A Beauty and the Beast retelling with a Indian heroine, a colonialism past, and set in a boarding school? Yes please. Sandhya Menon is quickly becoming an auto-buy author and Of Curses and Kisses is no exception.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Of Curses and Kisses is a story about familial expectations and destiny. Set in a boarding school is a story of warring families and mortal enemies. What starts off as a quest for revenge motivated by sisterly love turns into a story of following one’s dreams. Of Curses and Kisses is one of those stories where my favorite character ended up surprising me. I thought I would fall heads over heels in love with Jaya, but Grey ended up stealing my heart.
Jaya & Grey
Jaya’s fierce love for her sister combined with her desire to do what is expected of her, created a character driven by family. She is focused on what is best for the family, by living within the box of what society expects. Jaya lets rumors, decorum, and polite society shape her dreams. In walks Grey who, while he has his own familial expectation baggage of his own, knows all too well the burdens of family on his future.
Grey, with his broodish personality, ended up warming my heart. It’s not only his own character development, but the ways his family has turned their back on him. The curse has hardened the only family Grey has against him. He is certainly an underdog masquerading in a well defined personality. While both Jaya and Grey are guarded, used to not being in control of their own lives, I just fell more in love with Grey as the book progressed.
The Retelling Aspect and Themes
I am normally not a fan of Beauty and the Beast, either the original or re-tellings, but Of Curses and Kisses manages to keep the original foundations and transform it. There are all the elements you might be expecting, but they manifest in contemporary ways. It never feels like Of Curses and Kisses is confined by the original. While familial obligations is a huge theme in Of Curses and Kisses, so is the theme of society forcing us to live in a mold. Jaya’s younger sister, Isha is a brilliant and outgoing girl who is wilting under the societal pressure.
The ways culture’s expectations of us can stifle our own flame. How her dreams reflect on her family’s honor, the double standard of their situations. How it’s not only a pressure to conform from our family, but from the forces surrounding us. Letting these external forces drive us, shape us, and control us. If society and our family tells us over and over again that we’re a monster, we begin to believe it.