Dancing to an Irish Reel


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Dancing to an Irish Reel


Excerpt from "Dancing to an Irish Reel"


The distance between Inverin and Clifden is approximately sixty kilometers. It’s a visually inspiring hour-long ride through undulating midlands with grass as soft as velvet, gray stone WP_20141003_011 (2).jpgwalls that split the landscape, and bubbling intermittent streams as you glide along a two-lane WP_20141003_012.jpgroad that cuts through a terrain devoid of street markers, stop signs, or any other indication the area has been previously trodden. There is little suggestion of civilization anywhere in sight and it is a quiet, unobstructed journey through the heart of Connemara with nothing in store, save for the destination of Clifden.

Driving into Clifden, one is abruptly thrust into the center of a thriving village that hosts an annual, three-day music festival wherein every pub door is invitingly open with signs outsideWP_20141005_012.jpg announcing which Irish traditional musicians will be playing within the standing-room-only venues. A rudimentary chalkboard sat on the sidewalk outside of Mannion’s Pub with “Welcome Liam Hennessey” sprawled across in large, eye-catching cursive.

I followed Liam into the middle of a waiting crowd, which parted ceremoniously as he made his way to the old man seated against the wall across from the bar. Wind-tossed and toothless, the man sat on a battered wooden chair, tuning a fiddle and nodding his greeting while Liam opened his accordion case and settled in beside him. When a flute player joined them, the crowd fell into an anticipatory hush, ready for the music to begin. I stationed myself in front of the bar, minding my own business, but that soon became short-lived.

“Are you here with Liam?” asked a middle-aged man who was standing too close to me.

“Yes.” I took a step back.

“She’s here with Liam,” the man announced, turning to the man beside him.

“Ah,” the second man gasped, “she is, so!”

“Where did you get that blond hair on your head?” The first man eyed me.

“I brought it with me from America,” I said.

“She’s from America!” The man turned to the other man, his eyes opened wide.

“America indeed!” The second man drew in his breath.

“All I want in the world is for me brother to come in and see me standing here talking to you,” said the first man. “I wouldn’t care if a pooka came for me after that. Will you have a pint? Get WP_20141005_011.jpgher a pint, Tom,” he directed.

“Tom, make that a half-pint,” I said, trying not to laugh. I looked over at an obviously amused Liam, who smiled and winked as if to say he knew what was happening.

I looked toward the door and noticed an unusually small woman walking in with what appeared to be members of her family due to their similarity in stature. I’d met her in Galway before: she was a musician named Deanna Rader who played guitar and sang anything from WP_20141007_066.jpgIrish traditional music to her own compositions. I’d heard her sing in her low, husky voice a few times before, and because she was a friend of Declan’s, I’d exchanged pleasantries with her a few times as well. From the looks of things, she was in Mannion’s with her father and two sisters. She came smiling to my side instantly.

“Well then, you’ve made your way out here now, have you?” She looked up at me.

“I came here with Liam,” I said, grateful to know someone in the crowd.

“I knew you must have. So, it’s the two of you now, is it?”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d put it that way,” I said, diverting the implication. I couldn’t recall if I’d seen Deanna while I was out with Liam, or if she asked this because she’d heard people talking.

“You’re a long way from home yourself,” I said. “Is this festival a big deal?”

“Oh God, yes. People look forward every year. Luckily my parents live in Letterfrack, just up the road. I’ve been spending the last couple of nights with them. We’ve all come ’round tonight for the craic.”

“Well, it’s nice to know someone here,” I said.

“My sister came out to sing tonight. Would you mind asking Liam if she could give us a song?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll ask him when they take a break.”

“They probably won’t do that, so you’d be waiting for ages,” Deanna said. “You’ll just have to lean over and ask, like.”

“When?” I asked.

“How about now?” she said.

“Right now?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” she smiled sweetly.

