22 October 2014

Book Tour & Guest Post: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill book cover
* Copy courtesy of the Reluctantly Charmed book tour hosted by Simon and Schuster *

Today is the last stop on the Reluctantly Charmed book tour, and I'm pleased to host author Ellie O'Neill here on Carpe Librum today.

It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kickstart 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. Instantly, 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 the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t... 

My Review
I've learned not to trust a book by it's cover, and nowhere is this point more valid than Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill. Pitched as having the 'warmth of Monica McInerney and the charm of Bridget Jones', I'd never have picked up Reluctantly Charmed if it weren't for the invitation to join the virtual book tour being hosted by Simon and Schuster and being offered an ARC of the novel.

Far from being a beach read or chick lit novel, I found Reluctantly Charmed to be a dark mystery that definitely held my attention. The romance is subtle, the protagonist Kate is very likeable and the plot is original and believable. I flagged each of the letters as they appeared in the novel (and were subsequently published on the web by Kate) and couldn't wait to read the final letter and the instructions it contained.

I enjoyed the darkness and fear associated with Irish folklore and the mention that some Irishman still try to please the fairies by fulfilling superstitious beliefs. Author Ellie O'Neill tells me more in her guest post below.

Reluctantly Charmed was the most unexpected and surprising read of the year for me and reinforces the lesson that if you generalise and make snap judgements about a book, you could be missing out on a rewarding reading experience. I'm glad I didn't miss this one.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

I recently had the opportunity to ask author Ellie O'Neill some questions and here is her response.

Guest Post from Ellie O'Neill
It is true that at one point in Ireland, a long time ago roads would have to be re-routed rather than go through a fairy fort.  The belief was strong.  But it’s an old belief going back a few generations. It doesn’t belong to modern Ireland.  However I do love the stories and the fairy world but I’m not a folklorist, just a person who had a superstitious granny that lead to me investigate the fairies more.  Because these stories are folklore, they fall into a grey area, there’s no right or wrong answer, there’s only perceptions of right or wrong.  I cover off most of what I actually know in Reluctantly Charmed, and any first hand recollections I have of them are from years ago and a little bit fuzzy if I’m honest.  A few things seem to be agreed on, from what I can tell anyway and I’ll do my best to explain.  

Author, Ellie O'Neill
A fairy tree is generally considered to be a white thorn tree or a Hawthorn tree, they are large bushes and have a white flower.  It is bad luck to cut one down or dig one up, because it is believed that often fairies live there.  Sometimes offerings are placed on these trees and they’re called a Wishing Tree.  There’s quite a famous tree at the Hill of Tara in County Meath that is covered in ribbons, gifts and wishes, quite a beautiful tradition really, and worth a look if you find yourself in that neck of the world.   

As a kid I remember a fairy ring being literally any circular formation in a field, so if they were a ring of mushrooms, or stones, or just that the grass was different and formed a circle that was a fairy ring.  The criteria for a fairy ring to exist, was that it had to be naturally formed and to have been there for a very long time.  I do remember seeing them when I was younger, and my siblings and I would dare each other to step into one, and make up stories as to what would happen if you did.  But we never did, we were too scared, you would be cursed by the other world and in our head that was anything from imminent death to never finding true love.  It wasn’t worth the risk.  As an adult I have learned that a fairy ring is considered to be more of a stone formation, but again one that has been formed in nature.  At one stage there were literally tens of thousands of these in Ireland.  These are now protected monuments and there is a fine if they are destroyed – but who would be brave enough to do that?  

There is a great article written on this topic, Irish skepticism and beliefs, which appeared in The Examiner, a national paper in Ireland, two years ago.  It’s very interesting and should answer a lot of your questions a lot better than I can!

Truly fascinating, thanks so much Ellie!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Thanks for sharing Tracey and Ellie!

    The book was a surprise for me as well as normally I'd not read something about fairies and folklore, but I LOVED Kate's cynicism about it all - I could really relate and it made the book very relevant and current.

    And as for Ellie's post, I had no idea that the mythology or folklore (not sure of the correct term) was still so prevalent. Wow! I can understand the romance or allure of it all I guess.


  2. Hi Ellie and Tracey, thanks for this insight into fairy rings. We used to 'discover' them at Brownies but it's doubtful the ones we found met the criteria of being naturally formed. I had the same reaction to the publishing blurb and was soon won over by Ellie's voice - or would that be Kate's voice? Either way, it's a good reason to read widely and often! A very enjoyable read.

  3. Thanks Deb, great to know we share the 'surprise' factor on this one, and glad you enjoyed Ellie's guest post, really interesting isn't it?

    Thanks for your comment Rowie, and great to hear you enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed as well. Do you have any photos of the fairy rings you saw as a kid?


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