The Last Charm by Ella Albright – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago… 

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…

My Review

The Last Charm is a very engaging novel that kept me reading into the small hours. It follows the story of Leila who has lost her charm bracelet and, by flashback, is relating the story of how she received the bracelet and each charm so that she can prove to the finder that she is indeed the rightful owner.

The story then develops from the moment that Leila receives the bracelet as a child from her mother who has walked out on her family, and develops over the course of approximately 20 years to present day adult Leila.

Inextricably linked with Leila is the character of Jake. We are given chapters and moments from his viewpoint but always in third person so that there is a sense of detachment from his innermost feelings and thought processes. These two characters form an instant connection when Jake moves into Leila’s old house and over the course of the years, using each charm on the bracelet to anchor the story, their friendship and possible romantic attachment is explored.

I really enjoyed the premise of this book; the decision to use charms on a charm bracelet to tell a story that evolves over years rather than months was a great narrative device in my opinion. Because it revealed the ebbs and flows of the human heart over the course of time, and endeavoured to show how traumatic events in our lives can affect us for years until we truly own up to them and explore the reasoning behind our pain.

Leila, the main character, at times in this book drove me batty with her blinkeredness and stubbornness; at times it was a little too unbelievable that she could be so inattentive and oblivious to the lives of others around her. Namely Jake.

Jake in many ways was the perfect romantic lead. He cared for no one other than Leila since childhood. He kept in her life even though she treated him terribly. All because he loved her… and here is where I had my issues.

Jake came from an abusive home. But when he moved into Leila’s old house he envisioned her as saving him. Because Leila had left artwork behind her. Artwork that he connected with. Artwork that made him feel somehow less alone.

And so he had this almost unhealthy connection to Leila. He placed so much value on her artwork and how it impacted his life for the better, but originally Leila hadn’t painted it for him… so it was more like a fan crush to me rather than a connection based on two-way emotion. I just couldn’t find that key piece of information, or even emotion, in the novel that made me understand, or believe, his unwavering love for Leila. Because over the years I felt that his connection to Leila grew from a place of inequality, and was a result of an abused boy looking for comfort rather than deep love. This could have been overcome if Leila hadn’t repeatedly been so mean and nasty to him. On a number of occasions she accused him of being like his abusive dad. I thought that was deeply manipulative and made me not like her very much at all, and more tellingly made me question why he would keep coming back to her. I think his love for Leila was unhealthy and his staying waiting for her to see him as a romantic partner all those years echoed his mother’s staying in an abusive relationship with his father. To me he was Leila’s victim. At one point when Jake was an adult he mentioned that he fortunately didn’t have PTSD from his time spent in the marines, but I wanted to say to him that maybe he didn’t have it from that but he was certainly experiencing trauma from the events of his abusive childhood.

Leila also was so selfish that she couldn’t see how her own grandfather Ray who lived on the same street as Jake looked out for Jake when he was young. She was so belligerent in her viewpoint that she questioned Jake’s relationship with her grandfather at the most inappropriate of times and made him feel less than. In Leila’s mind the world revolved around her. Her abandonment by her mother was used to excuse unkind and problematic behaviours rather than to truly explore her emotional turmoil. Towards the end of the book we also learned this great guilty *secret* that Leila carried with her and was frequently alluded to… but the reveal was distinctly underwhelming and underwritten.

Sadly I think this book took one too many easy options towards the end. I predicted the outcome from very early on, and disappointingly I felt there were no emotional surprises along the way. Yet the book was thoroughly engaging, and I was curious to see how the author would go about writing her ending.

I did like the meeting Leila had with the finder of the bracelet because their meeting almost mirrored the type of meeting that a reader of the novel would have with Leila. The finder’s questions for Leila were the same as the ones I would have asked her after listening to her story of the charm bracelet.

Overall I did enjoy the novel, even if it appears that I have a lot of issues with some of the way the characters were written. I appreciate the attempts by the author to show Leila’s personal growth over the years, and how she did try to take responsibility for her frequently cruel behaviour towards Jake. But because of how Jake’s point of view was written, that we could never fully be inside his mind, I could never truly understand why Leila was the love of his life instead of a crutch like character for him. Someone he just knew for years and became a safety blanket even though her behaviour towards him was not always kind.

Also, as a longtime John Mayer fan I really appreciated the use of his acoustic cover of Free Falling at a key moment in the book!

So on the whole a lot of mixed emotions but a compelling story and an author I would read again in future.

Content warning which includes content that some may interpret as spoilers:

  • Child abandonment
  • Domestic abuse
  • Miscarriage
  • Reference to reading Harry Potter which may upset people hurt by its author’s human rights views

*I was kindly invited to read an e-copy of this book by the publisher through NetGalley so that I could take part in an online readalong and discussion of the novel, and could then give an honest review.*

eBook publishing 21st August 2020, paperback publishing 12th November 2020,
One More Chapter / Harper Collins UK

10 thoughts on “The Last Charm by Ella Albright – eARC Book Review

  1. I’ll skip this book for sure; I wouldn’t like Leila. But the premise is great, I think, using the charms to tell the story. That’s interesting. I find in a lot of books (and on television) that the reader/viewer can see what is happening and it’s difficult to believe that the heroine/hero does not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a hard one isn’t it, when writing a character who has frustrating personality traits. There’s a balance between making them truly human and therefore easy to empathise with which was required in this sort of love story and making them a villain of the piece. Sadly the latter was the case here, well slightly the case and it did affect my enjoyment because of the style of read it is.

      Like

    1. You’re welcome Destiny. I’ve only just started doing it but it’s amazing how many books have references to HP. It just shows what a global influence the author has and how therefore it is even more reprehensible how she is using her platform to spread such hate

      Like

  2. Wonderful review! I was really excited by the premise and the way it’s written but… I have a feeling Leila’s character would’ve driven me so batty that I’d have no choice but to chuck this book across the room. She sounds awful? 😕 Props if that’s the author’s intent but… I think I’ll probs give this one a pass 🙂 Glad you managed to enjoy it overall though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I felt like that at times Dini. I really enjoyed the first 30% or so… but then this main character kept being so blinkered and self absorbed. I needed her to have more character growth at that stage. It took too long and even is possible to say that it never really happened… but I would read this author again in future because there’s a very readable quality to their writing :)))

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s