Over the years, retellings have come to be one of my favorite types of novels. Of them all, Beauty and the Beast is one that I’ve always been rather eager to pick up. With its added diversity, there was no question that I’d be incredibly excited to pick up Sandhya Menon’s Of Curses and Kisses. A modernized Beauty and the Beast with a little twist in the form of feuding families, this story had all the makings of a fun tale to fall in love with. For me, unfortunately, this novel didn’t live up to its potential.
It is incredibly difficult to appreciate a story when you don’t like the main character. For me, this was Of Curses and Kisses‘ biggest flaw. Jaya, unlike her sister Isha, simply was not a character that I could like. She was rude, controlling, and constantly presented an “I’m better than everyone” attitude on many occasions. I also never really believed that she cared about anyone other than her family. This would have been fine had it not been for the fact that she was supposed to have a strong relationship with many of the other characters in the story.
Worst of all, Jaya’s motivations were awful. They are laid out in the synopsis, so I suppose I should have expected it. The entire plot is centered around Jaya enacting revenge for her family’s embarrassment by breaking the heart of a boy she doesn’t know. All that matters to her is that he is a member of the family who wronged her’s in the past and that a reporter gave her minimal information that made her suspect he was the one who hurt her sister. Her motivation to be rude, hurtful, and controlling to her sister came entirely from the concept that her family needed to be, or at least appear to be, literally better than everyone around them.
Though I suspected early on that Jaya would learn throughout the course of the novel and become far less awful–obviously, our heroine can’t continue hating the love interest and go through with breaking his heart–but she was so pretentious in the beginning that it was incredibly difficult to appreciate any growth she made. Add in the fact that half her growth was so rushed and I was left feeling as though every piece of her development was incredibly contrived.
Also, her concept of flirting was somehow synonymous with Jaya making herself seem like a meek woman who needs help from Grey. I don’t really think I need to dive deep into why this was such a massive problem.
I did like Grey, though, for the most part. And I loved Isha and Leo whose characters, while not present very often, were actually fantastic. The aspect of the curse within the novel was pretty brilliant and I loved how it tied into a conversation about the awful way India was treated by the British during colonization years.
Overall, though, the story was somewhat dull. Thinking back, not much really happened at all aside from a side plot involving a rather problematic love triangle. There was truly very little magic in the whole novel which I found disappointing, the only magical aspect being Jaya’s rose pendant. This rose fell apart slowly and turned rather frustrating as Jaya’s solution to the rubies falling from her necklace was not to try and collect and save all the rubies in order to have it repaired, but rather to have a jeweler put in brand new ones. Rich people problems, much?
And so I’m left wondering how anyone reading this book is meant to relate to it.
Then there’s the conflict revolving around Jaya’s family and expectations. While I appreciated some of it and I was grateful for Jaya’s eventual development, it was predictable and contrived. The antagonist of it all was obvious and I managed to pick them out from the very first chapters. Everything was resolved so easily and quickly and there really was some deus ex machina involved in wrapping it all up.
And while the romance was, indeed, a slow burn it somehow still felt very insta-lovey. I think this comes largely from the fact that I didn’t really feel there was a connection between Jaya and Grey at all. Though they spend time getting to know one another, much of the story is focused around how they avoid each other for one reason or another. There’s barely ever the start of a relationship before outside factors get in the way and then somehow at the end they’re declaring love for one another? It just felt so forced.
I won’t say that this is a bad novel. It’s probably something I would have loved when I was ten-years-old, back when I wasn’t as well versed in recognizing flaws in the novels I read and really only cared about the romance piece of it. There were moments, albeit brief, where I really liked this story. But I think its merit comes more from the diversity and less from the plot and character development.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.