Review: A Kiss and a Dare

I received a review copy of A Kiss and Dare by Charlene Raddon and completed it just in time to write my review on National Princess Day (Happy National Princess Day, by the way). This book is a fairytale izekai, or "portal fantasy," story, a genre that has exploded in popularity, in which a character from one world is transported to another one that they are unfamiliar with. Typically, the character is either from the real world or travels to it. In this case, it is the latter. The timing of this review is particularly appropriate because Disenchanted comes on on Disney+ today, which is the sequel to another fairytale izekai film. A Kiss and a Dare is actually more of a time travel story than a full portal fantasy, but the lines between fantasy and reality get blurry when you throw magic into the mix.

Gwenlyn is a young Welsh woman from the medieval era who was cursed by a witch to become a frog, and she can only break the spell by kissing her true love. It isn't until centuries later that she finds a young man named Garen who is the descendant/reincarnation of her past lover and uses him to regain her body in the contemporary era. In a nutshell, A Kiss and a Dare is a more "adult" version of A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn. Both books have an unassuming male protagonist who revives a woman that knows nothing about the modern era due to being frozen in time by a curse. The ages of the the characters and the target audience in A Kiss and a Dare are quite a bit older than that of A Kiss in Time. While the characters never actually engage in any sexual acts, the extreme level of teasing and foreplay on Gwenlyn's part borderlines as smut.

There are so many different stories and films that this book reminded me of that it could easily span the full length of my review to list them all. Gwenlyn's frog transformation is, of course, a reference to "The Frog Prince," an interesting choice to pass the centuries since it means that unlike Sleeping Beauty, she would have been conscious all those years. Yet, upon turning human again centuries later, she acts no different than a wide-eyed child entering the world for the first time like Giselle from Enchanted. I would be remiss not to mention the striking similarity this plot has to an obscure made-for-TV movie from 2001 called Prince Charming, in which a prince from ancient times was turned into a frog for several centuries until a woman from the modern era kissed him. When he regained his former self, he also acted no different than he did prior to the transformation as though all those years as a frog had no effect on his mental state whatsoever. Perhaps that is simply part of the magic. Another film with a similar plot of a cursed maiden falling for the descendant of her true love is Mannequin: On the Move, a fairytale-inspired sequel to a classic '80s film.

So how does this particular version of the tale as old as time hold up? It's a fun little romp for adult fans of old romcoms who want children to stay out of their fairy tales but not much more than that. It has the obligatory princess, witch, romantic rival, and undeserving hero who must choose between a business alliance and his own happiness. Though it is written by a female author, I think this book may hold more appeal for men than for women since Gwenlyn comes off as a male fantasy, constantly throwing herself at Garen and shedding her clothes at every opportunity she gets. His fiancée, Leeza, seemed like a better match for him to me, but romcoms tend to have one option who's "safe" and another who's "fun," and the latter is usually the one that gets picked. For a time travel story, there were no deep musings about whether the ways of the past were superior to the ways of the present or vice versa. Gwenlyn was way too thirsty for Garen to have any deep thoughts like that. She also didn't seem to understand some relatively basic concepts that I don't think the time travel element should have affected as much as it did.

All in all, I would say this book is more of a romcom with fairy tale elements than a fairy tale with romcom elements. Even though it was released this year, it maintains many of the outdated stereotypes that shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend try to correct, but it's mostly harmless if you can get past Gwenlyn's shamelessness. It has some elegant writing and is nostalgic of movies that were popular in the early 2000s. I would recommend this book to adult romance fans who are looking for something a little magical, and don't want to think too hard.


Sugar said…
What exactly is the level of sexual content? just kisses or something else? I'm interested to know since I also don't like "just kisses" books where however it seems that the characters want to jump on the bed all the time.
Judging by your comment about the protagonist taking off her clothes, it's just that kind of book.
Lisa Dawn said…
There's no sex in it, but it keeps going into detail about how tempted he is by her body. She's naked when she turns back from a frog, of course, but then she keeps voluntarily wearing very revealing clothing to try to taunt him.

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