I looked over at the musicians, who were in full swing. There was no way I was going to butt in, even though Deanna kept standing there looking up at me expectantly. Just then, a man at the bar stepped forward enthusiastically. He leaned into the musicians circle, grabbed Liam by the arm, and shouted loudly, “The young lady here wants to give us a song.” With that, the music came to a screeching halt, and a whirlwind of preparation commenced. Liam leaned over and whispered to the two musicians beside him, instruments were set down, a microphone was raised, a path spontaneously cleared, and into the arena stepped Deanna’s sister. It was like the infamous scene of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.

There was a hush in the room as all eyes riveted upon the girl. She stood all of five foot two, but within that minuscule framework there was a lot going on: thick, raven hair fell in loose waves across her forehead and down her back. Large green oval eyes slanted and squinted catlike beneath thick, dark lashes. Turn by turn, her eyes focused and held one man in the room after another. She stood with her right hand on her hip and her voluptuous weight shifted to the left. With great histrionics, she crooned out a song in the Irish language I’d never heard before. When she finally stopped, she sashayed over to Liam, totally aware everybody was watching. With grand theatrics, she threw both her arms around his neck and kissed him square on the mouth, nearly knocking him over with her forward advance. All hands in the room clapped loudly, wolf whistles erupted, and a few eyes turned my way.

“I imagine you’d have something to say about this passionate display,” said Deanna’s father, who had materialized beside me.

“Not really,” I said. “Do you?”

“You have to watch that one is all. She’ll be the death of me one day, he said, cocking his head toward her.

“I hope not,” I said.

“No harm done then?”

“No harm at all,” I said.


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Reviews of "Dancing to an Irish Reel"

Reviewed by Carla Trueheart for Readers' Favorite

Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton tells the story of Hailey, an American who lands a job at a music centre in Ireland. Hailey helps local musicians organize their careers at the music centre, but she also has friends at the centre as well. Throughout the story, Hailey helps her friends, she thrives in the culture and landscape of Ireland, and she relays the beautiful land and the residents of Ireland through introspection, providing insight about the many people she meets. The heart of the story, however, is Liam, a shy and withdrawn musician who steals Hailey's heart. Hailey is confused by Liam's behavior, and the two find they are similar in the ways they avoid talking to each other and telling each other how they truly feel.

Sometimes an author connects with their subject so well that it is evident in the story. Author Claire Fullerton gives many details of Irish life and culture, and the reader does feel very much inside the Irish landscape, hearing the voices of Irish residents, and breathing in the fresh Irish air. There is much to like in Dancing to an Irish Reel, from the inner thoughts of Hailey to the budding romance between Hailey and Liam. I would have loved a little more spark between the two, but my take is that the book was more about Hailey's journey in Ireland than her Irish romance. I enjoyed the little scenes that captured the magic of Ireland, such as the Tarot card reader and the unique music. The dialogue was spot on for the area, and I did enjoy the many characters and their interactions with Hailey. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a relaxed, sit back and read book, and is recommended to those who like stories with light romance and cultural commentary.

A beautiful dance of the heart.

5 of 5 stars


By  C. J. Anaya Author of The Healer Series

April 6, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

The first impression I received as I eagerly delved into this book is Claire Fullerton has the heart of a poet. Her prose flowed so sweetly and succinctly that I was never once thrown out of the beautiful narrative which slowly unfolded. She has this innate ability to broach a subject in a way that is truly original in nature.

For example, the main character, Hailey, is wondering about her chance encounter with Liam Hennesey and instead of simply saying, "Hey, must have been fate, dontcha know." She puts it this way.

"I found it interesting that fate had provided the chance encounter. It seemed to me that if we, in our human frailty, didn't have the courage to take care of business, then the powers that be intervened seemingly by chance."

Or this beautiful piece describing musicians.

"There is a secret language musicians speak that does away with the need for articulation because it is intuitive and telepathic at its core...I felt as if I were in an insular bubble, privy to the secret internal mechanisms of a musician's rarified gift..."

