The Pub Across the Pond

The Pub Across the Pond

4.3 16
by Mary Carter, To be Announced

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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

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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. . .

Praise for Mary Carter's My Sister's Voice

"At once a story about love and loss, family and friends, the world of the hearing and that of the deaf, My Sister's Voice satisfies on many levels." —Holly Chamberlin, author of The Family Beach House

"Gripping, entertaining and honest. This is a unique, sincere story about the invisible, unbreakable bonds of sisterhood that sustain us no matter how far they're buried." —Cathy Lamb, author of Henry's Sisters

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After the McBride sisters' Uncle Joe wins the family pub from their gambling-addict brother Ronan in a poker match, the sisters create a sweepstakes as a way of keeping their scheming uncle from turning the pub into a tanning salon. When adrift 30-year-old Cleveland, Oh. resident Carlene Rivers wins, creating a local media storm, no one expects her to actually accept ownership. But she does, leaving the Midwest and heading to Ballybeog, a small fictional town "out in the bogs" of Ireland off Galway. Carlene feels an intense attachment to Ireland—"Welcome home" says the voice in her head as she descends into Shannon—and the Irish accent makes her swoon. Though she's a "people-pleaser," she's drawn to bad boys, and finds herself immediately attracted to black sheep Ronan, and he to her. But circumstances conspire to keep them apart, perhaps so that Carlene can deal with a few demons of her own. Carter cleverly urges the reader to root for Carlene to hook up with bad catch Ronan, but this story is most deeply rooted in Carlene's own self-discovery. As Carlene to Irish accents, so goes Carter to Irish clichés, but beyond them lies a fun, quirky read. (Oct.)

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Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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The Pub Across the Pond



Copyright © 2011 Mary Carter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5336-1

Chapter One


Going Gaga

"She was the most beautiful bride ever," Katie says. She clasps her hands and holds them over her heart. She's the youngest of the six McBride girls, or the half dozen, as they're known around Ballybeog. At six foot, she's also the tallest. Even her brother Ronan only has a few inches on her. She was born last, born tall, and born almost blond. Of all the names given to her hair color—cornflake, strawberry blond, dirty blond—it's actually honey that fits it best. Honey-colored hair that's more often than not in tangles. She was a devoted practicer of bedhead before it became a sexy trend.

Hopeless romantic, they call Katie. Katie agrees with all but the hopeless bit. She likes to think of herself as an optimist, even if it's only true about 10 percent of the time. She's twenty years of age, but nobody thinks of Katie McBride as grown-up, least of all herself. She looks around the pub, demanding an audience. Guests are still piling in, shedding their winter coats, revealing long satin dresses that will shimmer when the ladies dance and smartly pressed suits the men only wear for weddings and wakes. Women discreetly slip off their heels and massage their toes, men loosen their ties, their belts, and their wallets, and then finally their tongues. The band is lively and drunk. They've yet to start playing.

"A fairy tale," Katie adds, with a loud sigh.

"Only you would call that ordeal a fairy tale," Siobhan says, slapping her handbag on the counter and eyeing me. She thinks that one sultry look from her will be enough to send me running. And let me tell ye something. It works. Siobhan's the oldest, the only redhead of the sisters, and practical about most things, especially love. In trounces the other four McBride girls, and whether by habit or coincidence, they sit down in order of their birth. From youngest to oldest it goes: Katie, Sarah, Liz, Clare, Anne, and Siobhan.

At the end of the bar, and no relation to the girls, sits Riley, whose real age is a bit of a mystery all right, but he's at least a thousand years old in drinking age, and more of a fixture at Uncle Jimmy's than the stool he's perched on. He leans in conspiratorially and winks at the girls.

"So?" he says. "What was the result?" Even I move in to hear the answer.

"The result?" Katie says. "Why, what a way to put it."

"Did the groom flee the scene?" a voice calls from the doorway. Laughter rolls forth, I must admit, even from me. Ah, but there's no harm in it, we all love the bride.

