I’m such a huge fan of Sandhya Menon’s Dimple and Rishi series, so when I saw she was doing a contemporary boarding school spin on Beauty and the Beast, I was beyond ready to fall in love with her writing again.
I wanted to get swept away. Unfortunately, I couldn’t lose myself in this story enough to do so.
Of Curses and Kisses had the difficult task of straddling a super fine line between fairy tale and reality, and it didn’t quite succeed in that. It was too much of a realistic contemporary to buy into some of the more fairy tale-ish elements: Grey believing in the family curse and Jaya thinking there’s literally no other option but to marry a family friend she doesn’t love.
But the fairy tale elements were also so integral to the story that it was hard to get super invested in it either as a fully realistic story. For example, I was concerned about the hints of Catelina possibly having an eating disorder because of her heartbreak, but then I’d be pulled out of it by Grey’s worry over dying on his 18th birthday because of the curse. The characters themselves were skeptical of the curse — Jaya insisted it wasn’t true, and Grey knew it was illogical — yet the story took the possibility of Grey’s impending death so seriously that it was hard to figure out how to feel.
Some stories succeed at keeping the reader off-balance in a good way, so that you’re eager to see what the truth turns out to be. Here, I just felt like it was a fancy boarding school story (like Gossip Girl, maybe?) with Beauty and the Beast references crammed in. Even Jaya and Grey’s snowball fight, with its almost frame-by-frame reference to the scene from the Disney movie, made me laugh at the forced parallel rather than get all giddy with the flirtation. And Jaya and her girl classmates descend a long staircase to their dates for a dance, because of course we need that fairy tale glamour.
The ending is really cute and heartwarming, and I like how the curse unfolded in the end. I also enjoyed meeting the cast of characters at the Academy, and can imagine all the forthcoming romances blossoming among them. I just wish this book had had more of the kind of magic that made me full in love so hard with the Dimple and Rishi series.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Your example of one character having an eating disorder and another dying from a curse accidentally made me laugh (I write “accidentally” because one should not laugh at either eating disorders or death), but I can easily see how this would be a wonky story to get into, making it hard to know what to care about.