** I received a physical ARC of this book from the author through the publisher (Hodder & Stoughton) as I am part of Sandhya’s street team. This has in no way influenced my thoughts and opinions of the book – this is an honest review**
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
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.
WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS?
Narrated through a dual perspectives, Of Curses and Kisses is a unique and contemporary spin on a well-loved tale that is just as heart-warming as all of Menon’s works.
The story follow Rajkumari (Princess) Jaya Rao – heiress to her family’s dynasty – as she takes on responsibility as the eldest child, and accompanies her sister Isha to an elite boarding school after a scandal pressures their parents into getting Isha out of the public eye. On discovering the fact that Grey Emerson – heir to the rival Emerson clan, and culprit of the scandal – attends the same school, Jaya instantly plots to get revenge for her family by breaking his heart. However, this book is so much more than your standard enemies to lovers story.
In recent times I have personally come to really enjoy books that revolve around the theme of family and at the centre of this Beauty and the Beast retelling is an old family rivalry. Dating back to Britain’s colonisation of India, an incident involving a stolen ruby resulted in the matriarch of the Rao family cursing the Emerson bloodline. Thus the Rao/Emerson feud began – the scandal involving Isha being the most recent development. I loved that Menon added this touch of history to the story as it allowed the ‘curse’ element to fit perfectly into the contemporary setting.
Furthermore family dynamics are integral to the characterisation of both protagonists.
As the eldest child and daughter in my own family I really related to Jaya’s character. Though her sometimes controlling and stubborn demeanour don’t immediately make her the most likeable of characters. I felt her portrayal perfectly encapsulated her role as eldest daughter in a traditional Indian household. The particular obedience and mannerisms that she has been brought up with mean Jaya is always ready to put her duty towards her family before anything else, even her own desires. As a member of the nobility there is also the added pressure of conforming to how society wants to see you – particularly with Indian culture, if you step out of line then everyone is going to be talking. Hence without a second thought Jaya is ready to step up to protect her sister and do what is required to uphold her family’s reputation. Her love and loyalty is admirable.
“It was nearly impossible to look the other way when someone hurt something you cared for so deeply and refused to atone.”
Our second narrator Grey Emerson, is a character just as influenced by family as Jaya is. Despite also being his family’s heir, Grey has spent most of his life in isolation. Brought up surrounded by the superstition of the Rao curse, his father’s strong belief that Grey is its target has left him in a constant state of fear and neglect. A broody and reserved individual, he prefers books to people (but I mean who doesn’t!) Convinced he won’t live past his 18th birthday he keeps anyone and everyone at an arm’s length. That is until Jaya unrelentingly slides into his life. My only criticism regarding his character was that he was described as “huge” and “beast-like” one too many times – I feel his characterisation as the “beast” was conveyed well enough already. That being said I’d choose Grey over the og Beast any day!
Menon’s books always feel so homely and put me in a good mood, so as a fantasy lover I was super excited when she announced that she was writing something a little more fairytale-esque. I really loved the boarding school setting – it added to the magic in the way only a place tucked away in the mountains can. I also thought Menon’s interpretation of the “beast’s curse” was really clever and I enjoyed how she wove it into Jaya and Grey’s story. My favourite feature that was retained from the original tale however, was the book-loving personalities of both of the leads – I feel like this trait is quite often side-lined in Beauty and the Beast retellings.
The chemistry between the two of them was as swoon-worthy as expected – it was angsty, slow-burn and came about naturally and realistically even with such a fast moving plot. Though it began as a falsehood, it was wonderful to see Jaya and Grey’s developing relationship reveal just how well they complemented each other. Through knowing each other they were able to break the misconceptions brought about by their ancestral history. They helped each other to see the world a little differently and to accept that it’s okay to live your life for yourself.
“Don’t you find it…stiffling to have your entire life mapped out according to someone else’s plan? Don’t you want to define for yourself who you are rather than just taking someone else’s word for granted?”
Alongside Jaya and Grey, the diverse supporting characters and their various relationships and sub-plots were a delight to read about. I loved how Menon wrote all the female friendships, but Jaya and Isha’s interactions were without a doubt my favourite. I look forward to returning to these characters and the St. Rosetta’s Academy world in the future books of the series.
Of Curses and Kisses is OUT NOW!
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