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Curses

Curses

by Lish McBride

Narrated by Jayne Entwistle

Unabridged — 13 hours, 28 minutes

Lish McBride

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Overview

"Curses is the 'Beauty and the Beast' retelling I've been waiting for." --Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A unique and twisty magical romp!" --Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author

Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling's curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother's choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family's cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother's debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Curses is the 'Beauty and the Beast' retelling I've been waiting for." – Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A unique and twisty magical romp!" – Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author
 
"If you're looking to escape into a fun fantasy romp, you can't go wrong with this one." – Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A genuine delight." – William Ritter, author of the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series
 
“McBride’s voyage into this full fantasy world brings a different kind of humor than her Necromancer duology, and it’s a worthwhile pivot.” – Booklist
 
“This gender-swapped take on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a snappy blend of old-school fairy tale appeal, with true love and pretty gowns, and modern-day sensibilities in dialogue and plot points.” – BCCB
 
“Earnest and amusing.” – Kirkus Reviews

"The path to true love constitutes an enjoyable read and the repartee among characters is clever and modern." – School Library Connection

Kirkus Reviews

2021-05-11
A “beastly girl” meets a handsome boy in a tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale universe vaguely reminiscent of Victorian England.

Not a typical member of the fairyborn aristocracy, Merit has horns, fur, and a tail. Unless she finds a love match or marries a suitor her mother chooses before her next birthday, she will keep them forever. Compared to some in her curse support group, though, she’s not so unfortunate; a tincture of a certain herb from her family’s lands can restore her normal form for a few hours. As penance for his mother’s theft of the herb, Tevin, a magically charming con boy, promises to help Merit secure a worthy partner. Merit and Tevin’s sweet romance grows naturally from their friendship, but supporting characters provide the most entertainment—especially Tevin’s sharpshooting lesbian cousin, Val. In fact, Merit and Tevin match so easily that it’s hard to feel a lot of tension or suspense. Plus, their stalwart crew of friends always seems more than capable of handling the garden-variety villain, an ambitious queen. Sassy chapter titles and the odd cheeky aside infuse the traditional setting with some humor. Refreshingly, marriage equality seems to be the law of the land, and one culture in this world does not believe in binary genders. Most characters are cued as White; there is some diversity of skin tone in the cast.

Earnest and amusing. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173330901
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 07/20/2021
Edition description: Unabridged
Age Range: 10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE:

Merit Cravan, only heir to the barony of Cravan and current absentee from her own betrothal ball, locked herself in her room. Then pushed a dresser in front of the door, just in case. The dresser was heavy, and pushing it left her dress askew and her carefully curled and pinned updo a tangled mess by the time she was done.

“You come out this instant, young lady.” Lady Zarla punctu-ated her demand with a moment of consistent but quiet thuds on the stout wooden door.

“No, Mother.” Merit started yanking out the hairpins one by one, massaging her scalp. Her hair had a natural wave to it, but the maid had spent so much time heating and curling it that she no longer recognized the texture.

“Stop being such a child!” Her mother’s voice through the door was fierce but low, because fairyborn aristocracy wouldn’t be so uncouth as to yell.

“You stop being such a child!” As a retort, it lacked flair, and in many ways only supported her mother’s argument. Merit hadn’t considered herself to be a child for several years. As the only heir, she’d had to pack up her childhood early and assume certain responsibilities. And yet, at this exact moment, that was exactly how she felt. Small. Young. Scared. “I told you to cancel it.” Her words were calm, but the pins in her fist shook. She didn’t love him, though that puny fact would not signify with her mother. “He’s old enough to be my father.” If her betrothed were a few years older, he’d be old enough to be Lady Zarla’s father.

“He said he’d wait until you were eighteen. Honestly, Merit. Fairyborn gentlemen of his ilk don’t grow on trees.”

“He can wait forever!” Merit yelled, throwing her pins at the door. Her mother gasped at the slip in Merit’s decorum, and Merit did not care. No, she did not. And if she kept saying she didn’t care, eventually it would be true, wouldn’t it?

“Godling Verity, we are graced with your presence.” Lady Zarla’s voice had completely altered, her tone now reverent and careful.

