‘Of Curses & Kisses’ Is A ‘Beauty & The Beast’-Inspired Literary Rom-Com

Sandhya Menon’s Of Curses and Kisses is a brand-new re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. The story centers on Jaya Rao and Grey Emerson — two teens fated to be enemies. Jaya is an imperial princess, and her sister has just been deeply hurt by a member of the Emerson clan. There’s already plenty of tension between the Raos and Emersons, but Jaya plans to add to it by transferring to St. Rosetta’s Academy, the Colorado boarding school where Grey lives. She’ll seduce Grey and break his heart to get even for her sister’s hurt feelings. As you might expect, Jaya starts to fall in love with Grey, but he’s inherited a family curse that could get in the way of their budding romance.

The first novel in a planned trilogy, Of Curses and Kisses is sure to delight YA romance fans and anyone who loves contemporary fantasy. Start reading Menon’s Of Curses and Kisses now, and pick up your copy on Feb. 18:

Excerpt from Curses and Kisses, exclusive to Bustle

Jaya

Sliding out from behind the plant, Jaya walked to the nearest stacks. Nonfiction: Renaissance. She was reaching for one of the books when a deep male voice broke the silence. “Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of spies.”

Jaya jumped and spun around, heart slamming against her rib cage. A hulking figure stood in the doorway, but backlit as he was, Jaya couldn’t see his face. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth like glue.

“Who are you?” the figure demanded, walking forward slowly, features finally materializing.

It was the feral boy from just moments before. His head was cocked, electric blue eyes focused on her the way a wolf might study an interloper in the forest. Though Jaya’s pulse pounded furiously, she attempted a joke to defuse the situation, taking a page from Amma’s etiquette book. “Do you always go around quoting Jane Austen to strangers you meet in libraries? It’s very charming.”

He didn’t return her smile. His eyes were hooded, guarded, and his jaw was dotted with a few days’ worth of dark stubble. As he walked closer, graceful and silent, Jaya noticed how his broad shoulders took up the space with authority. His eyes seemed to alight on her rose pendant, like almost everyone’s did. Unlike everyone else, a shadow passed over his face as he took it in. His expression cleared so quickly Jaya could almost believe she imagined it, and he said, “You still haven’t told me why you were spying.”

Jaya crossed her arms and gazed straight into those lupine eyes, feeling her nerves fade and her temper bristle. How dare this scruffy, angry boy question her? And looming over her like some schoolyard bully? “I wasn’t spying. I hid there in case you needed help.”

He huffed, and what looked like a smile hovered at his lips.

“Not likely.”

Jaya shrugged. “Well, I didn’t know.”

The boy’s expression softened a bit at that, and his shoulders relaxed. “No, I suppose you didn’t.” After a pause, he added, “You’re new?”

The tension between them dissipated. “I am. My name’s Jaya Rao. I’ve only just arrived here, and so I thought I’d explore. I knew I’d love the library.”

She waited for him to introduce himself, but he just nodded at the sign behind her. “You like Renaissance-era nonfiction?”

Jaya smiled a little, always happy to talk about books. “Of course. Although I read just about anything.”

“Then I highly recommend The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall,” he said, walking toward the table where he’d apparently left his cell phone.

“Jane Austen and The House of Medici?” Jaya was impressed he was familiar with the latter; it wasn’t exactly light reading. The book charted the eventual decline of a wealthy, powerful family in Florence. “Well, thanks,” she said. “But I’ve already read it.”

He didn’t look back as he lumbered toward the exit. “You could always read it again.”

She frowned at his back. “Pardon me, but you haven’t introduced yourself.” He kept walking, as if he didn’t hear her. “Hello?”

Jaya heard the double doors shut with a muffled thump.

How rude. Some people just didn’t have the same breeding she did, she supposed. And she was hard-pressed to remember an odder encounter. Why would this absolute stranger care whether or not Jaya read some old book? Maybe it was an omen, him recommending it. Royal families were rather prone to superstition, and she wasn’t an exception. Maybe the mention of the Medici family meant the Emersons would fall into decline as surely as the Medicis did. Or perhaps the boy was just rambling because he wasn’t used to human company. He certainly looked the part of the misanthropic recluse.

Jaya shook off the bizarre incident and turned back to the bookshelf, still happy. She was surrounded by books. Heaven couldn’t be marred that easily. She’d read until she was sated and then see where the day took her.

Grey

So that was Jaya Rao.

Grey sat back in the recliner in his room an hour after their encounter, a small stack of animal science books on the end table at his elbow. She was smaller, more harmless-looking than he’d expect for someone from such an evil genetic line. He stared out the window at the gardens below, wondering again why she was here. St. Rosetta’s International Academy was a fine institution, but he knew from experience — he’d been here more than a decade now — that most students who transferred in this late in their academic careers had something to hide. St. Rosetta’s was a holding cell for the wayward teens of high-profile parents, a place they could be kept safe and away from the public eye until they were old enough to be sent even farther away to college — or until fate intervened. Grey should know.

Grey’s own father didn’t want to see Grey, didn’t want to see his wife’s eyes in his son’s traitorous face. Grey could understand.

He’d been a newborn when his mother died, but he alone had been responsible for her death.

Grey stood and walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows. There, down below in the garden, he saw Jaya Rao sitting on a bench, her face serious, thoughtful… and guarded. Her slender fingers played with the pendant at her throat. Something about it had tugged at him when he’d first noticed it in the library, sparkling against Jaya’s throat…. A blanket of unease settled over Grey.

“Why are you here? And what are you hiding?” he murmured, his breath fogging the glass.

Sandhya Menon’s Of Curses and Kisses is out on Feb. 18 from Simon Pulse and is available for pre-order today.

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