If you’re in the mood for some charming, funny, and slightly magical romantic comedy, be sure to pick up a copy of The Enchanted Island. The second novel from Irish-Australian author Ellie O’Neill is chick-lit that hits all the right notes – I couldn’t put it down.
Maeve O’Brien has hit rock bottom. Her best friend and flat-mate has kicked her out and she’s back living at home with her mother. She’s maxed out the credit cards that support her unrealistic lifestyle, and the only man in her life is an occasional hook-up that is entirely at his convenience. So when her boss sends her to a remote and rainy island off the west coast of Ireland, Maeve couldn’t be happier. Not only is this an opportunity to momentarily step away from her crumbling life, but this job also promises to send her career onwards and upwards. All Maeve has to do is get one signature.
Easier said than done. Her reception on Hy Brasil is not at all a welcome one, and most of the population look as old as the island itself. Then there’s the strange and eery noise she hears that nobody will talk about. But, as she’s forced to stay on the island, the place, the people and the mystery of it begin to grow on her – and Maeve begins to change. Perhaps Hy Brasil will work its magic on her, giving her exactly what she needs.
After a successful debut novel, it is usual for authors to feel a bit of pressure about book number two. Readers are eagerly awaiting their next offering, often wondering “will it be as good as the first?” as they do. I thoroughly enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed, O’ Neill’s first book, and her second book, in many ways, even more so. The Enchanted Island was a reminder of why I enjoyed the author initially, but there was the added sense of stepping into something familiar and comfortable, like putting on your favourite jumper. O’Neill writes with ease and effortlessness and has a wonderful way with words.
At first there was a lot I didn’t like about Maeve, the protagonist. Her fixation on her looks and social media accounts, combined with her selfish behaviour meant I couldn’t really relate to her. True to the genre, of course, this meant there was a lot of potential for change, and as Maeve begins to remember who she is, you cannot help but grow more fond of her, a little like watching a sister or a close friend becoming a better, more authentic person. The more she sheds her superficial Dublin ways, the more endearing she becomes. And so, when she meets the dreamy Killian, you can’t help but let out a whoop of joy…and a little swoon.
O’Neill skilfully weaves Irish folklore and mysticism into her stories, and it is one of the things that make her books so enjoyable. As she takes her heroine to the far away and untouched island Hy Brasil, it is not difficult to imagine more than a few mythical creatures roaming the place. This light dusting of magic works and feels entirely plausible because it is always just speculation, hearsay – you never directly see it, but rather get the feeling that it’s there. Folklore and mythology have played such an important part in culture around the world, and it is wonderful to see that integrated it into such a fun, contemporary text. Perfect pacing plays a big role in creating a believable enchanted island. Bit by bit the mysteries unfold, building the suspense and slowly revealing clues about the island’s secrets.
Without a doubt, The Enchanted Island is the best chick-lit I’ve read in a while, and Ellie O’Neill’s charm and wit are fast making her one of my favourite authors of the genre. If you like a little realistic sprinkling of magic with your quirky, well-crafted romantic comedy, then you’ll love this book.