About This Book
Kate McDaid thought that going to the reading of her great-great-aunt’s will would be just another non-event in her ordinary life. A junior copywriter at an advertising agency in Dublin, she was used to spending her days wrangling clients, over-indulging in chocolatey products, and whiling away nights at the pub with her best friends, using her trusty bicycle to get around town. Instead, Kate finds out that the will and her aunt (also known as the Red Witch of Knocknamee) dictates that Kate must publish a series of strange poems called “The Seven Steps” under her own name in order to inherit the rest of her aunt’s estate.
And those poems? They’re a mysterious treatise on the importance and existence of fairies . . .
Kate decides to publish the Steps on a friend’s website, thinking that the low traffic on the site would let her posts go unnoticed. She never could have imagined that in a matter of days, she would find herself a local celebrity with her own group of devotees and the target of a mysterious and glamorous newspaper reporter. Even Dublin’s rock-and-roll sweetheart—and Kate’s onetime fling—writes a song inspired by the Steps.
While the Steps strike a chord across Ireland and the world, Kate takes the message to heart. But as the tone of each Step moves from free-spirited to sinister, Kate must decide if she will go through with publishing all seven Steps—or protect humankind from an ancient evil.
Oh. My. Goodness. I love it when a random book picked up on happenstance simply blows me away. I was anything but Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill’s witty, sardonic debut novel, full of refreshingly irreverent characters on a quest to rediscover the magical world of fairies. I seriously can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh this hard! By the time David Hasselhoff appeared to save the day, I was a goner.
O’Neill writes with an aplomb far above the average debut author, and with more skill and refined technique than I’ve seen from even well-established, multi-published authors. She clearly knows her own voice and isn’t afraid to use it, and the result is a thoroughly engaging story that sucked me from the very first paragraph and held me in its grip ’til the very end.
Kate was an instantly likable heroine, and her Bridget Jones-like narrative (as the sole point-of-view character) was spot-on from the very first page. Stuck in a boring job and seemingly uneventful life, I know I won’t be the only reader who can relate to Kate as she evolves from a reluctant to very deliberate heroine. And that was where I found myself comparing the story to not only Bridget Jones, but also Harry Potter: like the young fantasy wizard, Kate learns there is more to her than meets the eye, and she must decide just how to embrace the life she’s suddenly been handed.
Along with her on the journey are a wonderfully zany cast of supporting characters, from her trenchcoat-clad groupies and limelight-craving parents to fame-seeking ex-boyfriends, mild-mannered coworkers, and yes, a brooding and misunderstood love interest. I particularly enjoyed how O’Neill let Kate have a male coworker and friend who never even remotely hinted at being more (no When Harry Met Sally here).
There was a good mix of internal and external conflict, as Kate both reacts to the odd new life she’s been thrust into, and also takes decisive action that leads to some pretty memorable consequences (I can’t say more than that without spoilers!). And the romantic tension was well done, too, in the classical Mr. Darcy-style. O’Neill deftly brought both mythical and modern Ireland to life in vivid sensory detail, and I really felt I was there with Kate in her world. It sure made me want to buy a ticket to Ireland for my next vacation!
This entire story is built around the premise of a supernatural world coexisting and interacting with the “real” world. Again, in the vein of Harry Potter, Reluctantly Charmed asks the reader to believe that magic is both within and around us, and I for one willingly suspended my disbelief as O’Neill’s story skillfully unfolded. There is a strong spiritual thread to this story, too, as Ireland’s strong Catholic traditions are simultaneously applauded and mocked throughout the tongue-in-cheek story. And I can’t say too much without giving away the ending, but these twin supernatural and spiritual threads do converge in an ultimate battle-of-good-versus-evil climax.
My only tiny complaint about this book was the ending. After such a wonderfully cheeky story, the ending and denouement did fall a little flat for me.
While Reluctantly Charmed is relatively clean for a general market/secular novel, it does contain some explicit language (mostly British swear words) and implicit sensuality which may not appeal to more conservative readers. The book is definitely geared toward adult women, and would be rated PG-13 as a movie, though I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it to younger readers. This story felt complete and wrapped up without leaving too much room for any sequels, but there could definitely be some exciting and hilarious spin-offs. And with such remarkable writing ability, I will absolutely be looking out for O’Neill’s next book!
Available March 17, 2015 from Touchstone