✨Genre: Contemporary (with hints of Fantasy)
✨Age Range: Young adult
✨Series: 1st in a series of companion novels
✨Publication Date: 18th February, 2020
✨Publisher: Simon Pulse (US)
✨Format I Read: PDF
✨Content Warning: Parental neglect, emotional abuse, blackmail
Will the princess save the beast?
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.
Characters and Representation in Of Curses and Kisses
Jaya and Grey’s narratives alternate throughout the book but Jaya was the clear winner for me. Of course, there are some similarities between us like the fact that we’re both brown and are from Karnataka, but my connection to her character felt deeper than that. The representation in this book of an Indian princess gets an A+ from me!
Sandhya has always been good at crafting side characters and this book is no different. My favourite was Rahul, a shy, soft and nerdy Indian boy who was friends with Jaya and Grey. I also really liked Isha for her bravery and spunk.
The romance plot was every bit as swoon-worthy and delightful as I’d hoped. There was a healthy amount of angst and was more of a slow-burn as a result of the characters’ natures. I really liked how the main characters challenged each other to overcome their weaknesses to become better individuals too.
Plot and World-Building in Of Curses and Kisses
I wouldn’t call myself an expert when it comes to judging a contemporary story’s plot and world-building but this one hooked me from a few chapters in. It was the kind of story that you can comfortably ease into and difficult to put down once it gets going. The tension between the main couple mostly carried the story forward, which I enjoyed as a fan of character-driven stories.
Having read the author’s previous works, I felt that Sandhya outdid herself with the world-building in this book. Since many of the world-building elements were familiar to me, it was clear that she had put in a lot of work to base the story around facts and get the representation right. St. Rosetta’s was a magical place that quietly reflected the Beast’s castle from the fairytale Of Curses and Kisses was based on.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular stories that is being retold in myriad ways these days. However, the author has managed to put her own unique spin on it and add a desi flavour to it. I really liked the bits that were taken from the fairytale and the way they were repurposed to fit this narrative.
Writing Style and Themes in Of Curses and Kisses
Sandhya Menon’s writing style is best described as ‘breezy’. It is very accessible to young readers, reluctant readers and readers whose first language may not be English as her prose is delightfully simple. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great lines in the book that I think are highly quotable.
The theme that broke my heart and stitched it back up was the responsibility on Jaya to manage her family’s expectations. As an Indian myself, this is a struggle I strongly identify with and the author managed to talk about it without being preachy or taking sides. It resonated with the core of my being and I cried a few times while reading certain scenes in this book.
There are also themes of feminism, coming of age and identity issues, healing from trauma and emotional abuse that are explored in a thoughtful way, in my opinion. I wish the author had gone into a bit more detail with some of them but I do understand that there’s only so much you can do in a text of a certain length. That said, I think Sandhya managed to strike the perfect balance between heavy and light moments in Of Curses and Kisses.
If you are looking for a young adult romance that will sweep you off your feet to a Beauty and the Beast-inspired boarding school setting, this is the book for you. It has amazing South Indian rep and the characters make the story shine. If you have previously not enjoyed Sandhya’s works then maybe this one isn’t for you either.
✨Related Post: Top 10 Exciting YA SFF Releases of February 2020
Of Curses and Kisses Blog Tour Information
About the Author
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Of Curses and Kisses, and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in several cool places, including the Today show, Teen Vogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado.
Is this book on your TBR? What are your thoughts on it? Have you read any good young adult books with a romantic main plot recently? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!