Review: A Beautiful Curse

A Beautiful Curse was the last book I read in the Entwined Tales series, and it might just be my favorite. The sample I read from author Kenley Davidson at the launch party was a novella called The Countess and the Frog. I liked the progressive characters as well as the humor, but it was lacking in magic and whimsy. A Beautiful Curse contained all of that and more, which made Davidson's writing truly shine. It was based on the fairy tale "The Frog Bride" by the Brothers Grimm, which, though similar, is not exactly a reverse telling of "The Frog King." Instead of teaching a message about responsibility, "The Frog Bride" is about embracing your differences. It tells the story of three princes who must pass a series of tests to inherit the throne from their father. The youngest prince, who is considered the good-for-nothing runt of the family, passes the tests by taking advice from a talking frog he meets in the woods that turns out to be a beautiful princess. The story served as inspiration for one of my own fairy tales. I liked the characters from "The Frog Bride" it a little more than the ones in "The Frog King," since unlike the latter, it did not contain a whiny spoiled princess.

A Beautiful Curse tells the story of Elisette, the middle child of the fairy godfather-cursed family from the series. When they were born, their bumbling fairy godfather, Mortimer, gave her and her twin brother, Martin, the gift of beauty. Unfortunately, he could not have picked a worse set of twins to grant it to. Martin, who is seen briefly in a A Little Mermaid, hates being beautiful because it causes people to think that he's a girl. Elisette, on the other hand, grows up with absolutely no interest in any of the things a woman with her gift could benefit from. She doesn't care much for fashion, romance, dancing, or courting. Instead, she is a bookworm who wishes to have a career. Her parents' misguided attempts to help her by convincing her to embrace her beauty and find a suitor only frustrate her. So, she applies to be a librarian's apprentice at a famous library in the capital under the name "Eli." Unfortunately, it's not that easy to escape the burden of her beauty. Once she reveals her face to her employers, she is hired with the utmost reluctance as her co-workers regularly sabotage her work in any way they can, hoping to get her fired.

Meanwhile, the three princes of the kingdom are put to the test by their father, the king. Though the youngest son, Cambren, is not mocked as openly as he is in the original fairy tale, he is still considered the oddball of the family. His brothers are especially annoyed with him when they visit the local library to learn if the rumors of the beautiful new apprentice are true, and he has the nerve to ask her to help him find a book! To Elisette's dismay, such a request does turn out to be an uncommon occurrence when she finds that the library quickly becomes crowded with people who want to look at her and have no interest in reading. It gets so bad that she gets put on probation for causing too many distractions for the library's patrons. Elisette can't understand why it's so hard for her to just do her job, especially after all the work she put into it. She begs Mortimer for help but quickly regrets it when she is transformed into a slimy frog right in the middle of the library!

Prince Cambren's oddities come in handy for Elisette when he decides to scoop up the cursed frog and protect it instead of running away screaming like the others. In return, Elisette agrees to help Cambren with his father's tests but refuses to tell him who she really is. She has never known a man to respect her after seeing her face, so she feels that it is best for him to think that she is a talking frog. This doesn't prevent them from getting to know each other on an intellectual level and growing very close. It's touching how protective Cambren is of the frog without even knowing she is a woman, let alone one who helped him find a rare book he had been searching for earlier. The romance in this book was built at a perfect pace and contained the timeless themes of "Beauty and the Beast" that true beauty is found within.

A Beautiful Curse did a fantastic job of conveying the overall theme of the Entwined Tales series that magical gifts that seem harmless can become curses if they are given to the wrong person. Elisette was by far the strongest and most interesting heroine in all of the books. She had the clearest goals and the most rational plan for attaining them. The romance was done equally well and teaches us that love isn't any easier for conventionally beautiful women than it is for anyone else. If you only read one book from Entwined Tales, make it this one.


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