The Prince is cursed and can only be cured when a woman falls in love with him.
A Prince has been cursed and once a year he turns into a monster that kills people. The only way to break the curse is to have a woman fall in love with him. A different version of The Beauty and the Beast.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely (bk #1), Brigid Kemmerer
Published 2019, 484 pages
In recent years I have discovered that I enjoy fantasy books, and I loved this one. Eighteen-year-old Prince Rhen is cursed by evil enchantress Lilith and each year in the autumn he turns into a monster that goes on a killing rampage. After the rampage, his loyal commander Grey brings him a girl from the “regular” world (only Grey can go between the two worlds although it’s not explained why) hoping Rhen can make her fall in love with him and break the curse. This cycle has been repeated over 300 times when Grey brings back Harper, an impulsive, spunky girl from Washington D.C. who has cerebral palsy. (The story is told by Rhen and Harper in alternating chapters.)
She is stunned to find herself thrown into a magical land and tries to escape it. When she realizes she can’t, she slowly adjusts to the new land and the Prince. Eventually Rhen reveals to her why she has been brought here and also enlists her help in saving his kingdom, Emberfall, against other countries. I really enjoyed the banter between Rhen (he’s so proper) and Harper (she’s outspoken and impatient). Their romance is slow in developing as they learn to trust each other and eventually care for each other.
Neither Lilith nor Rhen can be killed, although Rhen has tried to kill himself to escape the curse and also the mental torture that Lilith inflicts on him with images of his past killings as the monster as well as future ones he will deliver. It's truly a battle of wills.
Although Harper comes to care about Rhen, Grey, and their Kingdom, she is also missing her brother and dying mother in D.C. This is a constant source of anguish while she is in Emberfall. She wants to go home but she is also drawn to help the people of Emberfall.
I liked so many of the details of this story: Harper learning how to fight using swords (she’s no good) and arrows (she loves it), “Silver Hell” – Rhen and Grey’s swearing!, the music that is constantly playing in the castle, the food that is automatically replenished.
The ending is open-ended and there is a sequel I look forward to reading. I definitely recommend this book if you like fantasy, light romance, and good vs. evil. If you have a favorite fantasy recommendation I would love to hear about it.
photos by Terrie Purkey