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Preview — A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
The girl will be gone, and the season will begin again. I’ll be newly eighteen. For the three hundred twenty-seventh time.
When I first pitched this book, I knew I wanted to do a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it was important to me that I make it my own rendition. I remember saying to my agent, "What if I did Beauty and the Beast crossed with Groundhog Day? Like, what if he only has a short time to break the curse, and if he fails, it all starts over?" She loved the idea, and I got to work. I spent a lot of time playing with the amount of time. Thirty days seemed too short, but a year was too long. When I finally decided on the span of a season (roughly three months), I knew I'd hit the sweet spot.
Washington, DC, is so cold it should be illegal.
When I was a kid, I LOVED the idea of finding a portal to a fantastical world. I don't think I ever grew out of it.
Everything is always the same. Except for the dead. They never come back. The fire pops, a bit of kindling sliding to the base of the fireplace. Right on schedule. Grey will reappear soon. I sigh. Practiced words wait on my tongue, though sometimes it takes the girls a while to awaken from the sleeping ether Grey gives them. They’re always frightened at first, but I’ve learned how to ease their fears, to charm and coax them into trusting me.
A buckskin stretches out his nose to blow puffs at my hand.
I rode horses from the time I was a kid until my late twenties, when having kids of my own didn't leave my with any time to keep doing it. But when I was a child, my first favorite lesson horse was a buckskin named Squire, and Ironwill is a buckskin in his honor.
Her eyebrows go up. “You’ve thrown musical instruments … into the fireplace?” “I have.” In truth, I’ve burned the entire castle to the ground. More than once. The music continues to play from the ash and rubble. It was actually quite fascinating the first time.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I were trapped in a situation like Rhen's, where you can't die, not really, but you're also stuck re-living the same three months. At some point you'd get bored enough to do just about anything, right?
I bow low as she approaches, taking her hand to brush a kiss against her knuckles. I infuse my voice with false charm. “Good day to you, Lady Lilith. The morning light favors you, as always.” At the very least, that is true. Soft skin, pink cheeks, rose-colored lips that always seem to be keeping a secret. Hair the color of a raven’s wing, perfect curls falling over her shoulder. An emerald silk dress clings to every curve, accentuating her narrow waist, the soft rise of her breasts. The color brings out the green in her eyes. In the sunlight pouring through the windows overhead, she’s ...more
I'm sometimes asked why I made Lilith beautiful, when she's so cruel, but I think one of the things I love most about the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale is that no one is really what they seem. All of my books have some exploration of the fact that you can't judge someone based on their appearance -- or even have a true understanding of who they are the first time you meet them.
There’s one way I can see him, I guess. I click on the photo app. He’s not exactly a selfie guy—I don’t even think he has a social media account—but he takes them with Mom when she asks.
In the first draft of CURSE, Harper's phone acted like the traditional "magic mirror" that would let her see what was going on in her home world. My editor and I worried that having Harper see the real world was too distracting from the immersion into Emberfall, so I had to remove all those scenes. It was a fun challenge to figure out how Harper could still make the same discoveries (like finding out her brother was in love and he'd been keeping it a secret) without actually "seeing" things happen.
One of the children laughs, full out, with pure glee. I snap my head around. Grey has laid his cloak in the snow for the children to stand on. He looks to be making ridiculous faces at them. A little boy of about four has found the courage to step in front of his mother, and the toddler giggles between shivers and says, “Again, again.” When Grey sees me looking, he straightens and sobers immediately.
Similar to what I said earlier about Lilith being cruel but beautiful, I love having characters do the unexpected, like an intimidating swordsman like Grey being good with children.
“I have cerebral palsy,” she says quietly. “Do you know what that is?”
I'm often asked why I chose to give Harper CP. When I was growing up, I was close friends with a girl named Erin. We grew up riding horses together. She has CP, but it never stopped her. When I was designing Harper’s character, I knew I wanted to look at the idea of curses, and how sometimes what seems like a curse to one person might not be a curse at all to someone else. I hadn’t read a book with a character with CP, and Erin agreed to help me springboard my research, and that was how Harper got her start.
Awe that is so sweet! So harper is in a way, an imagine of your friend? x
This is my everything in this book.
I have not read a book with a character or protagonist having CP before either, but Harper's character is interesting. I liked how it made her more connected to the real world, even though this is a…
“But you are here with the prince, so this must mean changes are afoot. Tell me, what is the name of your land?” I glance at Rhen and wish he would stop talking to Coale and come help me figure a way out of this conversation. “DC,” I say weakly. “The Lady Harper of Disi,” says Evalyn, her voice hushed with awe. “Such happy news.” Then she gasps. “Are you Princess Harper? Is there to be a wedding?”
