Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

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.

Year: 2014

Pages: 438

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: Ireland

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!

Guest Post: Q & A with Ellie O’Neill, author of Reluctantly Charmed

Morning everyone! If you’ve been around the Twittersphere of late, you may have seen a lot of buzz about debut author, Ellie O’Neill and her novel, Reluctantly Charmed. It’s a novel that cleverly mixes the everyday of 26 year old Kate McDaid’s life with the magical realism of fairies, witches and the mystical in modern day Ireland. Ellie gets the balance of contemporary fiction and magical elements just right in this page turner. Today I’m pleased to welcome Ellie to Sam Still Reading to discuss Reluctantly Charmed with some questions I put to her. Thanks Ellie for stopping by, I really appreciate it!

Here’s the blurb for Reluctantly Charmed to whet your appetite:

Kate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, 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. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.

As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request … and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic.

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/…

You can also read the first chapter of Reluctantly Charmed
here or visit Ellie’s website.

 


 

How did the idea for Reluctantly Charmed come into your head? Was it fully formed, or in pieces?

It came in bits and bobs. My original idea was kind of a mis match of the Emperor’s new clothes, everyone is telling her she’s something but she’s pretty sure she’s not. I’m quite a celebrity obsesser (my secret shame) I enjoy their crazy antics, but I view them as entertainment, I love the fashion, their ridiculous love lives, their extravagance. And I wondered, if you put a normal person under the spot light, under the glare of the paparazzi, who has to deal with fans that think they know you better than you know yourself, how would that feel? How would a normal person react to that?

That was my core idea for Reluctantly Charmed, and then it grew legs, many of them!

What made you choose to explore Irish fairies?

A couple of things, I’m aware of the idea of them, I grew up knowing about them as a lot of Irish people do. But I never had a light bulb moment about including fairies in the book, the idea just crept up on me and I let myself drift towards it and started reading about them. And I just fell in love with the stories and the magic around them. They belong to two generations back in Ireland, but because the belief in them was so strong back then, there’s still a lot of superstition and rituals around today. I found this fascinating, that modern Ireland which is such a progressive country still has this beautiful thread of romanticism. I felt it was worth exploring.

Do you believe in fairies?

I choose to believe in the possibility of them. I hope that there’s magic out there. That karma exists, that there’s some great puppeteer in the sky pulling strings to make wonderful things happen. I have that dream, but I’m also a realist, bills need to be paid, bones get broken, feelings get hurt, life can be really hard, and maybe because life can be hard we need to believe in magic even more!

Reluctantly Charmed has a wonderfully light and witty feel to it. It feels like Kate is sitting next to me as I read and I feel I’ve known her forever. How did her voice come about? Is she modelled on someone?

Thank you, what a lovely thing for me to read. Kate isn’t modeled on anyone. I completely lost myself when I was writing her, so I think it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of me in her character. A lot of her inner dialogue, like for example when she’s weighing up reality versus the supernatural, that comes from me, and her romantic disasters are mine too. She had to be a very relatable character for her incredible journey to be believable, and she had to be loveable because she’s going through so much. But she’s her own person, she exists, she lives and breathes, and if I thought she didn’t I’d be devastated. As far as I’m concerned she’s very happy and living in the West of Ireland, and life is going well for her.

 

Thanks again Ellie! I’ll have my review of Reluctantly Charmed up on the blog early next week. If you’d like to read the book, check out your favourite bookstore/ book department or click on the links below:

Ebook: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK |Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Book: Bookworld |Readings |Booktopia

You can also follow the blog tour on the blogs below:

 

Mailbox Monday 22/9/14

Well, the last week passed by in a haze of tiredness and painkillers; this really affected my reading. I’m reading two great books at the moment, but I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to enjoy them! (Plus, the next day I have no recollection of the preceding ten pages that I ‘read’ the night before!) At least one leg is getting very strong, lugging the other around!

Needless to say I didn’t get out too much this week, but I did turn a trip to buy bird seed into a buying opportunity for books (yes, I can buy all those things at one store). This should ‘motivate’ me to rest with my leg up! Cathryn Hein’s Promises is for research J It’s about Sophie and Aaron, horses and a dark secret between their families. I didn’t go through the horse loving phase as a young girl, so I’ll learn plenty here! I’ve always wanted to read Fiona Lowe, so I bought Saved by the Bride, first in the Wedding Fever series. It’s set in Wisconsin, and involves the acting mayor, Annika and Finn, who decide to enjoy a summer fling. Only it might mean something more to Annika…

I also received a final copy of Ellie O’Neill’s debut novel, Reluctantly Charmed (out October). Combining an inheritance with a request to reconnect with Irish folklore, Kate comes into contact with many, many strange things including a witch and life in the public eye. I’m not sure if you can see the sparkly green fairies that surround Kate in the pic, but they’re there, I promise. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the book.

That’s it for me today. I’m off to find a cup of coffee and put my foot up. But do stop in at the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find something you want to read, as well as more great books!

Mailbox Monday 7/7/14

Another busy week! I’ve had loads of fun reading the lists coming out of the Northern Hemisphere for ‘perfect beach reads’, ‘books for hot nights’ and ‘summer sizzlers’. I like it when you guys have summer – I can snuggle under my blanket and call them winter reads! There were also a lot of emails this week about impending releases for the rest of 2014 –big names in the lead up to Christmas, including Ian McEwan, Ken Follett, Jodi Picoult, Monica McInerney and John Cleese. I may have already started a list!

Anyway, about the mailbox. There was one book I was looking for this week, but I’m thinking that some July new releases haven’t reached here yet. Oh well. It’s not like I’m struggling for books to read! In the mailbox though was a book that it buzzing already on social media and the general internet, even though it isn’t released until October. It’s Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill. This book has been described as having the ‘humour of Bridget Jones’ and ‘warmth of Monica McInerney’. It’s about Kate and a legacy from a four times great aunt – who also happened to be a witch. There are conditions attached to Kate’s inheritance and as she completes each step, things turn stranger and stranger – can she do it all? Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for the eARC – can you see the team’s thoughts on the cover?

Do stop in at the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find something you want to read, as well as more great books!