‘BONUS MUM’ Stepmums are always wicked – being one I’d like that to change, says Irish author challenging fairytale take

WHEN author Carmel Harrington became a ‘bonus mum’ to her husband’s daughter, it broke her heart to read Disney fairytales featuring evil stepmothers.

So it’s no wonder the bestselling author is trying to shift the narrative in her new book, A Mother’s Heart.

Author Carmel Harrington

Carmel with her stepdaughter Eva

Carmel Harrington with her children Nate and Amelia

The Wexford-born author said: “Stepmothers were always wicked in the books so, one of the jokes we had with my stepdaughter was that I promised to only be a little bit wicked. We’d laugh about that.

“But because stepparents are often portrayed that way in children’s books, when a stepparent comes into their life, from a very very young age, they’ve been told that stepparents are wicked.

“So that step parent is then onto a losing battle.

“My son and I were watching a new movie on Disney Plus, an updated version of Cinderella, but of course, the twist is that the stepfather is evil, so once again, the step parent is the evil one.

“I was quite cross watching it. We thought it was so unfair.”

Carmel became a stepmum to Eva, 20, after marrying her husband Roger, 17 years ago.

She then went on to have her own two children, 12-year-old Amelia, and Nate, 10.

In her new book A Mother’s Heart, she tells the story of a stepmother, who has become the sole parent of two young children.

After her husband’s passing, she must make the difficult decision to stay in Ireland, close to the children’s blood relatives, or to move back home to New Zealand.

Carmel said: “Blended families can be quite complicated, and one of the sets of grandparents begins to question what is best for the kids.

“There are many blended families in my circle and there are many step parents who are doing what they can to make experiences positive for children.

“And they always have the best intentions and that’s what I would like to change.

“With the story that I wrote, I really wanted to readdress that balance and show that step parents are not evil.

“Yes, they make mistakes because we are all human but I believe that when a step parent makes a decision to become part of their life, they make a decision to love that child.

“It’s not automatic, it’s a decision you have to make.”


Carmel’s latest book is currently number one on Eason bestseller’s list.

It comes just a year after she wrote her previous hit, The Moon Over Kilmore Bay.

And the ones before that, including Woman at 72 Derry Lane, My Pear-Shaped Life and A Thousand Roads Home, have all been best-sellers too.

Her debut novel, Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, won Kindle Book of the Year and Romantic eBook of the Year in 2013.

Incredibly, the busy mum has managed to churn out 10 novels in 10 years.

The last two were written in lockdown, which Carmel says was challenging, due to her young kids being stuck at home.


She said: “Once the kids went back to school, it was a game changer. I won’t lie, writing and home-schooling was a struggle for the kids and working mama alike.

“Like the rest of the world in the same situation, we made the best of it.

“The kitchen table became the classroom every morning and I worked afternoons and evenings.

“It’s much easier now, writing while the kids are in school. My friend Hazel Gaynor came up with a phrase which I love, distraction free until three.

“I get most of my new words written during that period.

“I do my best to work around the kids’ schedules, but that often means I work in the evenings, too, especially when chasing a deadline.”

Carmel has a busy summer ahead, with edits due for her next novel any day.

But she has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

She said: “This year will be 10 in 10, but 20 in 20 would be nice. I have quite a nice work life balance now.

“My edits for my next book will be finished at the end of June and then July and August, I’ll take a break and then in September, I’ll start working on the next one until Christmas.

“For now, I feel like one book a year is an achievable dream.”

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