Way, way back in 2013 I was sitting in a chemo chair on Mayo Clinic Gonda Building’s 10th floor with a Kindle ereader in hand desperately searching for escapist fantasy and came across this self-published series about a family of super-angsty, super-hot brothers who could control the elements.
And dived right in and rolled around in all the guilty, guilty pleasure of it. Then I guess I was a bit ashamed of how eagerly I swallowed all the tropes and lost track of Brigid Kemmerer. But I can’t say I am surprised in the least to see her back with a traditionally published series about angsty, angsty men.
She almost does duty-bound angst as well as Guy Gavriel Kay. So Kemmerer takes a cursed Prince and his loyal-beyond-death Guardsman and has them kidnap a girl with cerebral palsy that causes a dragging leg from our modern world and takes her to the kingdom of Emberfall. To break a curse. You see where this is going, right? Yep, the prince turns into a monster, his kingdom is poor and he in threat of invasion, and at some point his curse caused him to murder his entire family.
Not enough angst for you? Well there’s also his loyal guardsman who is obedient and deadly and the only person who has survived the curse– and goes into our world and kidnaps girls who so far after 300 tries, have not managed to break the curse. But he has paid a heavy price for that loyalty.
The story is told in alternating Rhen-the-Prince and Harper-the-modern-girl POVs, which is something I think I remember from her Elemental series, and whilst I must confess i might have liked this even more with a traditional Harper-only POV, Rhen did grow on me after a while.
Harper is plucky in believable ways, doing things like stealing the ever-present magical food to distribute to Rhen’s starving people (and then roundly getting scolded about how this will result in her having to choose between people to help and might incite riots when others tried to show up for a share) and climbing down trellises (falling off of trellises) to escape the castle. She did seem to heal quite quickly…but I kind of turned a blind eye to that since at least there was actual believable healing with stitches and herbs and boiled salt water.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is catnip for Beauty & the Beast lovers, its like crack for angsty, tortured hero lovers, and it is entirely pleasing to folks who want a scrappy heroine who isn’t completely (although, okay, just a bit of one) a Mary Sue. Totally getting the next book in the series which seems centered around my favorite tortured but loyal Guardsman 😉