Fiction, Cathy. It's always wonderful to see you.

    A true historical this time. What gave you the inspiration to travel back in time nearly 100 years to begin your story?

    1. Hi Kemberlee -it's so lovely to be back here on Heart of Fiction. Having read the introduction to Where the Shamrocks Grow,I'm quite emotional. This book means so much to me and reminds me of my mother.
      The idea for the book came from something my mother told me when I was very young. She was in bed with her grandmother when she heard the BanShee's cry,just before her grandmother died.. And from that Jo's story emerged and the rest came from my imagination. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as my mother's words that can inspire me, and I was surprised when Jo's story grew until I just had to finish it. It made me cry so many times while writing it. I know I'll blubber again when I read it on my kindle. It gets me every time. So, tissues at the ready!

    2. It's always great to see you back here, Cathy. Congrats on the newest release!

      Isn't it interesting where we get story ideas from? I can only imaging what a shock hearing the banshee must have been for your mother, and your great grandmother!

      I've heard foxes crying out. It's usually a mating call. I wonder how the Irish associate it with keening. Do you know?

  2. congratulations, Cathy.
    I heard a few stories about the bansee when I was a kid. My own mother still gets freaked out when she hears cats or foxes fighting!

    1. Hi David, lovely to see you here. How strange. My mother wasn't one given to fantasies and I believed her. The Banshee, or the evil one, as some call her,
      is a fascinating myth.
      Thanks for your comment David. appreciated.

  3. Such a heartbreaking time for the Irish....Congrats on the new release!! Looks good!

    1. Thank you for coming here and making a comment Kathleen. It's much appreciated.
      It was a rough time in Irish History, and even more so for the ordinary working classes.

  4. Kemberlee, From what I've heard, the Banshee's cry was said to be a piercing agonizing scream, like a soul in torment. And legend has it that, at that time, people feared the cry of the Banshee as it signalled death. Some say the creature sat keening and combing her long hair. It's quite spooky!

    1. Fortunately, I've never heard one. Let's hope I never do. The fox cry is bad enough {cringe}

  5. Shamrock safety download this evening so will be taking myself off to bed soon to snuggle up and read it. (hoping not to hear any strange noises) I remember you telling me stories about the banshee when we stayed at grandmas house in Dublin. Loved to hate it. Right anyway I'm off to read the book before someone wants something or the kids wake up!

    1. Good luck with that Samantha. Thanks for finding time to comment. I hope you enjoy reading Shamrock. It's my favourite and makes me cry every time. So have tissues to hand. Hope you also enjoy the history, Irish and American.