I love Evalyn so much, and I love that she started the thread of the mysterious land of Disi. More on Evalyn later. :-)
I laughed so hard at this moment!!
I love Evelyn too! She makes me laugh so much! x
lol, I love moments like these with some characters. Evalyn is so cute and just the mention of DC; she turns it into the land of "Disi." Makes me wonder if she apperantly created a new land there,…
He unwraps the fabric, spreading it across the small table. His eyes flick up to meet mine. “You said you will not sleep. Do you care to play?” In his hands sits a deck of cards.
When I wrote this scene with Grey, when he first plays cards with Harper, it's the first time I realized, "Wow, he's going to be a bigger player than I thought." I knew I loved him from the start, but this is the first time he really leapt off the page for me.
I absolutely love his character and all his appearances.
I love grey so much! He is like an older brother to Harper when her brother can’t be there x
I really liked Grey's character a lot. All his apperance and unexpected moments were delightful. A real Brother figure to Harper, when she misses her own real brother.
“At this point, I’ve tried everything. A fall from a great height. Impalement by whatever you can imagine. Drowning. I ordered Grey to behead me once, because I was curious, but he refused—”
This is such a minor detail, but I love imagining the withering look Grey would give Rhen if he said, "Cut my head off, Commander."
“Rhen,” she calls after me. I pause in the doorway and face her. “I’m not going to fall in love with you,” she says. Her words are not a surprise. I sigh. “You won’t be the first.”
this gave me HUGE a walk to remember feels “you have to promise you won’t fall in love with me.” “that’s not a problem”
Oh, it is never what you expect once you hear lines like these. But, when remembering "A Walk to Remember" puts me into the feels. This makes me love lines like these even more and the anticipation…
I shake my head. “Even if we empty the castle of food at every meal, every single day, it would not feed all of my subjects.” Her voice is quiet. “It would feed some of them, Rhen.” “Yes, but not all.” I look over at her. “How would you choose?”
Rhen wants SO BADLY to help his people, but he looks at the world in a very "all or nothing" way, so I loved having Harper counter this with wanting to help the people she could, in the moment she could do it. There's something universal to this, I think. Sometimes everything seems hopeless, and we do nothing because we can't solve the whole problem. But we CAN solve a tiny part of the problem, and that's OK too.
This is a big part of why this book works so well—that focus on "what can we do here, now?" People in the world need to read that and think, Oh! Right! I can do something too.
This part reminds me of the thinking of either there is all or nothing. But, it is important to think about those people who you can save, rather than exhausting yourself or if you can't save them…
Rhen leans closer to me. “Have mercy, my lady. I know your soldiers are said to enjoy tearing men limb from limb, but—” “Goodness,” Evalyn gasps. “The Secret Service sounds positively vicious.”
The way the imaginary country of "Disi" came together is so much fun, and I love how quickly Evalyn (and everyone) bought right into it.
“Do you regret your oath?” I say. “I do not.” His answer is quick, a practiced response. I won’t let him out of it that easily. “Have you ever?” “No.” “This is our final season, Commander. You must know you can speak freely without much consequence.” He hesitates, which is rare for him. When he speaks, I realize the pause is not for the reason I would expect. His voice is quiet. “I do speak freely, my lord.” His loyalty should inspire me. It does not. I have done nothing to earn it. I find that I regret his oath.
The romance in this book is between Rhen and Harper, but Rhen and Grey have such a unique, challenging relationship that isn't quite a friendship, but also isn't really that of employer/employee. I loved developing these moments between them.
The Argumentative Bong
Am I the only one to wish that it should have been Rhen and Grey, instead of Rhen and Harper? What a great tale it would have been
Possibly a bromance? x
Either it be true bromance or Rhen and Grey. I would love it so much. I really liked how they got along and moments like this between them from the book. I am satisfied with Rhen and Harper too.
I lean against the stall door. “So underneath Scary Grey there’s a big softy who’s good with kids and animals?” His eyebrows lift just a hair. “Scary Grey?” “Oh, please. You know you’re scary.”
lol, scary Grey made me laugh. But, i like his cute side with his softy side that is good with kids and animals. A perfect big brother, friend, bf, or husand type of character feel to him. But, Scary…
Grey looks as though I’ve completely lost my mind. He might not be too far off the mark. “So—to be clear—you wish for me to recruit individuals to the Royal Guard, outfit them with weapons and uniforms, and … what? Allow them to accompany you into the masses with a bare modicum of training?” “Yes! Exactly that.”
