Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill is a pleasant, charming read, and was the last book I needed to finish to complete my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. In hindsight, I set my goal pretty low, planning to read only 18 books in 2017, and the fact that I accomplished my goal within the first four months of the year is testament to the fact that most of the books I’ve read recently have been light, fun and airy. Reluctantly Charmed, in that way, was a very fitting end to my Reading Challenge, because it is quite possibly one of the airiest novels I’ve ever read. Now, I don’t mean that as a criticism whatsoever – it is true that O’Neill’s story is quite simplistic and is written in a straight forward and uncomplicated style, but if you are a fan of chick lit. with a unique twist, then this would absolutely be the book for you. Although it isn’t jam-packed with twists and turns and complex plotlines, it is the quintessential garden read, the perfect book to read in a park, under a tall, full tree, with an iced tea in hand.
I thoroughly enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed and I probably would’ve given it a 4-star rating, until I reached the last 100 pages. At that point in the novel, about 3 quarters of the way through when the main conflict was being revealed, my interest started to wane and I became a bit bored with the story and the characters, a touch restless and ready to be done with it. Prior to that point though, I found the story to be lovely and the adjective I used before, charming, is probably the best way to sum up the entire novel. Set in Ireland and heavily drenched in folklore and fairy culture, Reluctantly Charmed really did a perfect job of creating a distinct ambiance and feeling. It was so clearly set in Ireland, and you could feel that in every page because of how the characters spoke and the descriptions of the environment and the references to magic and fairy stories. The Irish setting was subtle though, and it was never overpowering to read descriptions of the country or its people – I do have to say that my favourite part of the novel was how clearly and powerfully Irish culture figured in all of it.
I also enjoyed reading from Kate McDaid’s perspective, and I found her to be an endearing character. However, I found that her clear narrative voice did become a touch diluted in those last 100 pages of the novel, and perhaps that is because this marked the point when Kate began to believe in the fairies. It sort of felt as though Kate got to the conclusion of believing in The Seven Steps her ancestor left to her and acknowledging her connection to the fairies in Ireland without doing any real soul searching or without any internal observation or reflection. All of a sudden, Kate remembered her fairy friend from her childhood and she accepted that her ancestor was in fact a witch, but this all happened almost as soon as she set foot in the rural town of Knocknamee, almost as if leaving Dublin caused her to open herself up to magical possibilities. That is all well and good and actually makes a lot of sense considering that Knocknamee is the site of the fairies in The Seven Steps Kate publishes, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more internal monologue from Kate actually marking her change in feelings toward the magic around her. Overall though, I enjoyed reading from Kate’s perspective and she was a fun character to follow.
What bothered me about the last 100 pages of the novel, I suppose, is the fact that Kate’s voice and the overall storytelling style started to become a bit too mundane. In the rest of the novel, Kate has such a witty, comical personality and when she narrates, this personality really shines through. I found that, as soon as Kate made it to Knocknamee, her narration was less engaging and enjoyable to read, and even her romance with Hugh seemed to be watered down and less exciting than it was when Kate was at her office in Dublin. I think maybe O’Neill intended for Kate’s narrative style to change slightly toward the end of the novel because she is becoming tired and her journey is slowly starting to take some of her strength away from her, but again I think some introspection on Kate’s part would’ve clarified that and made the reader empathize with her a touch more. I also found the ultimate resolution with The Seven Steps to be a bit frustrating, because I desperately wanted the fairies to be good and innocent, for Kate’s sake. I was enchanted throughout the novel by the idea of fairies inhabiting Ireland, and to give them a sinister, evil edge at the very end of the story sort of felt dishonest to me. In a way, I was rooting for Kate to believe in the fairies all along, particularly when she was reluctant (which was for most of the novel, as the title suggests), and to see her finally believe and begin to embrace her history and connection to the fairies only to then have her almost punished for that trust seemed like a huge let-down. For that reason, I had to reduce my rating of the book because it just left me disheartened, especially compared to how cute and fun the story was in the beginning.
Ultimately, I would recommend Reluctantly Charmed as a quick and easy spring or summertime read. It was nice and not at all stressful to get swept up in, and I think that many younger adults would probably really enjoy the magical realism elements and the quirkiness of the narrator.
❥❥❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart