1950s · Irish literature · romance · romantic suspense

Her Father’s Daughter and the Magdalene homes of Ireland

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I discovered the cover art twin of my heroine Sophie Challoner, who features in my first novel, The Silk Romance.  (See cover to right of this post)

Sophie’s cover art twin can be found on the cover of Cathy Mansell’s novel Her Father’s Daughter.   I was intrigued to find out more about Cathy’s novel, as it’s set in the Ireland of the fifties and features the Magdalene homes for unmarried women.  The shameful history of these homes has been muched talked about recently, especially since the release of the film Philomena. I’m looking forward to seeing the film, even though I expect the story is painful to watch.

Cathy has very kindly dropped in today to talk about Her Father’s Daughter, the origins of her story, and how the cover was born.  Thanks for coming, Cathy, and good to meet up again!

* * *

First of all I’d like to say thank you to Helena for having me as her guest today.

cathy mansell, her father's daughter, helena fairfaxHello, I’m Cathy Mansell, author of Shadow Across the Liffey and Her Father’s Daughter. Both books are published as an eBook with Tirgearr Publishing. Both books will be published by Magna Large Print in March and May 2014.  Tirgearr Publishing is also doing a paperback to coincide with Magna Large Print.

I was delighted to meet up with Helena Fairfax at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s conference this year. But it wasn’t until later that I glimpsed Helena’s book, The Silk Romance, on a media site and discovered that Her Father’s Daughter and The Silk Romance both share the same heroine on our book covers. My heroine Sarah Nolan’s story is set in 1950’s Ireland, whereas Helena’s heroine, Sophie Challoner’s story, is a contemporary set in the London of today. Despite the fact that both heroines inhabit different worlds, the book covers portray them equally well.

Sarah loves fashion, has gorgeous dark hair and beautiful eyes and this cover depicts her brilliantly. That was the easy bit.  As well cath mansell, her father's daughter, cover art twinsas Her Father’s Daughter being a romantic love story, this book has a darker side and the cover background needed to reflect that. My publisher took time and patience over this.  We needed a foreboding building resembling a convent with large windows and a pregnant woman. Most pictures of pregnant women were too modern for the 50’s.  We went through many, from someone kneeling, to statues and crosses. It took time before we were both happy with the image of Sarah on the right and a dejected young woman sitting by the window.  Both of these descriptions mirror Sarah and Lucy in the story. And so, the cover for Her Father’s Daughter was born with the help of Tirgearr’s lovely cover artist, Amanda Stephanie.

The inspiration to write Her Father’s Daughter came a few years ago, when the Magdalene homes in Ireland were getting bad press and television coverage for the treatment of unmarried women, in the 50s and 60s who fell pregnant outside marriage. I read stories by women who had suffered incarceration in these homes at a time when it was socially, and morally, unacceptable to have a child out of wedlock.

Her Father’s Daughter is a romantic mystery set in the newspaper world of yesterday and the mysteries of the Magdalene homes.

Set in the 1950s Ireland, twenty-year-old Sarah Nolan leaves her home in Dublin after avseries of arguments. She has taken a job in Cork city with the Gazette, a move her parents’ strongly oppose. With her limited budget, she is forced to take unsavoury lodgings where the property owner cannot be trusted.  Soon after she settles in, Sarah befriends sixteen-year-old Lucy, who has been left abandoned and pregnant.

Dan Madden is a charming and flirtatious journalist who wins Sarah’s heart.  He promises to end his relationship with Ruth, but can Sarah trust him to keep his word?

It is when her editor asks to see her birth certificate that she discovers some long-hidden secrets.  Her parents’ behaviour continues to baffle her and her problems with Dan and Lucy multiply. 

Will Dan stand by Sarah in her time of need?  Will Sarah be able to help Lucy keep her baby? Or, will the secrets destroy Sarah and everything she dreams of for her future.


Cathy writes romantic suspense and started writing novels ten years ago. She grew up in Dublin, Ireland until she was twenty.  So, it is only natural that she should set her books there. However, her affinity with Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham and New York, means that each of these cities holds a strong sense of place in her books.

Cathy’s great aunt, Maryanne emigrated to the United States around 1904. A song writer and poet, she made a living as a writer, up until the Wall Street crash in 1929 when she lost all her money.  Cathy emigrated to England from Dublin nearly fifty years ago and lived in various cities before settling in Leicestershire.

Information regarding both books and future books can be found at the links below.


* * * *

Thanks so much for coming today, Cathy.  It was interesting to hear how your artwork was developed.  A lot of thought went into both our covers, and, as you say, I think they each reflect our individual stories in an inventive way.