Merit put a hand over her mouth, muffling the sound that wanted to come out. In the mess of things, she’d completely forgotten— her mother had hired a fairy godling to gift the union. Godling Verity was temperamental, even for her kind— any perceived slight would be blown entirely out of proportion. Merit slid down the wall, pulled her knees up to her chest, and wrapped her arms around them.

“Is there a problem?” The godling’s words held the crisp bite of authority. Merit didn’t think anyone had argued with God-ling Verity in her entire life. No sane person would.

"Lady Merit is indisposed.” Even through the door Merit could tell that Lady Zarla was holding on to her composure by her fingernails. “She’ll be back out in a moment.”

Fear spiked through Merit, but so did determination. She had already chosen the boy she would marry, and he was most certainly not the paunchy, gray- haired baron waiting for her in the ballroom. “I won’t,” Merit yelled without thinking. “I’m not coming out!”

It was the last straw. Her mother smacked the door with her hand. “You want to wait for your fortune hunter, you beastly girl? Want him to come back and profess his love? Well, he’s not coming. Not tonight, not ever. You will grow up and do as I say! Merit!” She banged on the door some more. “Get out here right this minute!”

Merit’s fingers slid over the beautiful beading of her skirt. She’d been so excited about this dress when she’d first seen the sketch. The exquisite detail, the sweetheart neckline, the deep purple of the fabric. It was the kind of dress her mother would wear— the dress of a woman, not a girl. Months ago, be-fore she’d actually met her betrothed and the reality had set in, before she’d fallen for Jasper, she’d touched the swatch of fabric the dressmaker had brought and looked forward to this moment. As if donning the dress would wave a magic wand, making her into a sure and steady adult. Now the hem was torn, the beading ruined.

“He will come back for me.” Merit was no longer sure if she was trying to convince her mother or herself.

A beat of silence then, a hesitation that told her that her mother was struggling with herself. “Fine. Wonderful. If he comes back for you—f or you, not your money or your title—you’re welcome to him. You’ll have my blessings. But he won’t come back, Merit.”

Her capitulation surprised Merit. It was too easy. “How are you so sure? You don’t even know him.”

“Because I made him an offer, and he took it. Took the coin and ran. He wanted your family’s money. Not you.”

Merit choked back a sob. The dull blade of betrayal sliced through her. Her mother was wrong; she had to be wrong. Jasper loved her. He loved her. He’d promised.

Lady Zarla smacked the door again. “Merit! You are the heir to one of the oldest and most respected baronies in this land, and you will act like it! Now, come out here before the guests start talking!”

Merit’s entire body trembled, but she made no move to open the door. Her mother was lying. She had to be. He would never— only it didn’t sound like her mother was lying, did it?

Merit heard a new sound then, the faint buzzing of wings. Her pulse sped up.

“You refuse to honor your mother’s choice?” Godling Verity  crooned oddly, as though she was pleased by Merit’s disobedience.

Merit swallowed her fear. Her doubt. Even if her mother was right, she couldn’t marry her betrothed. The thought of his hands on her made her want to curl up and die. “I refuse.” The words rasped out of her throat, but the godling heard. There was no doubt about that.

Something tapped against the door— Merit would realize later it was Godling Verity’s wand. “Beastly girl is right. You will get your gift from me this night.” The hum of wings grew louder. “As you are still young, I will be generous and give you a chance to learn from your folly.” Merit could almost see the cold smile on her face. “If love appears, we will bow to your will. If not, it will be as your mother says. You will marry someone of her choosing by your eighteenth birthday.”

Merit placed her hands flat on the floor, trying to quiet the trembling of her body. It didn’t stop the fear slicing up her spine. For a second, she wavered. But then she thought again of her betrothed— of his greedy eyes on her, his clammy hands when he grasped her fingers and planted a dry kiss on her knuckles. “If I don’t?”

“Then you will become a beast in truth. Do you still refuse?”

Merit closed her eyes. “Yes.”

There was a flash, then a whoosh, and Merit felt like her world tipped sideways and split in half. She didn’t remember anything else until one of her mother’s footmen removed the door at its hinges. When she opened her eyes, it was to see the footman faint dead away, the heavy door in his hands clattering to the floor.

Then her mother screamed.

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