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.
Of Curses and Kisses is a super cute retelling of Beauty and The Beast set at an elite boarding school for the uber rich, with plucky, moralistic Jaya and the brooding Grey as our two main characters. The plot loosely follows the original story with some fun twists and with a diverse set of characters which is what initially drew me to the novel in the first place. This is the first novel I’ve read by Sandhya Menon but I’m sure it won’t be the last as I quite enjoyed her lighthearted style of writing and the rom com elements.
The plot is focused on Princess Jaya, and her sister Isha as they arrive at St. Rosettas Academy, seeking refuge and some down time following a scandal which has caused a media frenzy in their home country of India. As part of the royal family there’s a certain set of expectations and codes of behaviours which the sisters are expected to abide by. While Jaya rises to these expectations and moulds herself into the princess everyone expects, with cultural and familial pressures guiding her every move. Isha however, follows her heart and chooses to be more impulsive. I liked that we got to see such a close relationship between the sisters and how they totally balanced each other out despite their differences. I always love seeing this sort of unconditional love or bond in books and Menon writes it so naturally that it’s totally convincing and such a joy to read.
I have to admit I found Jaya a tad insufferable at the beginning of the novel with her seemingly judgemental and restrictive ideas about people and how they choose to live their lives but I also understood where she was coming from. I got kind of frustrated at her choosing tradition over what she actually wanted time after time but it makes sense. Not only does she have the pressure of being in the public eye, she also has the added responsibility of being the eldest daughter in an Indian family. Trust me I can relate to that side of it for sure! However, as the story progressed, she grew on me and also grew as a character, eventually choosing her own happiness which was satisfying.
I was more drawn to Greys parts of the story as he navigates his fraught relationship with his father and the family ‘curse’ which has been hanging over his head his whole life. It was so sad to see how neglectful his father was and how emotionally abusive he was too, leading Grey to be aloof and choosing to close himself off from any meaningful relationships. I feel like readers will really empathise for Grey and root for him as he throws off the shackles and realise that he is worthy.
Another huge element of the novel is the romance which was slow burn and angsty – nothing super intense but still enough obstacles to make it interesting. This is one of those books where you can’t help but root for Jaya and Grey as they slowly learn to trust and fall for each other. There wasn’t anything altogether new in the idea but I appreciated the execution of it nonetheless. Plus there’s the whole ‘curse’ element which is in play, but I liked that we didn’t get a definitive answer as to whether it was real or not. Kind of gives it a magical / fantasy element without taking it too far from reality.
Overall, while this was closer to an average read for me, I still enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and I would recommend it to fans of retellings, especially in a Y/A / Contemporary setting which makes it infinitely more fun. I hear that this novel is the first in a series of fairytale retellings so more to come from Sandhya Menon so there’s plenty to look forward to!
Until next time,