I have long since locked away any emotion over my own destruction, but warmth collects in my throat, thickening my words. “By the end of the second season, the creature turned on my people. By the third … My lady, please—please know I meant you no harm. I meant your family no harm. I have tried everything I can think of to break this curse. I have tried to destroy myself. I would undo it if I could. I promise you.”
This is the first moment when Rhen is truly honest with Harper and reveals his vulnerability -- and it's also the first moment he allows true trust to begin to grow between them.
A really great and loveable moment. With Rhen's vulnerability showing to Harper, helps to deepen and stregnthen their relationship. I really liked this precious moment of theirs together. I love when…
He really does think of everything. “Do you seriously believe this will work?” “In matters of the heart, I am clearly hopeless.” He puts down his final card—a prince. A wild card. I stare at him, stunned. It didn’t matter what I played. He would have won anyway. “In matters of strategy,” he finishes, “I am not.”
“My lady. Harper. Princess,” he says pointedly. “How is it you are not understanding?” “Understanding what?” Rhen puts his hands on my arms, and even through my sweater, I feel his strength. Goose bumps spring up along my skin. He leans in a bit. “Whether the curse breaks or not, you are willing to help my people. I am the Crown Prince of Emberfall. If there is something within my power to give you, all you must do is ask.”
Harper is so used to people disappointing her, and I loved this moment where Rhen shocks her by saying he'll give her anything she asks for.
“Killing him?” The woman laughs, and even that is beautiful, in a grating, shimmering way, like discordant wind chimes. “I would never kill him.” She glances down at Rhen. I don’t see her move, but he jerks and makes a low keening sound, then coughs more blood into the dirt. I had no idea she would be like this.
This is the first time Harper realizes everything Rhen is going through to help his people, and it broke my heart to write it.
“The stitches are smaller than I expected.” “Your lady-in-waiting has a steady hand.” She turns to look at me. “Freya did it?” “She did.” I pause. “She was quite forceful, in fact. Yelled at Commander Grey.” “She yelled at Grey?” Harper’s eyes widen. “Yanked the needle right from his hand.” “What did she say?” I raise my voice into a lilting imitation of Freya’s. “ ‘You will not put field sutures in my lady’s face! She is not a common soldier!’ ”
THIS PART HAD ME LAUGHING SO HARD! Seriously, just imagining Freya bullying Scary Grey out of the way is perfection.
I loved this scene and Freya. I laughed so much! x
Freya's image as a mom character is such a lovable thing and she is a nice character. Even her yelling at Grey made me laugh.
“Yes.” I pause. “You are not angry about what Lilith has done?” “Oh, I’m furious. But not about my face.” “Then what?” Her voice fills with steel. “I’m mad I missed.”
“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”
This is by far the most quoted line from this book, and I'm honored that it's resonated with so many readers. I tend to be a pretty optimistic person, and I truly believe this.
Hope blooms in my chest anyway, a tiny bud giving way to the first light of spring, petals daring to open to reveal the color inside. I want to know it’s real. That must mean it’s real for her. The last buckle gives and I toss the jacket on the chair. When my fingers find the lacings of my shirt, hands settle on my shoulders. I freeze. “Prince Rhen,” says Lilith. “I’d forgotten what a fine form you have.”
When Lilith appears in Rhen's room after he and Harper have finally started to fall for each other, it BROKE MY HEART. Such a hard scene to write.
This broke mine as well and her apperance made me freeze as well. I was disappinted that she would ruin the moment between Rhen and Harper finally falling in love with each other and their strong…
I look at her—but she’s looking at me. I’m the princess, and I’m in charge. I’ve never been in charge of anything. At home, Jake told me what to do. In Emberfall, it’s always Rhen, or, in his own way, it’s Grey. I feel a flicker of the responsibility Rhen must feel for his people. Zo will do as I say. She’s risking her life. All I can think about is Grey saying My duty is to bleed so you do not.
In the first draft, Zo had a much smaller role, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to develop her character and give Harper a true friend, because she's awesome!
I was glad to know that Harper had a true friend in Zo and her developed charater. and With Grey's saying of "My duty is to bleed so you do not." really hit me in my feels. His strength is moving and…
“I’m not trapping you.” I step closer. “I’m not chasing you. I’m not tricking you.” He says nothing. “I’m inviting you,” I say quietly. He hesitates, then offers me a nod.
