Former Irish Voice music columnist Mike Farragher has just released his sixth novel, The Last Temptation of Mary. “It answers the question of what would happen if Lucifer and the Blessed Mother met in a bar,” Farragher explains.
Mary the Queen of Love returns to earth. She never had the experience of dating and romance after a visit from the archangel Gabriel changed the trajectory of her life that resulted in an arranged marriage with Joseph.
Mary is committed to choosing to love on her own terms this time around, and Lucifer sees a golden opportunity to curry favor with Jesus if he successfully brokers a hookup for his mother. A team of raucous archangels has been sent to protect her, but will they be enough to keep Mary from making a deal with the devil?
Here is an exclusive excerpt:
LUCIFER made his way behind the bar, grabbed a pint glass, filled it with ice, and shot seltzer into the glass through the soda gun.
"I was thinking about how ironic your life is."
"You're the most loved woman on the planet, but you have no love to call your own. How can the very woman who has a billion people worshipping at her feet have no one to give her a foot rub after a hard shift waiting tables?"
The assessment landed like a baseball bat to the temple. Mary looked down, dejected. "Oh, boy. Looks like I'm going to need something stronger."
"I said I don't drink, Lou. That was a figure of speech."
"A Virgin Mary, perhaps? Seems appropriate, no? Or are we still going with that story?"
Mary opened her mouth and pressed her tongue behind the front tooth. "The sign on the door says 'Laugh Night' is not until Tuesday, but you're a regular comedian now in our little pub."
"So the virgin thing, you still hold that title?"
Mary looked away. "That is none of your business."
With a knowing nod from Lucifer in the direction of the rickety Wurlitzer jukebox, it sprang to life. The boozy dance of a swanky horn section and jazzy beat kicking off Dean Martin's "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" filled the room. Lou began to sing along.
You're nobody 'til somebody loves you/You're nobody 'til somebody cares/You may be king, you may possess the world, And it's gold/but gold won't bring you/Happiness when you're growing old.
Mary looked at the sign, eager to change the subject. "So, where are you going with this?"
"C'mon, ol' girl, join me in a singalong!"
"Now you're just being cruel," Mary pleaded, near tears.
With a snap of his fingers, the music stopped. "Not my intention. Sorry. Boy, I'm really getting off on the wrong foot here. Sometimes, I just don't know when to quit."
"You're on thin ice right now," Mary replied evenly. “I'm especially not in the mood at this time of year, with Lent leading up to Easter in a few weeks."
Lou frowned sympathetically. "Ah, I'm sure this time of year is tough on you."
"Everyone in this age seems all focused on the resurrection and green plastic grass from what I can see in the shop windows. I'm over here unable to get the murder of my son on the cross off my mind."
Lou nodded. "I can't imagine. What kind of contact have you had with him since he left the tomb?"
"Knock it off," Mary replied with a dismissive wave. "I know what you're trying to do here."
"You know what. Planting your seeds of doubt. Pitting me against him. It's right out of your playbook. Jesus warned me about this."
"That still haunts you, all of these years later," he replied sympathetically.
"Maybe this was a mistake," she mumbled.
"Oh, come on, we're just talking, catching up like old friends do!"
"We are not friends. We were never friends. We never met formally until a few days ago, remember? Now, if you'll excuse me."
Mary started to head to the kitchen. Lou swiveled on the barstool.
"Okay, so, here is my proposal. I could tell by the look in your eyes that the part about a long, lonely life resonated. What if I find you a partner?"
Mary stopped, keeping her back to him. "I already have a partner in this business, and that is Jophiel. Hard to beat an archangel for partnership."
"I'm not talking about that kind of partner; you know that," he replied, stepping toward her. "You are pure love, and yet you have no one to call your own. I've stood in the shadows this whole time and witnessed it after he died. You lived out the rest of your days all by yourself. Sure, you got an odd visit from a disciple checking in on you every once in a while. A bit of a sad ending after giving birth to the Son of God, no?"
"So, I have a stalker. That's supposed to give me comfort."
Lou bit his lip and nodded. "Okay, I deserved that, fair and square. But you know I'm onto something. If I can truly be Lucifer, truly be the light-bringer to the Mother of God, perhaps that is my path of redemption to the man upstairs. You get love. I get redeemed. Everybody wins."
"That's your proposal?" Mary asked incredulously.
"Not only is this a proposal, I think this is the reason we are here together at the exact same moment as this! This pattern will likely continue until you get something complete from your past, which is this lack of love for a woman so beloved as you. I'll tell ya, the way He works upstairs is something to behold, I'll give him that."
"Here we go."
Lou nodded. "Don't dismiss this out of hand. I've heard the archangels talking around you. Raphael. Gabriel. Even Jophiel. They've all suggested this to you at one time or another in the last few weeks. Why don't they use their wisdom, friendship, and counsel to help you find someone? No one knows you better than they do."
Mary's brow furrowed. "I'll think it over, but I wouldn't hold your breath that this is the ticket to your redemption. I'd keep pitching ideas if I were you."
"You'll think about it at least? I need thy help. How does that prayer go again? 'To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.’"
"That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ," Mary replied, finishing his line. "Yes, I am familiar with that prayer. I'm a bit surprised that you know it."
Lou stood up, smiling. "Again, I've been an admirer of yours for quite some time. Listen, I'll leave you alone with your thoughts. Your thoughts and Jo, of course. I'm not quite done getting this bar turned around."
"One of the things that have a great way to bring out the light that is your namesake is humility. Our bar back and morning bartender got furloughed because of the pandemic, and I still can't afford to hire them back yet. So, since you were taking that role and said you didn't need the money, I am requesting you donate all of the tips you generate. Look for the poorest families in our local community and work for them. Maybe you can also give to the local food bank by donating your time there on your nights off."
Lou rolled his head around his neck and exhaled dramatically. "These clothes don't come cheap. Charity is not my thing."
"It is now," came Jo's reply in the kitchen.
"Maybe that's been your problem all along," Mary said.
"You drive a tough bargain, woman. Let me get out of here before you have me washing the dried gum off of the Pearly Gates!"
"That's not a bad idea," Mary countered playfully.
As he strutted into the cellar to retrieve a case of beer, Jo emerged from the kitchen. She snapped the rubber gloves off of her shopworn fingers.
"I don't like this. I don't like this one bit."
"What?" Mary asked innocently.
"This weird tension between you; it's a bit flirty and sexual in nature. A bit too much so for my liking, if I can be so direct. Please don't tell me you're mixing it up with bad boys now."
"Wouldn't be the first time,” Mary replied as the blood rushed to her face.
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(The Last Temptation of Mary is available on Amazon; visit www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com for more information)