"It 'twasn't him that flew out of the church, it 'twas her," another voice adds. The laughter doubles, and there are a few cheers, mostly from the women. Katie has her audience now. Her broad smile is lit from underneath by one of the dozen tea candles that float the length of the bar like lilies on a pond.

Into the mix slips a young German man. He looks like a student. He's wearing denim trousers and a striped sweater, and he has an oversized backpack strapped to him. In his right hand, he holds a long piece of rope. Just about enough to hang yourself with. We don't have too many high bridges around these parts, so students under stress get creative. He stands sideways at the edge of the bar like a puppy trying to squeeze himself into another's litter. He orders a pint of Guinness. The chin-wagging momentarily halts, partly so I can take care of him, partly because everyone wants to ask him about the fecking rope but we're all too fecking polite. In addition to his pint, he orders a shot of whiskey, then another shot of whiskey, then another shot of whiskey. He drinks them without ever letting go of the rope.

"Woman trouble?" I ask him. When you're holding rope, no use taking the long way to the point. The young man nods. I pour him another whiskey. Everyone is looking at him. He has a square jaw, high cheekbones, and black eyelashes so thick that even I notice. It looks like two daddy longlegs superglued themselves just below his bushy eyebrows. His hair is fair and cropped short, and in the dim light of the pub I can't really tell what color his eyes are. Dark, I would say they are dark, all right. Dark eyes for a dark horse. Now that I look at him, I would've pegged him as a wrist cutter or a jumper. Just goes to show, you never know, do ye?

"I love Lady Gaga," the German says as if it's just occurred to him. His voice fills our little pub. He puts his hand over his heart. "When I see Lady Gaga, everything is all right." I nod and smile, the two biggest tools of the trade. A tear comes into his eye—looks like we've got a squaller. Alcohol affects everyone differently. Some people get in fights, some take off their clothes and knock boots with strangers, others have a good cry. When it comes to the ladies, I prefer the ones who like to lose their knickers, but not as much as I hate seeing a grown man cry.

"Some days, Lady Gaga is the only reason I don't hang myself," yer man continues.

"Well, here's another reason for ye," I say, setting another pint in front of him. I turn to Katie and whisper, "Who's Lady Gaga?" Katie tells me she's a singer and turns back to the suicidal student. She starts introducing everyone in the entire pub. It takes a while, especially when she starts saying where they live and who their young ones are, and gives a quick update on the status of their occupations, hobbies, living situations, health, recent deaths, births, or graduations, and lastly an update on their romantic entanglements. When she's done the suicidal student looks all glassy-eyed, blinks his spider lashes slowly, and he tells us his name is The David. That's how he says it, all right.

"I am The David."

"Boy George thinks Lady Gaga is weird," Sarah says out of nowhere. Sarah's an avid reader, always has the latest tabloid clutched in her hand. The David looks stricken. "After one of his concerts she asked him to sign her vagina," Sarah continues. "He signed her hat instead."

"Are you on holiday, then?" Siobhan asks the man.

"University," The David said. I knew it, but I keep my gob shut. A humble man eats more pie.

"Galway?" I ask. The David nods.

"But now I'm thinking of killing myself," he says. None of us are surprised, but we do a good job of hiding it. Most of us anyway. Riley is too old to hide anything. He points at the rope.

"I think it's a bit too short to do the job," he says. "If ye like, I've got a bigger piece that'll do ye."

"D'mind him," Katie says. "We'll sort ye out."

"Cheer up, things will get worse," Siobhan says.

"Just keep thinking of Lady Gaga's vagina," I say. "Shite. I mean her hat." The David nods, but tightens the grip on his rope. I don't know what it is, but I'm starting to like this lad.

"Why do you want to kill yourself?" Liz asks.

"He already told us," Anne says. "Woman trouble."

"You think you have woman trouble," Sarah says. "Try growing up with these five."

"D'mind her," Katie says. "Never give up on love. Ever. Do you hear? We have a love story that might cheer you up."

