Book Excerpt: The Pub Across the Pond by Mary Carter

THE PUB ACROSS THE POND, by Mary Carter, Kensington, 336 pp., $10.95.

“Sometimes leaving home is the only way to find where you belong….”

Carlene Rivers is many things. Dutiful, reliable, kind. Lucky? Not so much. At thirty, she’s living a stifling existence in Cleveland, Ohio. Then one day, Carlene buys a raffle ticket. The prize: a pub on the west coast of Ireland. Carlene is stunned when she wins. Everyone else is stunned when she actually goes.

As soon as she arrives in Ballybeog, Carlene is smitten, not just by the town’s beguiling mix of ancient and modern but by the welcome she receives. In this small town near Galway Bay, strife is no stranger, strangers are family, and no one is ever too busy for a cup of tea or a pint. And though her new job presents challenges–from a meddling neighbor to the pub’s colorful regulars–there are compensations galore. Like the freedom to sing, joke, and tell stories and, in doing so, find her own voice. And in her flirtation with Ronan McBride, the pub’s charming, reckless former owner, she just may find the freedom to follow where impulse leads and trust her heart–and her luck–for the very first time.

BOOK EXCERPT:

Prologue
Declan
The Greatest Love Story Ever told in Ballybeog

It was the greatest love story ever told in Ballybeog when everyone was drunk, but nobody wanted to go home, and all other great love stories had been told.

Name’s Declan, but I’ll answer to most anything as long as yer thirsty and polite, and in that order. Ah, say nothin’ until you hear more. I’ve been a publican at Uncle Jimmy’s going on twenty years now. Most days it’s good ole craic, but sometimes when you’re a publican, you’ve gotta be a bags. I wasn’t sure Carlene Rivers, the Yankee Doodle Dandee who won the pub, had that in her. She had sweet written all over her, and I hate to say it, but girls like that always seem to attract the wrong kind of lads. I’ve seen many a sweet lass get the guy of their dreams, only to watch them turn into their worst nightmares. Over time their men belly up to the bar more than they do the bedroom. Because the Irishmen who “do”, usually don’t hang around here. And Ronan McBride was no exception.

Nobody thought the lad would ever settle down. There are three kinds of Irish men. Those who do, those who don’t, and those who say they might but probably won’t. Ronan McBride was the latter. He was thirty-three years of age but still hadn’t worked out his boyish ways. I don’t know why nature makes those marriage-phobic-men so alluring to the women, a course, no one would disagree that he was the best looking man in the family, and I’m not just saying that because he was the only man in the family. His father James McBride (or Uncle Jimmy as he was known around here), had passed, God rest his soul, leaving Ronan, his mother, and six sisters to run the McBride family pub. In heavenly retrospect, I bet James wishes he would’ve just left the pub to the girls; it would have been an insult to his only and eldest son all right, but as I said, sometimes when you’re a publican, you’ve gotta be a bags.

As the song goes, Ronan was a rambler and a gambler, although he was never a long way from home. I can’t tell you what it was that made the birds go absolutely mental over him, except he was over six feet and had all his hair. Let’s just say he had his pick of chickens in our little town, not to mention a hen or two who would’ve liked to sink their beaks into him.

But it was Carlene who got folks to whispering that maybe, just maybe, our terminal bachelor might mend his wayward ways. There was something in the air whenever those two were in the same room. A bit of a spark you might say, especially when they were arguing. Yep, things certainly hummed when they lit into each other, and for anyone watching it was great craic. Although we worried about Sally Collins, of course, she’d been absolutely lovesick over that boy her entire life. Still, it did me good to see that beautiful Yankee bird come into town and shake up his world, and my money was on her from the beginning.

But despite cheering the lass on, I understood Ronan’s terror. For some, there’s nothing more frightening than love, except maybe running out of ale. I was like him meself, one of the Irishman who don’t. And let me tell you, many are the nights when I’ve regretted it. Cold, long, rainy nights when I’m lying in bed and I close my eyes and some skirt that I chased when I was a younger lad comes skipping into my dream, all pretty, and bouncy, and smelling nice, only to start giving me shit for letting her go. Worse than the terrors, those dreams. I’ve known Ronan since he was a squaller, and I didn’t want him to make the same mistakes I did. I used to say, ‘What’s for you, won’t pass you’, but I know it’s a lie. I let them pass me. I always thought there’d be more time.

I’m in me seventies now, and it’s probably too late for me. I’m a scrawny looking thing with black wire glasses and I’ve a tuft of silver bird nest sitting on me head, but I’ve been told I still have a right nice smile, (even if they’re not all me original teeth), and believe it when I tell ye I got me share of tiddly-winks back in the day. I’m not much over 5’5 which I read in some touristy-type book is average for an Irishman. The average Irishman, according to this book, is 5’5, drinks four cups of tea a day, has 1.85 kids, and spends three euros a day on alcohol. I don’t know where the writer of these so-called facts was getting his information, but it sure t’wasn’t here, cuz some of our lads spend five euros an hour on the black stuff. That’s a pint of Guinness for you blow-ins.

To make a long story short, I’m just your average Joe Soap. I make up for it in other departments if you know what I mean. Ah, but this story isn’t about me or my regrets, so I hope you can put away all lurid thoughts of my national endowments. If you want to take that matter up on a one-to-one basis, and it goes without saying that you have to be a good-looking bird, then you can Facebook me. I didn’t join the fecking thing until the pub went up for raffle in America, but now that I’m on it, I reckon I might as well make the most of it. On that note, if anyone has an extra goat to give away, I’m on that farming game and I can’t seem to get a fecking goat no matter what I do, so send me one, so, if you please.
To make a long story short, we were a nice, quiet town until that fecking raffle went viral. That means a lot of people on the internet saw it. The tickets were sold in Irish festivals all over America, and they went for twenty-dollars apiece. Everyone and their mother wanted to win a pub in Ireland. And if Carlene’s mother looks anything like her daughter, I would’ve gone for a mother-daughter combo, but the Young Yank came on her own. And in the wink of an eye, our quiet little town weren’t so quiet n’more.

Situated on the West Coast of Ireland, we’re nestled on the edge of Galway Bay. We might be small, but we’re mighty. Close enough to Galway City we only need to follow the scent of heather and lager along the coast to lay our fingers on her thriving pulse, but tucked far enough away that until that fecking raffle, we didn’t get too many blow-ins.

We’ll call our little village, Ballybeog, or in Irish, Baile Béag, which means “Little Center”. I picked it because it sounds pleasant and Irish-y and because nobody in their right minds wants me to use its real name. Not out of shame, mind you, but for fear of being over-run by Americans like what happened in Dingle when the dolphin showed up. Nothing can ruin a sweet little village faster than a gaggle of Americans tracking down their “Irish roots” with their iPhones and dodgy laminated diagrams of supposed family trees.

Regardless, everyone will be treated as if they’re welcome at the McBride family pub. This is the place to be. Drink away your troubles, catch up with the locals, watch a horse race, listen to traditional Irish music, play a game of pool, or darts, or cards, and see how much better life treats ye after a nice pint. Or two. Or twelve. Nobody keeps count except the Americans. Right now the place is jammers. We’re waiting on a bride. So let me tend to my other customers now, but doncha worry. I’ll check back to see how you’re doing, or freshen your pint. And if you get half a mind to be neighborly, don’t forget to send me a fecking goat.

– Excerpt from The Pub Across the Pond by Mary Carter.  Visit the author’s website at www.marycarterbooks.com.

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