The story of a young woman going off and finding love in Ireland (or Scotland, or England) is a popular one. We all love those attractive accented men. The reverse, however, is a bit more rare, but that’s what we find in Straight Up, a story in Deirdre Martin’s world that follows an Irish family who owns a pub in New York.
Liam O’Brien had a bit of a wild youth, and as a result he narrowly missed getting mixed up in the Irish mob. His little involvement has still warranted a death threat against him, so to protect him his family he sends him to their hometown of Ballycraig, Ireland. There he tends bar at the local pub and waits until it’s safe to go home. While he’s there, though, he meets “The McCafferty” – Aislinn, a feisty sheep farmer whose shell hardened after an embarrassing on-the-altar breakup during her wedding. Liam, being a cocky Yank, bets his boss he can soften her up.
Aislinn, of course, starts out wanting none of him, but is eventually won over by his persistence and quiet understanding of her pain; In addition to publicly losing her fiancé, both her parents died recently. Of course the bet becomes public, but what this story is really about is two people who have roots in two different places—Aislinn in Ballycraig and her family’s sheep farm and Liam at his family’s pub in New York.
I didn’t like Aislinn when I first met her. I understood that she’d be prickly and feisty and not taking any bull from anyone, but sometimes she crossed the line to downright hostile. As the story developed we got to know her better and see the softness underneath, but it wasn’t a good first impression. That said, she does have a sharp wit that had me laughing. She also had such an authentic voice. I could hear the lilt. It’s not often that as soon as one person starts speaking—or even narrating—that their accent picks up in my head; Aislinn’s brogue was so real, it added such strength to her characterization and the storytelling.
One of the things I liked about this book is that it surprised me. The bet is standard trope that creates a conflict you can see a mile away. But it didn’t dominate the book; as I said, the story isn’t about a guy who makes a mistake and wins his girl back. It’s more complex than that, and dealt with a very real issue in relationships. To be honest, the book could have gotten rid of the bet plot altogether and little would have changed.
This is the second book by Deirdre Martin in this series that I’ve read and reviewed. While the first one’s conclusion left me unsatisfied, I enjoyed this book. Based on the two I’ve read, Ms. Martin writes stories about real people in real relationships, which is refreshing in a world of fantastical plot set-ups and contrived conflicts.