Wednesday 11 March 2020

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Will the princess save the beast?
Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy, #1)
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can't shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

A re-telling of Beauty and The Beast but set in a boarding school – what’s not to love? The premise is that Jaya and her sister have been sent to an elite school for the rich and famous (and/or their offspring) to wait out the media storm surrounding the younger sister (whose name escapes me). But while there, Jaya has a plan to break the heart of the person she holds responsible.

I loved the originality of the retelling: the princess seeking out the beast to break his heart in retribution for his family ruining her sister’s reputation. But Grey isn’t easy to get close to, as he believes in the family lore that Jaya’s family cursed his for stealing a priceless jewel centuries ago. The whole thing had a very Romeo and Juliet feel to it, with family feuds and old curses and no-one really remembering why it all started in the first place!

I did not understand the whole “curse” thing – it was really secretive for a long time then revealed to only be that his mother died in childbirth! Says more about his father blaming him for it, than it does about Grey “killing” his mother. Plus, from Jaya’s point of view, her family doesn’t really believe in the old story that one of her ancestors cursed Grey’s. It all seemed to have been blown out of proportion, plus it wasn’t explained very well. It involved a lot of telling rather than showing, with a lot of inner monologue, especially from Jaya.

I appreciated the dual perspective, although I’m not sure it added a whole lot, as much of Grey’s chapters were him brooding and Jaya’s were complaining about the strict traditions she had to follow. Both characters had their very real flaws that only added to their characters: Jaya was the older, responsibly sister and so followed the rules to the letter, which became very annoying as she put the rules above her own feelings. And Grey had Lord Byron-level of brooding and had a very angsty aura that, unfortunately, got old quickly – at least for me. Having said that, I liked that once they got to know each other, they balanced each other out.

All in all, I enjoyed this story but too much of it was disappointing. It’s not like I wanted Grey to turn into a werewolf or anything (although that would have been awesome!) but to discover a third of the way through that the reason he avoided people was that his jerk father had let him believe he had killed his mother when really, she had died in childbirth. I couldn’t really get other that, as on the one hand it made me feel sorry for Grey but on the other, it was a crappy reason to believe that he deserved to be alone and to die on his eighteenth birthday.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.