Have you ever pondered what exactly you love about Ireland? Why does this little island on the edge of Europe capture our imaginations?
Visitors to Ireland speak fondly of their memories and cherished moments on the highways and byways of this often rainy little corner of the world. Many who have not yet traveled to Ireland report it's the country right on top of their bucket list of places to visit.
In today's blog post, Irish American author, Martha Geaney, answers this question about her love of Ireland and shares why Ireland is the setting for her mystery novel series.
Plus a little good news. Today's post is a giveaway. Martha has graciously provided some signed copies of her books for a lucky reader to win.
But before we delve into the details of the competition, let me first hand you over to Martha so we can learn how Ireland inspires her writing....
Table of Contents
What is it about Ireland that you love?
Is it the landscape, the history, the culture, or the people?
I have to admit that I love it all.
It may seem odd then that I choose to write a cozy mystery series (which features at least one death in each book) in one of the places I love so much: County Mayo, Ireland. Let me try to explain.
Céad Míle Fáilte
Ireland: Land of a Hundred Thousand Welcomes. This Gaelic phrase is something I’ve seen and heard countless times since I was four years old. That’s when I made my first visit to Counties Mayo and Cork with my parents. Over the years I’ve traveled to Ireland many times and have always experienced the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Emerald Isle.
For me the land of a hundred thousand welcomes has an even deeper meaning. My mother left Ireland when she was sixteen years old. Fortunately, she has returned to her homestead many times. She and my father even lived in County Mayo for a few years after they purchased a family cottage in French Hill, Castlebar when I was in my thirties.
But my mom was the only one of her siblings who left Ireland. So, for me and my two brothers growing up in New York and New Jersey, it was a special treat to go to Ireland. What a welcome! The excitement of meeting aunts, uncles, and cousins. It didn’t matter how many times I went to Ireland; the welcome was always there, always fresh.
People here in the US would often ask: “Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?” Me: “no”. Not when my trip took me to French Hill, Castlebar, County Mayo. There was family to see. Tea to be brewed. (Oh, as much as they love me, they wouldn’t want me to brew the tea…too weak), brown bread and butter to eat.
It doesn’t matter where you go in Ireland…someone will always welcome you. There will always be a cup of tea (cupán tae) if you need it.
In my opinion, it takes trust, respect, love, and the idea of liability for each other to create and live in community with each other. Yes, we are all individuals but I believe our sense of being also comes from our relationships with others. These relationships often shape who we are, our spirit, and our mind.
My Heart Belongs to County Mayo
All the welcomes, the cups of tea, the love, the support, and understanding for someone who pops into the country once in a while have become the foundation of who I am as an Irish American.
I often say that my heart belongs to County Mayo. I’ve visited so many of its thin places: those stunningly spiritual places in Ireland where I feel like there is heaven on earth collapsed into one. They are places like Croagh Patrick, Clare Island, Achill Island, Cong Forest, and Blacksod Bay. I could go on and on.
And so, when I began writing my mystery series, I had no choice. I had to set my stories in County Mayo. And, they had to be set in real places. The stunningly beautiful places. The thin places.
Star O’Brien, the main character in the mystery series, encounters this sense of the beauty and culture of Ireland when she, an American, arrives in County Mayo.
Star, who is searching for her Irish mother, also experiences Ireland’s welcoming spirit as she unravels a local murder mystery and continues her relentless search for her mother.
Meet Star O’Brien
“That morning, the sky rose beyond the sea in a luminous ultramarine palette reminding me of Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. Treading the grassy path from the Clare Island Lighthouse bed and breakfast down to the harbor, I pictured my mother when she received a letter, many years ago from Clare Island.” (excerpt from “Death on Clare Island: A Star O’Brien County Mayo Mystery”)
The Journey Continues
Over the course of the book series, Star’s life journey will continue to reveal itself as she solves a standalone mystery in each book.
For me, the journey also continues. I continue to write about the places I love. The thin places that call me back to my Irish roots. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, some threads cannot be broken.
About Martha Geaney
Martha Geaney is the author of the Star O’Brien cozy mystery series set in County Mayo, Ireland. Born in New York City, she lived in New Jersey before moving to Florida in 2017.