"Ah, bollix," Riley says. He bangs his pint on the bar. Beer sloshes over the edge.

"Mind your pint," I say. "Yer wastin' resources." Riley lowers his head and hides his face behind his Guinness.

"Which love story are ye on about?" Liz pipes in.

"Is there more than one?" The David asks.

"Depends how you look at it," Liz says. "Right?" Like all good middle children, she and her fraternal twin, Clare, are dutiful, exact, and the self-appointed diplomats of the lot. Always mad to get the details right. In other words, right pains in the arse.

"I've been married forty-six years," Riley said. "Now that's love."

"Not when you've spent forty-five of them sitting right here," I say. Riley pretends he didn't hear me and turns to The David.

"Would you look after a woman for forty-six years?" Riley asks.

"I wouldn't look after you for forty-six minutes," Anchor says. I turn, startled. He's sitting in the mix, drinking his pint, happy as a clam. He's such a big man, it's hard to figure how half the time I forget he's there.

"Forty-six years," The David says politely. "What's your secret?"

"Even if you come home intoxicated, always come home with something for her," Riley says. The David nods.

"The clap doesn't count," Anchor says. I shush him with a look. You can't let the young lads get too fresh, even if they aren't so young anymore, and even though Riley's too hard of hearing to cop on to the slag. I too wonder when the last time was that Riley brought something home for the missus, but once again I keep my gob shut.

"Can we get back to our love story, like?" Clare says.

"Better get us another pint, then," Anchor says. He holds up his glass, which is half-full by my account, but of course when it comes to the pint, most lads around here say it's half-empty. By the time he takes his last sup, he'll be expecting a new one. I'm happy to oblige.

"Get us all one," Anne says.

"I'll just have a mineral," Liz says.

"Good girl," I say.

"Good girl?" Anne says. "She downed seven glasses of champagne before the bride walked down the aisle."

"Walked the plank is more like it," Sarah says. The girls all laugh at the same time. I've got to tell you, when they all go at once, they'd bounce the bubbles out of a glass of champagne. I can't imagine Ballybeog without the half dozen. Sometimes I feel lucky just to be in their presence, and I realize there are millions of people who will never meet these girls, never hear them laugh at the same time, and I can't help but think, those poor fucking bastards.

"I only drank six glasses," Liz says when their laughter ebbs. "The first one never counts."

"I'll drink hers," Sarah says.

"Why are ye all here?" Riley says. He looks bewildered, as if he's just awoken from a long nap.

"We're waiting for the bride," Clare reminds him. I set down a fresh round of pints. "From the beginning, pet," I say.

"I just want to drink in peace," Riley says. A collective "Shut yer gob" rises from behind him. The crowd moves in even closer. After all, besides the whiskey, and the beer, and the music, and the games, and the races, and the rain, this is why we gather. We gather after weddings. We gather after wakes. Saint Stephen's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Saturday. Monday through Friday. Sunday after mass. We come to celebrate. Birthdays. Births. We come for gossip. We come on rainy days, we come on sunny days. Cloudy days too, plenty of those. And don't forget windy days, and calm days, and slightly breezy days. Terrific storms. The calms before. Squalls. Wives sometimes come to drag husbands home. A few come to sip tea and listen to the music. But most of all, we gather for this, the stories. There's nothing we love more than a good story. And so far, this is not one of them.

"What're you on about over there?" Mike Murphy, the local guard (that's police officer to you Yanks) and banjo player, asks. He's warming up his instrument in his left hand while holding his pint in his right.

"A love story," The David says.

"Right, right," Murphy says. "Time for our break." He motions to the rest of the band, and they join our little cluster.

Katie looks at her sisters. "I'm not sure where to start," she says.

"Start where all good love stories begin," Siobhan says.

"Paris?" The David asks.

"Rome?" someone else ventures. "Venice? Las Vegas?"

"No," Siobhan says. "With a good woman and a fucked-up man."

