Reluctantly Charmed, by Ellie O’Neill

Ellie O’Neill is a chick lit author I definitely hope to see more of. Her debut novel Reluctantly Charmed is utterly, well, charming. This feel-good story about destiny, family, and learning to trust life every once in a while is sure to bring a little magic into your life.

Kate McDaid works as a copywriter for Dublin advertising agency Frank and Preston, and after five years of proving herself is still desperately waiting for a promotion. As she’s weighing up her career prospects – and wishing her love life was a little less stagnant – she receives a rather unusual 26th birthday present. Kate discovers she is the sole benefactor of her great-great-great-great aunt, also Kate McDaid (and infamous witch known as the Red Hag), who died 130 years ago. The only catch is that, to receive her inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters over the next seven weeks.

When she opens the first letter, it is nothing more than a plea for the people of Ireland to reconnect with their fairy folklore. But little by little Kate’s life starts turning upside down. And day by day the letters about the fairies are becoming more and more popular amongst the public. As events become stranger and stranger, it is up to Kate to decide whether to carry on publishing the letters, and what it is she really wants for her – for everyone’s – future.

A truly delightful story, Reluctantly Charmed has all the right elements of a romantic comedy. Kate is a wonderfully endearing heroine, down-to-earth and girl-next-door who is lost and fumbling a little as she tries to make her way forward in her life. She is believable and relatable, and when her newfound celebrity starts getting too hard to handle, you’ll be helping her pack her bags so she can get out of Dublin.

The secondary characters are a wonderful mixed bag of laughter, annoyance, and appeal. There’s Jim, the egomaniacal musician trying to jump on Kate’s bandwagon, Kate’s parents, who are thrilled at their chance to be on the television shows they spend so much time watching, and the loveable Matthew, co-worker and dear friend. As Kate starts revealing the letters from her great-great-great-great aunt, she finds herself under the close scrutiny of some other fun and interesting individuals. And, of course, no romance would be complete without a ruggedly dishy man to irk the heroine while winning the hearts of readers, and Reluctantly Charmed does not disappoint.

The true magic of O’Neill’s book is in the way she has woven Celtic folklore and fey into modern society. She brings the enchanted alive and nowhere could this have felt more real than in Ireland, making it the ideal setting for Kate’s life-changing adventure. Who wouldn’t expect to see some fairy-folk in a quaint, country Irish town?

Reluctantly Charmed is completely engaging, well paced, and delightfully written. Filled with fun and fantasy, this is an entertaining and easy read that is hard to put down. Chick lit fans, this Irish-Australian author is definitely one to watch.

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Emma is an ardent writer, reviewer and editor. She currently lives in Orange, NSW, where she shares her time between writing, undergraduate studies in Linguistics and French (oui, c’est vrai!), and her “day job” as a yoga teacher. Emma especially enjoys reading women’s fiction, contemporary fiction and the classics.

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