Her passion for Ireland grew out of her love for her parents and their families. Her father moved to the US from County Cork; and her mother is from Mayo. She has kissed the Blarney Stone twice!
At sixteen, she moved to Castlebar to attend school for two years. Her connections and love of her ancestral homeland deepened during this time spent with her cousins, aunts and uncles. Ireland intrigued her, with it's contrasting lush and rugged landscapes, its welcoming people, and ancient heritage.
Her heroine, Star O’Brien came to life in her imagination, inspired by the people and places of County Mayo.
Before becoming a writer, Martha was a teacher, management consultant, university professor, and dean of a business college. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She is currently working on her third Star O’Brien mystery.
You can follow Martha on Facebook, or subscribe to her newsletter here.
Death on Clare Island
The first book in the Star O'Brien series is set on Clare Island, off the coast of County Mayo and is available from Amazon.
Star O'Brien, a successful American information broker who can’t solve the mysteries of her own life, comes to Clare Island in County Mayo, Ireland to settle her dead lover’s estate and look for her Irish mother, who’s been missing since Star was six years old.
As if everything wasn’t complicated enough already, a body is discovered while Star is there. It seems like a closed case involving a drug addict who wandered too close to the edge of Clare’s famously treacherous cliffs. But Star isn’t so sure. She didn’t believe it when the police dismissed her mother’s disappearance. Star must separate fact from fiction in the testimonies of those who were closest to the victim.
As she meticulously uncovers the truth, the fiercely independent Star O’Brien must also own up to her own past while deciding on her future with a charming new confidante.
Death at Ashford Castle
The second Irish cozy mystery, set in County Mayo, brings Star O'Brien back to Ireland. As an independent, inquisitive, amateur sleuth Star O’Brien finds herself chasing down a mysterious woman named Evelyn Cosgrove who may or may not have information about Star’s mother, who’s been missing since Star was six years old.
As if Star’s life isn’t complicated enough, she discovers a female corpse while walking through Cong woods. Star finds herself travelling back and forth from Castlebar to Cong to figure out the motivation behind the victim’s murder.
There are ghost sightings, mysterious break-ins, and a creepy encounter as Star tries to put all the pieces together. You'll find links for purchasing Martha's books on her website.
One lucky reader will win a signed copy of the first two books in the Star O'Brien series.
To enter simply leave a comment on this blog post by noon Eastern Time on Saturday, June 12th, 2021.
Any comment will do. What you write does not affect your chance of winning, but if you need inspiration why not tell us if you like mystery novels, or books set in Ireland.
A winning comment will be chosen randomly. Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win. Your e-mail won’t be published, just used to contact our lucky contestant for mailing of the prize.
The winner will be announced on Saturday, June 12th, 2021, at the bottom of this blog post.
You may check out Irish American Mom’s complete terms and conditions for sweepstakes’ entries here.
A bit thank you to all who support this giveaway and share it with family and friends.
Any many thanks to Martha for so generously sponsoring this prize.
Update - Winner Chosen
Our winner has been randomly chosen using the Pick Giveaway Winner Plug-in for WordPress.
And the lucky reader is ….
I’ll send an email to arrange mailing of her prize. A big thank you to everyone for supporting this giveaway by leaving comments. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every comment.
Thank you all for supporting our Irish American community.
Stay tuned for more stories and giveaways over the coming weeks and months.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
Disclosure: I do not have any financial connection with Martha Geaney. The link for purchasing this book is an Amazon affiliate link, which means that if you should purchase this book through this link, I will earn a small commission. The price you pay is not affected.
Images republished with permission from Martha Geaney.
Here are some more recipes and ramblings you might enjoy…
These books sound like the perfect summer read for someone who will now be stuck in the house with a grandson who broke his leg this week. It's going to be a long summer........
Irish American Mom
Hi Theresa - Sorry to hear your grandson had an accident. I hope his leg heals well, but there is a definitely a long summer ahead. Lots of reading all around.
I would love to read Martha's books. Our family is from County Mayo. I visited many years ago, stayed at Ashford Castle (got reservations quite by chance) and visited the Knock Shrine, Blarney Castle, etc. It was only for a few days, but we felt very welcome by the local citizens! We rented a car and drove through out most of Ireland - this was December and the scenery along the way was spectacular - to my surprise the fields were a lush green. Can't wait to go back!