I loved this part about her and this scene. Harper is more powerful than she thinks, since she first appeared. It almost makes me think of Harper slowly taking her time with a small animal (Rhen for…
I drop my head to speak along her temple. My throat is tight, but I speak through it. “You act with such surprise each time. I told you I would give you anything within my power to give.”
Another favorite quote of mine from the book. I can understand Harper's thinking a little on this part. Sometimes, people are slower to realize that the love is there. This brings me back to the…
He shakes his head, then does it again more forcefully. “I speak too freely. This cursed drink has bewitched my thoughts.”
Grey steps up to me. He holds out a hand. I grasp it, and he grips tight. His eyes hold mine. There are no choices left. Every path leads to destruction. There is always a choice. “For the good of Emberfall,” Grey says quietly. I squeeze his hand. My voice shakes. “For the good of all.”
The room smells like iodine and blood. Noah has completed the sutures along Grey’s rib cage, four long arcs of neatly placed stitches. He’s moved on to the slice across his arm. When Noah speaks, his voice is low and quiet. “An inch lower, and this would have severed a tendon. I wouldn’t have been able to fix that.” “Is he going to be okay?” “His blood pressure is still low. He needs a liter of blood. IV fluids.” His voice is still soft, but laced with irritation.
It took a lot of research to get this scene right. Luckily, I have a close friend who's both a doctor and a huge YA fantasy fan who doesn't flinch at questions like, "If someone had gaping claw wounds across their chest from a dragon-like monster, what steps would you take to save their life?" Win-win-win!
Jake grabs my arm and turns me around. His grip is almost painful. “You aren’t doing this, Harper. I don’t know where you think you’ve been or what you think you’ve been doing, but this sounds like an elaborate setup. If I have to drag you into your room and lock you in there—” All of a sudden he’s jerked away from me. Noah scrapes out of his chair in alarm. Grey has Jake’s arm twisted up behind his back and his dagger point sits at the soft bit of skin just below Jake’s ear. “You will do no such thing,” he says. I look up at my idiot brother’s wide eyes and sigh. “I wasn’t lying when I said ...more
While I was writing this book, for SO LONG, I couldn't wait til I would get to this scene, because I thought for sure Grey and Jake would be immediate friends. Then I put them on the page together and I was shocked to discover that they didn't like each other at all. It's so funny how writing works like that, when our characters take us by surprise.
My characters sometimes do stuff I didn't plan for them to do either. haha
I do love Grey, like I mentioned before Grey is like the protective big brother lol but a better one x
It's like a biological brother (jake) and her new big brother figure (Grey) have different viewpoints on how Harper is and feels. I mean, I enjoyed the reunion with jake and all. But, Scary Grey did…
Harper? Pain. Sleep.
He leans his face against me and breathes a sigh. I lean against him and do the same thing. “Oh, Rhen,” I say, and I realize I’m crying. He’s here. He’s not hurting anyone. But he’s still a monster. The curse isn’t broken.
Jake said you two had to ‘do something real quick’ and then we’d be going home. Hilarious. Then he shows up with three dozen people with critical injuries. How do you not have a doctor here? You have an army. ABIGAIL!”
I had to keep stopping when reading this because all I could think about is how he would be able to handle transitioning back into the modern world and becoming a resident after everything he's done…
Lol, going back and forth was one thing. But, out of all that, Yes how is there no doctor there. LOL. I like some stories like this that have an ER doctor put into a fantasy world and go on from…
“You can’t kill me,” she says. “Karis Luran told me the truth. You want the truth, don’t you, Commander Grey? About Rhen? About yourself? About the true heir to the throne? About the blood that runs in your veins?”
It wasn't always the plan for Grey to be the secret heir, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would absolutely agonizing once Grey and Rhen realized how horrible it would be to know they were brothers trapped together for so long, especially since the rest of their siblings were gone due to Lilith. This gets explored in great detail in A HEART SO FIERCE AND BROKEN.
A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read these annotations. I love Harper, Rhen, and Grey so much, and it means a great deal to me that so many readers have invited them into their hearts. Additionally, I'm honored to note that A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY has been nominated in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards, and if you'd like to vote for CURSE, you can do so here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-young-adult-fantasy-books-2019
Thanks for sharing your insights and notes about your book. It is a first for me and is always nice to hear the authour's thoughts on their own writing. I look froward to the next book, "A Heart So…
Thank you for doing this! I loved the book and getting to hear your thoughts along the way is so much fun. I hope you'll do it for AHSFAB!
I loved your annotations ! It was great to revisit the book with you, and I’m even more excited to read the next one :D