Author: Ellie O’Neill
Simon & Schuster RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

UntitledMagical realism, romance and a healthy dose of humour unite in Reluctantly Charmed, Ellie O’Neill’s debut novel. The ARC was delivered with a working cover full of quotes from the publishing team at Simon & Schuster, using words like “laugh-out loud funny”, “an absolute cracker” and “read it in one sitting”, so my first thought was, “Will this book live up to the hype?” I’m pleased to say that it did. Reluctantly Charmed is a delightful book, chock-full of whimsy, giggles, charm and a good deal of reluctance.

The reluctance is mostly courtesy of Kate McDaid, who discovers she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. However, this strange will comes with an even stranger condition – over the next seven weeks, Kate must publish seven letters. At first it seems like a lark, a bit of fun or as the Irish say, the craic (did I get that right?)… what harm could it possibly do? But as Kate’s life is turned upside down, inside out and topsy turvey, she becomes more and more reluctant to follow through and has to decide whether the consequences are worth it.

Here’s a snippet:

‘Oh come on,’ I said, exasperated. ‘Is this like Bono? The way everyone in Dublin has a Bono story – went drinking with him, danced with him, mother embarrassed him. Does everyone have a fairy story now? We’ve never talked about fairies before, ever, and now all of a sudden they’re everywhere.’ ‘Well, a lot of people do believe in them,’ Lily said, sagely.

Fairy folklore, witches, superstition and ancient prophecies – this is the world Kate finds herself swept into when she publishes the first letter. Much of Irish storytelling has its roots in fairy stories – leprechauns, selkies, banshees are just a few of the well-known figures in Irish folklore – and while belief is waning in real life, the stories linger. O’Neill taps into this rich mystical tradition through Kate’s character and story, delivering a tale that will make readers wonder … just a bit … if the fairies are out there. Early on, Kate wavers between believing “there’s always a possibility of something else out there” and thinking it’s a “load of nonsense”. I’d say she’s pretty typical and most readers will find themselves somewhere along that continuum.

Reminiscent of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes, Reluctantly Charmed is a warm and funny escapist tale that will sweep readers off with the fairies. The combination of self-deprecating humour, magical realism, romance and mystery is a winning formula for a feelgood read. You’ll have to wait until October to read it, though. A blog tour will take place in the lead up to its release and as part of it, I’ll be sharing a guest post from O’Neill. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one more snippet:

I swallowed hard, not sure where to look or what to think. I shook my head and snapped back into reality. ‘Maura, you speak like the fairies are real, like they actually exist.’ She took her gloved hands up to her mouth, and pressed tightly against it, almost biting back words. Then she took a deep breath. ‘Of course they exist,’ she whispered.

Reluctantly Charmed will be available from good bookstores. An uncorrected proof was supplied by Simon & Schuster.

Bookish treat: Fairy bread! (Do they have that in Ireland?)




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