In brief: Kate McDaid is your usual, everyday Irish girl until she discovers that her ancestor (who was a witch) has bequeathed her a mystery item. To receive it, all she has to do is publish seven letters. Easy, right?
The good: Kate’s a character who is very easy to relate to. Her quirks and experiences while publishing the letters are fun and a pleasure to read.
The not-so-good: There was a dark twist towards the end that I wasn’t expecting.
Why I chose it: Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the copy and involvement in this blog tour.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reluctantly Charmed is one of the most unique novels I’ve read for a very long time. It’s fiction, combined with history and tradition and a sprinkling of magic. It’s funny, sunny and turns very serious at a point, reflecting on some of the questions humans have been asking for centuries – who or what is to be believed in? Do witches, magic and fairies exist?
The story starts out quite normally – Kate is a 26 year old woman in Dublin with man problems and a job that seems to be a bit of a dead end. She gives us some hilarious commentary about how everyone in Dublin seems to know everyone somehow and the endless possibilities to offend someone because their great aunt used to play tennis with your grandmother’s best friend and then Kate finds out she’s been left an inheritance by her great times four aunt, also Kate McDaid. It’s not an ordinary inheritance though – to get the unidentified inheritance, she must publish seven letters, or Steps, weekly. Kate thinks it’s all a bit of a laugh, especially as the first step seems harmless. So she publishes it on the forgotten website of the Space Monkeys (the former band of the object of her affection, Jim). What Kate didn’t think about was the ability of the internet to hype everything up and soon she’s a celebrity, complete with paparazzi and an anorak-wearing fan club. She’s being asked to use her influence to get David Hasselhoff to star in an ad campaign, people are sending her things and she’s being followed down to the corner shop. But the final step is different from the rest – will Kate take the risk and publish, or will she devastate her followers?
I found Reluctantly Charmed to be a quirky book with hidden depths. Ellie O’Neill’s writing grew stronger with each chapter and the climax was a tricky one to accomplish, but she nailed it. As the tone of the novel grew darker in shades, I found myself rethinking what I had badged as light fiction. Each step deals with rethinking the way we live and slowing down our busy lives. It’s about appreciating what’s around you. Nature is a strong theme here and respecting the natural surrounds. I found it lovely that people took on board the steps and started spending time looking at flowers at the detriment of the phones. The reveal of the final step was a gasp-worthy moment where I had to reconsider every step before and what they could have meant (a little more than appreciation of natural surroundings). It was a tense read as Kate grappled with what to do as thousands awaited the words they had travelled so far to hear. The tension practically made the book quiver with anticipation.
There are also plenty of fun moments in Reluctantly Charmed. Ellie’s on-off relationship with Jim is funny, as is the character of Jim himself. The attempt to get the Hoff in an ad for chocolate was laugh out loud material. There’s a lovely relationship building and periodic appearances of a large dog. Kate’s friends are also very funny in their attempts to catch a man via spells and then get rid of him. Kate is an easy character to get to know – it feels like you’ve known her for years. Her problems are (mainly) relatable but her journey is a wild one, full of fun and unwanted fame.
A question asked in this book is how much does magic exist in our lives? Is it there under the surface and we’ve just forgotten how to see it? The fairies of Ireland and the people’s belief in them play a big role in the story. Whether you believe in them or not, Reluctantly Charmed forces you to think about how you came to your conclusion. A belief in fairies is not necessary to enjoy this book (it’s firmly rooted in reality), but it’s interesting to read the varying responses of the characters to fairies.
An amusing and imaginative story, this book is a delightful debut by Ellie O’Neill.
You can also read my Q&A session with Ellie here.
Check out the other blogs on this tour for more things Reluctantly Charmed!