Did you enjoy hearing the story behind Cathy’s novel?  Have you seen the film Philomena, and if so, what did you think?  If you have any questions or comments at all, please let us know.  We’d love to hear from you!

21 thoughts on “Her Father’s Daughter and the Magdalene homes of Ireland

  1. How very cool that the two of you met and found each other BEFORE you knew you were cover twins.

    Cathy, your story sounds quite intriguing. I must confess I’d never heard of the Magdalene homes before, and am quite interested to learn more.

    Best of luck to both of you!!!


    1. Hi Heather,
      Lovely to hear from you. I’ve heard of, Call the Midwife on TV, but never got round to watching it. I’m interested now. I enjoyed your blog posts and pics of Disney.
      And I’ll never forget the first time I went there with my grandchildren. Wow! It was amazing.
      thanks for reading my post on here.


  2. I have yet to see Philomena, but my first experience with the Irish Magdalene laundries with was with The Magdalen by Marita Conlon-McKenna back around 1997 when I first came to live in Ireland. At first I thought it was tragic fiction, by my new Irish boyfriend (now my husband) said, no, it was based on the real laundries, which I knew nothing about. It didn’t take long to educate myself. And to be horrified that the last of these laundries had only just closed a short time before my arrival! Everyone knew what was happening there, especially the church and the Irish govt, yet they were still allowed to exist, which I found and still find, horribly incredible.

    Cathy’s book tells the story from another angle, but one no less emotive than if her heroine had been ‘inside’. Perhaps it’s because her heroine is not in the home that we see what it was like through an outsider’s eyes and how the experience affected her friend. And how the main plot of the story plays out in Sarah’s own life.

    A story well-told Cathy! We’re proud to have you with us.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Kemberlee. I hadn’t realised the laundries were kept open until almost the end of the twentieth century. Like you, I find that incredible. There were so many Irish women and their children affected. It’s great that fiction such as Cathy’s, and films such as Philomena, continue to draw attention to this part of Irish history. Thanks for adding your comment.


      1. The laundries were most active from the mid 18th century to the 1960s, but started seeing fewer women ‘institutionalized’ from that time. The last one to close in Ireland was in 1996! I came in 1997. Of course, Ireland has rarely been accused of being ahead of it’s time. Divorce was only legalized in 1995 and condoms came off prescription in 1993. Before then, only your GP could prescribe them for you, and only if you had a serious medical need to prevent pregnancy. The Church has run Ireland for many years. I’ve seen a huge shift in the time I’ve been here from where the Church’s say was important to a current government who denounced the behavior of people in the Vatican . . . effectively saying the Irish are pulling away from Catholicism because of Rome’s treatment of child abuse. But that’s another story. Just saying, things we take for granted in North America and think should be the same in every first world country can really shock you with the reality of it.


  3. Cathy, your book sounds interesting. I too had read about the abuse of the women in the Magdalene homes in Ireland. Best wishes on your book. It is amazing that you and Helena found each other at the conference with the same heroine on your covers.

    Susan Bernhardt
    The Ginseng Conspiracy coming 1/3/2014


  4. Fascinating reading about this. I’ve wanted to see Philomena, but haven’t yet. Increases my interest. Love the way you and Cathy “met,” Helena. Cathy, your book has a great blurb and I’m sure will find a great readership. I’ll FB and tweet.


  5. Wow, Cathy, I will definitely read your book. It never ceases to amaze me at the atrocities that are done in the name of religion. Or, I should say, allowed to happen by those who could have helped.

    Helena, I’m glad you two met or we might have missed this most interesting book.


    1. Hi Leona, thanks for your comment. So glad you enjoyed Cathy’s post. And I’m glad we turned out to have cover twins, too! It’s been lovely getting to know Cathy better through our books. Thanks very much for coming by


  6. I really enjoyed your first novel, Shadow Across the Liffey, Cathy, and will definitely be buying this one. It seems unbelievable to us now that such abuse went on even into the fifties, and all in the name of religion. At least we have a more tolerant society now. I do love a good story and look forward to reading this one.


    1. Thank you so much for your comment Margaret. I hope you enjoy the story of Her Father’s Daughter as much as I did writing it. Thank God for a changed society. Back then things were so different.


  7. Thanks, Cathy, for shedding light on this dark chapter in history. Sometimes fiction is the best way to bring things to the awareness of the public. Your cover is very striking and captures the mood of the book very well. Best of luck with your sales.


  8. Thanks for your comment Gemma. Yes, Her Father’s Daughter does highlight
    Ireland’s terrible history regarding it’s attitude towards women, the book is also
    about family secrets and how love can heal.
    Thanks for your best wishes


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