Chapter Two

The Fucked-up Man

Ronan McBride leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. His right foot continuously tapped the ground, funneling all the energy in his body through his bouncing leg. He gripped his cards underneath the table. Across from him, Uncle Joe reclined in his chair. His right leg was crossed over his left, a cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, and he held his cards loosely in front of him, like a fan. The friendly game of poker, five-card draw, was going on its thirteenth hour.

In the beginning there were two tables of ten players. Around one A.M. it dwindled to one table of ten. As men lost, they smoked their last cigarette, swallowed the dregs of their pints, and stayed to watch. Nobody dared go home. Not when Ronan McBride and his uncle Joe were still at the table. Not when they could recoup some of their losses by betting on who was going to take the pot, and certainly not when the pot was up to fifteen thousand. Ronan was a bigger gambler, but Joe, a businessman and a teetotaler, was well suited to take him on. It was hard to believe they were related. Joe ran the general shop next door and hardly ever set foot in the pub.

In the center of the table, crumpled bills lay on top of each other like a massive pileup in a rugby game. They were out of cash and had switched to using bingo chips. It was never supposed to get up this high—it was five thousand when it came down to the two of 'em, and Joe was willing to keep the pot as it was, but Ronan had to push it.

Ronan tossed his faded yellow chip into the pot. "Twenty thousand," he said. He could feel his mates behind him: a chorus of shuffles, and grunts, and murmurs. He wanted to yell at them to shut their pieholes, but he didn't want to give anything away. He had four aces. Two on the deal, and two more sweet babies on the draw. It was a sure winner. He almost felt sorry for his uncle. Not sorry enough to stop. Uncle Joe had never given him a break, had never given his father a break, argued with him over the property until the day their da died, and even after, even at his father's wake, Joe was still onto Ronan to sell him the pub. He never understood his father's love of the drink, or the craic, or even the money that could be made from a pub.

Joe gave Jimmy grief over every twig or stone that landed on his side of the property line. He reported infractions to the guards every chance he got. His mother thought Uncle Joe had driven his father straight to the grave. Besides the drinking, and the smoking, and the fact that he never turned down a good feed, she was probably right; Joe was the one left standing.

But Ronan would take his father's short, boisterous life over his uncle's nervous, plodding existence any day. And he had four aces. No, he wouldn't feel sorry for Joe, not after his crass comments at his father's wake. He could still feel Joe's arm around him, his breath stinking of tea. He wouldn't even drink a pint to the oul fella.

"What are you going to do now, lad?" Joe said at the wake. Ronan looked at his pint, held it up by way of an answer. "I mean about the pub," Joe said. "I can take it off your hands." And then, by God if he didn't start in on turning the pub into a spa with sunbeds. Sunbeds. At his own brother's wake. Sunbeds, in fecking Ireland.

That's the beauty of it, Joe said. Pale, sun-deprived, Irish women would go mental over it. They'd be millionaires. Bally beog had enough pubs. Uncle Joe had been thinking about this for a while. He'd purchased one sunbed, and it had been sitting in the back of his truck for months. Ronan told him he should just drive it directly to these sun-deprived women, whoever they were, but Joe said he didn't have the time, and besides, he needed a place for the sunbeds; one wouldn't make a profit, but think what he could do with twenty!

Like Ronan was going to let his father's pub become a roasting pit for the sun-obsessed. If they wanted the sun, they should move out of fecking Ireland. Besides, sunbeds gave you cancer. Ronan lit another cigarette and waited for Uncle Joe to react to his raise. Uncle Joe would take his sweet old time, as always. Ronan glanced with disgust at the overflowing ashtray. He smoked too much, he always smoked too many fags when he played cards. Declan quietly moved in, cleared the empty pint glasses, and replaced the ashtrays. Thanks be to God, Ronan didn't want to look at the evidence, not stacked up against Joe's little cuppa tea.

Four aces. Four aces. Four aces.


Excerpted from The Pub Across the Pond by MARY CARTER Copyright © 2011 by Mary Carter. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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