PURRING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE by Liz Mugavero and The Luck of the Irish

The Luck of the Irish by Liz Mugavero

I’m a full-blooded Italian-American. My parents’ families both hailed from Italy, my mother’s family from Naples and my father’s from Sicily. As one would expect, I grew up with heavy Italian traditions, like Frank Sinatra, cannoli, and pasta. Especially pasta. Pasta on Sunday, pasta on Wednesday…heck, let’s face it—most days were Prince spaghetti days. I loved every minute of it. I will tell you it shocked every living family member of mine when years later I went meat, gluten and dairy free, but that’s another story for another day.

But while I was ensconced in this Italian lifestyle, I had a dirty little secret—I was fascinated with Ireland and everything Irish. Especially the people.

I think it all began with Nora Roberts. I loved her books, and have read them since I was a kid. Many of her trilogies and earlier works took place in Ireland, as any fan knows. All her families were Irish, and whether they lived in Ireland or not, their Irish roots and traditions brought them to life so strongly for me it made me immediately want to be part of them. I’ve wanted to visit Ireland since I read my first Nora book, because of the way she described the people, places and landscape.

When I sketched out my characters for my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, I unconsciously made my protagonist, Stan Connor, half Irish, and her love interest full Irish—so Irish, in fact, that Jake McGee owns the only Irish pub in Frog Ledge. And of course, he has a large, boisterous, close-knit family. I absolutely love writing about them.

In my latest book, I wanted to bring Jake’s family front and center. I had a bunch of his relatives coming to town for their annual Christmas celebration, which usually lasted from just after Thanksgiving through Christmas. The clan includes crazy Uncle Seamus, the ne’er-do-well of the family. You know the guy, right? The one who always finds himself involved in some scheme or other and, ultimately, in trouble. Most families have one. As I was plotting it out, I knew I needed a scheme for Uncle Seamus. A big one. But I was stuck. I couldn’t find the right, perfect thing that would be meaningful in the Irish heritage that would be a great fit for my story.

And then the universe stepped in and placed an Irishman in my path, right in time for my synopsis writing exercise. (To clarify—a northern Irishman, but it still counts.) He was a font of information, given that his father had been on the police force and he had a deep knowledge of Irish history. When I needed a grand symbol of Irish history as part of my scandalous caper—something like England’s crown jewels—he pointed me toward the famous Book of Kells, which I’d never come across before. For those who aren’t familiar, it is a treasured religious artifact containing the four gospels of the New Testament. It is beloved not only for its content but for its presentation, with illustrations, calligraphy and other ornamentation. It’s bound in four volumes and is on display at Trinity College Library in Dublin.

Of course, stealing it would be next to impossible—although there was an attempt back in the seventies—but that was half the fun of writing the story. It was absolutely perfect.

And my Irishman came in handy during beta-reading exercises also, not only relating to Book of Kells references, but also helping with phrases and dialect. I had a blast learning new Irish sayings and making my characters sound authentic.

Writing this book was not only a ton of fun, but it allowed me to live out my fantasy of belonging to a large Irish family, if only for a little while.

Although I still think I should’ve taken that trip to Dublin for the sake of research.

PURRING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE – A Pawsitively Organic Mystery #6

In the New England town of Frog’s Ledge, the Holiday Light Festival is a Christmas tradition. But things are about to go dark for one local resident at the organic pet patisserie owned by Kristan “Stan” Connor . . .

Santa has been found face-down in the hot apple cider brewing in Stan’s crockpot—and at first Stan is sure it’s Seamus, her boyfriend’s uncle, inside the red suit. But the victim turns out to be an employee from the town’s Christmas tree farm. Rumor has it the deceased was a mean drunk with a soft spot for feral cats. Stan has no idea why he was dressed as St. Nick—or why he’s dead.

Meanwhile, Seamus, a jolly Irishman who comes to America every December to visit his pub-owner nephew, is nowhere to be found. Could he just be off on a Boston bar crawl? Or is something more sinister under the tree? Seamus was supposed to be dressing up and posing for pet pictures with Santa at the shop, but the dogs and cats might have to find another lap to curl up in if Stan doesn’t solve two mysteries soon. Or murder might be the only thing under the mistletoe this holiday . . .

Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!

Kensington Books

Liz Mugavero is a corporate communications consultant and animal lover from the Boston area, whose canine and feline rescues demand the best organic food and treats around. Her short stories have been published in the UK and Australia, and her essays have appeared in national publications Skirt! and Sassee Magazine for Women.

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