{Review} OF CURSES AND KISSES by Sandhya Manon

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  JUST OUTSIDE ASPEN, Colorado, nestled between the sentinel mountains and an inkblot lake, lies St. Rosetta's International Academy. Its sweeping spires, creeping ivy, and timeworn brick turrets often lead visitors to remark that it looks like a venerable castle from an old European city. The Academy would be Princess Jaya Rao's home for the next year. 
  While she was there, Jaya had one mission: break an English nobleman's heart. 
  But first she had to fall in love with him.

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

She couldn't make this boy fall in love with her. She couldn't break his heart. Because if she did, it was her, not him, who was the beast.


It's interesting when I talk to other readers about fairy tale retellings. Some love them, others don't really read them. I think it also depends on if readers lean more contemporary or fantasy in their preferences. Most retellings fall closer to fantasy than they do contemporary. When a rare hybrid like OF CURSES AND KISSES by Sandhya Manon comes along, it gets to work that beautiful gray line that appeals to readers of both genres. While the novel is inspired by Beauty and the Beast, it's not a retelling and fit perfectly into its contemporary world -- albeit with the slightest brush of whimsy.

Princesses Jaya and Isha Rao leave India to attend school in the USA after scandal falls upon the royal family. Someone took pictures of Isha acting like a teenager and kissing a boy while covered in motor oil and supposedly drinking. Some citizens of India can still have a very conservative way of thinking about such things, and it put the Rao family under intense scrutiny and threatened their position, so the girls were whisked away until everything blew over. Jaya is certain that the one to leak the information to the press is His Lordship Grey Emerson, whose family has feuded with her own for centuries. When she finds out Grey is a student at her new school, she decides to have her revenge by getting him to fall in love with her, and then breaking his heart...

Like with other Menon books, readers are treated to chapters from the POVs of both main characters, Jaya and Grey, getting into their heads and seeing their suspicions about one another. Both are dealing with their own issues, and due to the scope of the family feud, neither knows the way their own family has been portrayed by the other. The Rao are mad about a stolen ruby, whereas the Emersons believe the ruby is cursed and that there is a prophecy about the family's downfall...a downfall that Grey believes now falls directly upon his shoulders. The ruby comes back into play as well, and it's actually one of my favorite elements of the story. I love when there are small moments from retellings brought into new works and rendered in original fashions. There is a moment before the book begins when Jaya asks her father for a rose when he goes on a trip, and he comes back with a gorgeous necklace that has a rose made of small ruby petals. It adds moments from the fairy tale into the story and the speculation as to whether or not the necklace is part of the curse as rubies begin falling off added the whimsy I love and elevated the novel from being something we'd seen before.

In true Menon fashion, there are also great moments of feminism and manifestos about how females should be allowed to break from the mold and carve their own paths in life. Isha would get along spectacularly with Dimple from Menon's debut novel WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI. Both are STEM girls and into things like coding and robotics, and we need more vibrant STEM girls in middle-grade and YA novels blazing a trail for new generations of girls, who have been told that math and science aren't for them. I am always a fan to find a STEM-minded heroine, and I look forward to whenever Isha gets a book of her own as the series continues.

OF CURSES AND KISSES was so enjoyable, and I'm excited that this begins a new series for Menon, whose books I already enjoy immensely, especially since fairy tales will be the inspiration. I'm looking forward to seeing what tales are next and what roles characters we've already met -- and still must meet! -- will fulfill in subsequent books.

I'm always a little sad when I can pick one quote to begin my review. And sometimes my favorite quotes don't work for that element, you know? Plus, I don't always mark or notice stand-out sentences I love in every book. But I thought I would try a new semi-regular review feature where I spotlight my favorite quotes, beginning today. What do you think?


"She was completely out of her depth, a gladiator hoping to disguise herself at a debutante's ball."(Page 30)

"The boy hoards his words like they're air and he's in outer space without a helmet." (Page 113)

"The sky was a cupped hand above them, sprinkling stars that glimmered in Jaya's thick black hair." (Page 135)

"And they sat together in the dark, wearing their pretty dresses like armor." (Page 311)



Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( Kissing )
Language: PG13 ( A lot of damns and f-bombs. A couple of scattered name-calling such as dick and asshole; slight innuendo that goes over younger heads due to phrasing, such as, "...People were dancing in more alarming gyrations than ever, and couples had drifted off to corners to, erm, be intimate." and "Important like how does he look under his clothes important?"and telling one character they can bone another later.  )
Violence: --
Other: G ( There is a rumor that a student was banished to the school for being pregnant; there are mentions of underage drinking )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

It's cute and fun! I like how the title takes up most of the cover, but we still get to see both main characters. I like that they're illustrated and not real models, because it works better for this format of cover, and would have too much going on if the title still took up that much space. I think it gives it that little extra whimsy!

I'm not sure that Grey looks as I envisioned while reading -- not as tall and filled out and brawny, lol. He doesn't have man paws ^.~ Jaya looks perfect, however...although I wish the red/maroon all over the cover had a little less pink/purple in it and leaned a little redder and less purple, lol! I feel the uniforms would have been more on the red side, but what can you do!

And that title? You can't see it well on the computer or looking at the book from a distance, but KISSES has some magic dust shining within it, and I'm in love!

And if you take the jacket OFF!?

I love hidden surprises like this!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Sandhya Menon
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Received: For Review


From the New York Times bestselling author of WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI comes the first novel in a brand-new series set at an elite international boarding school, that’s a contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast.

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.