As a musician it was interesting to see the perspective of a nonmusician, and to realize that she had hit the nail on the head. There are certain ways I associate, relate, and converse with people who understand music the way I do and who are as enthusiastic about the process as I am. This story touched my heart in a way that no other story has in a very long time.

I felt an added investment in the book due to my Irish ancestry and my total lack of knowledge on the subject. The idiosyncrasies of rural Ireland's culture was something I found fascinating, and how Hailey navigated that as an American was a journey I enjoyed taking. I learned just as much about myself in relation to Ireland as she did. A journey of discovery, really, and I couldn't be happier to have been a part of it.

The dynamics between Liam and Hailey were both exhilarating and frustrating simply because it was obvious he loved her, but he was woefully incapable of letting Hailey see it. I felt just as exasperated with him as she did, but it moved the story forward and added to that element of self-discovery that I felt so drawn towards. I'm not a fan of how it ended, though it couldn't have possibly ended any other way. I am all about closure, and this left so many questions unanswered, but I sincerely hope that means there will be more for Liam and Hailey in the future because I would dive into that story too.

We are gifted with a beautiful piece of poetry at the end that left me feeling a bit choked up. Bad timing for me, considering I had to go pick up my kids from school and transition myself from moved-and-inspired-by-poetry to crazed-mommy-the-cheauffer.

Claire Fullerton wrote a beautiful piece that will pique the interest of anyone fond of Irish history, romance and the intricacies of human relationships.


Ellen Comeskey's review

5 of 5 stars

Mar 04, 2015

My favorite kind of book is one where I feel like the narrator is speaking only to me, and "Dancing to an Irish Reel" is just that! Reading this book had me feeling like I was sitting talking to a friend; its tone is so immediately intimate as the narrator, Hailey Crossan, tells her story that I didn't feel the need to interrupt by asking questions about this American's spell binding experience in rural Ireland!

A short, crisp prologue tells us with plausibility how the narrator came to leave Los Angeles and make her home on Ireland's west coast. From the first engaging chapter, we are given a vivid sense of place as we are introduced to both Galway City, where Hailey works at the Galway Music Center, and the countryside of Connemara, where she makes her home. Both settings are painted cleverly in a manner tha

Twenty five year old Hailey Crossan is a savvy, insightful, fish out of water who has the kind of self-confidence to move to a new country without knowing a soul. She quickly surrounds herself with a group of Irish friends who are instrumental to the building story, for when she meets an intriguing musician named Liam Hennessey, who is clearly interested in her but has a funny way of showing it, they are by her side with their running commentary, which is often times funny and always revealing of how the Irish conduct themselves in a nuanced culture that Hailey is trying to understand.

At the heart of "Dancing to an Irish Reel" is the potential for new love, and the reader is lured along its uncertain development by being privy to exactly what Hailey is thinking as Liam Hennessey sends out mixed signals in his awkward courtship. I found myself laughing out loud at the dynamic's accuracy in this realistic portrayal of an attraction that keeps the narrator guessing and has no guarantee.

But "Dancing to an Irish Reel" is also a lyrically written story. Its language is fluid and beautifully descriptive with laser sharp intelligence and pacing without any gaps. It reads like a celebration of hope, youth, friendship, and discovery as the narrator confidentially shares her longing to connect and her awestruck appreciation for all that is Irish. From the portrayal of the landscape to the character of Ireland's people, it is an outsider's travelogue experienced through the heart and a rollicking good time all at once!


Alison Henderson's review  

5 of 5 stars

Mar 03, 2015                                  

This delightful novel reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction. In truth, it is a love song to the landscape, people, culture, and language of western Ireland. The author has perfectly captured the complex, and sometimes confusing, subtlety of the Irish people in the cadences and patterns of their language.