Irish American Mom
Hi Gloria - Lovely to hear you had such a lovely trip to Ireland and County Mayo. How amazing that you got to stay at Ashford Castle. Ireland's fields are green all year long. It's all that rain we love to complain about, but deep down we really appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by to check out this giveaway.
What is there NOT to love about Ireland? My family was so blessed to live in Dublin a few short years while I was growing up. It continues to call to me. I was able to return 38 years later for the first time and additional times since. I connected with classmates in Wicklow and Celbridge. I feel I am home while in Ireland. The culture, (ancient and current), the people, the peace one feels, the shades of green, the landscape, the mountains the sea, (it's all in Ireland), the welcoming hearts are all wonderful. I'm sure the Irish sometimes tire of all the tourists, but they show gratitude and general interest in why you come to their country. (On one of my trips a lady in a grocery store was so interested in talking with me about American politics! I'm ashamed to say she probably knew more about the current events than I did!). Wonderful comfort foods, great coffee and THE BEST ice cream I've ever had anywhere :-). Get away from the tourist areas and explore on your own!! Wonderful B&B's are everywhere, and so accommodating and helpful! I have read many books based in Ireland and continue scouting new ones out. Thank you for this information! 🙂
Irish American Mom
Hi Danielle - Your comment truly is high praise for Ireland and the Irish people. I couldn't agree with you more about getting off the beaten path and exploring the road less traveled. There is something for everyone in Ireland. You never know when you will find a spot that just seems to resonate with your soul. Thanks for stopping by to support our little giveaway.
Love County Mayo
Irish American Mom
Hi Kim - Best of luck in our giveaway.
Love the Irish people the most! They were incredibly warm and welcoming. They also had a wicked sense of humor! Next was the lush and stunning scenery. Then I loved to hear them speak English with the beautiful Irish brogue. The culture and history are important too, of course, but my first 3 reasons melted me Irish heart. I found out by a DNA test from Ancestry.com that I am 99% Irish! That was a surprise as I never knew my father and was curious what my « other » 50% was. I was thrilled. My mother had already instilled great Irish pride in our heritage from her side of the family but finding out that my paternal side was Irish also was a welcome bonus.
I love any books that take place in Ireland, especially mysteries. I think both of Star O’Brien’s would be fun reads this summer.!
Irish American Mom
Hi Mary - How wonderful to find out your are 99% Irish and that your father's side is Irish too. I always remember when my son was doing a family history project for school in Kentucky, he was so disappointed that he only had Irish heritage. Most of the other students families were from all over the world. I hope as he grows older he will be proud of his Irish heritage. Thanks so much for following my recipes and ramblings.
All the best,
My Grandmother came from Bellemullet County Mayo. Both my parents were Irish. I love everything about Ireland. Since Iwas a little girl I remember listening to the stories, the customs and probably my biggest love is the Irish Music, from the ballads to the rebel songs and their love of Freedom. I have been to Ireland three times and The Irish hospitality always made me feel like I came home. So very very proud of my Irish Heritage.
Irish American Mom
Hi Marya - Lovely to hear you feel so connected to Ireland and your Irish heritage. It's wonderful to hear you too have enjoyed many trips home and always feel welcome in Ireland. Thanks for checking out my ramblings and for exploring our ancestral cultural inheritance here in our Irish American community.
How wonderful to find a writer whose stories take place in County Mayo, where both of my mothers parents are from. I visited Ireland and County Mayo in 2012 and stopped to see my Mothers
Cousin whose house is on the same property where my grandmother was born and lived until she immigrated to Boston in the early 1900’s. I felt so at home there, it’s hard to explain, but the people and the connection to the land is so strong. I was very moved by the experience and can’t wait to go back! County Mayo and the west coast were breathtaking!
Irish American Mom
Hi Jennifer - Once you visit Ireland, it will keep calling you home. Lovely to hear you have had such amazing visits to County Mayo and feel so at home there with your family. . I hope you will have many more wonderful trips home, and that it won’t be long before you will be on your way.
All the best,