The characters are well-drawn, quirky, and unique. The story follows Hailey, a young American, as she navigates a maybe on/maybe off relationship with an Irish musician who struggles with the meaning and implication of falling in love. The author depicts the uncertainties and push/pull of their budding attraction with wisdom and sensitivity.

The carefully crafted descriptions of the settings, both natural and man-made, are so vivid you feel as if you're sitting in the village pubs listening to traditional Irish music along with the characters. If you've ever been to Ireland, reading Dancing to an Irish Reel will take you back in a heartbeat; if you haven't yet had that pleasure, this book serves as a tantalizing appetizer.

A Story of Romance in Western Ireland

5.0 out of 5 stars


March 13, 2015

By Andy 

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Claire Fullerton's writing style is clear and succinct. She develops her story of a young L.A. music professional finding her feet in Galway City and Connemara. She captures the uniquely Irish atmosphere and psyche to perfection. A really good read, I enjoyed the story. I also enjoyed the small touches like waving good mornin' to the Bus Eirean drivers on the country roads around Galway City. The other reviewers have dealt with the minutiae of the love entanglement quite adequately. A page turner without doubt.

A book comes along that lures you to remember what it's like to be adventurous

5.0 out of 5 stars


March 7, 2015

By Sandra Peckinpah 

Format:Kindle Edition

Once in awhile, a book comes along that lures you to remember what it's like to be adventurous, free, and at the cusp of self-discovery. Claire Fullerton is a skilled and passionate writer who beautifully marries the culture and elements of Ireland with a romantic story that intimately connects us to the lead character, Hailey Crossan. Hailey is a young woman at a crossroads in her life when she boldly turns her back on the soulless landscape of the music business in Los Angeles to embark on a quest to re-awaken her passion for music, love, and most of all, herself. It is an impassioned, uplifting read that set my own dreams on fire!


The Bookbag in the UK

Sue Magee

Hailey was on a sabbatical from her job in the music business in Los Angeles and taking the holiday of a lifetime to Ireland, when she walked into the Galway Music Centre and found a job which she simply couldn't turn down. She also found a home in a local village, a liking for the rural life and a man whom she could love. Liam Hennessy was a talented accordion player: music was his life and whilst he was more attracted to Hailey than he had ever been to another woman it wasn't entirely clear whether 'love' could ever be on the cards for him.

I didn't intend to read this book: I opened it with the intention of getting an idea about which of the Bookbag reviewers might find it interesting. I read a few pages - and then a few pages more, purely in the interests of research, of course and then it was obvious who was going to review the book. I rather surprised myself - you see, I usually enjoy a plot-driven book - preferably a police procedural - and Dancing to an Irish Reel is very much about character and location. It's also about the quality of the writing, which is superb.

Claire Fullerton perfectly captures the Irish voice and neatly - through the ears of an American coming to terms with Irish phraseology and the lilt of the language - lets the voices sing in your ears as you read.  Too often I've seen the Irish dialect degenerate into caricature or the suggestion of a lesser person, but Fullerton never comes anywhere near the trap: these are real, intelligent people with valid hopes and aspirations - and living a good life. All the characters come sharply to life: Hailey and Liam are centre stage but they don't dominate the story. I was particularly taken with Adrian, who 'volunteers' at the music centre, occasionally seems to be a bit of a nuisance, but is actually a very talented poet. At the other end of the likeability scale there's Declan, who runs the centre, but lacks the backbone to face up to problems.

Liam Hennessy is probably the most intriguing character: good looking and talented he nevertheless has almost no experience with women. He's not against having a relationship - it seems that he simply lacks the ability to organise and engage in one. The interaction between Liam and Hailey is well done, with both of them not being quite prepared to take the step forward which might bring them together. It felt very real.

There's a real feel for Ireland too - the weather and the countryside. I loved the thought that heaven would be Ireland with Los Angeles weather, but hell would be LA with Irish weather. For a book which I didn't expect to read, I thought it was particularly enjoyable and I'd like to thank the author for arranging for a copy to be sent to me.