A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

by - July 12, 2019

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (2019)

[Btw, the cover is SO PRETTY. THAT HOLO!!]

Quick Categories

Steamy Hatefuck Scale: 3/5
  • This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling so... the novel starts with Prince Rhen and his loyal guard Gray kidnapping Harper. She is understandably pissed off and treats them with much antagonism. She tries to kill them, attack them, and run away. Multiple times of each. But soon she realizes Rhen isn't as bad as she thinks and they get closer. There really isn't much hatefuck steam; it's just plain hating to loving. No sexual tension, no romantic tension (until she realizes he's actually a good person). Pretty vanilla for the enemies to lovers fan.

Secret Softness Scale: 4/5
  • The romance between Rhen and Harper is actually really sweet. Some notable scenes: them dancing under the stars, her declaring her love for him despite him being a monster, and just... the two of them opening up to each other in general. Both Harper and Rhen have prickly and cold exteriors respectively, but those walls are down once they get to know each other more deeply. Also, yes, there are multiple kisses, and my grandma butt was shocked at how quickly Harper decided to grope her prince in the latter one. You go girl lmao

I actually gave a shit about other things scale: 5/5
  • This part gets a perfect score for the perfection that is Gray. His stone-cold, unflappable, serious demeanor that hides a soft side? 5/5. His unwavering loyalty to Rhen? 5/5. His heartwarming friendship with Harper? 5/5. The fact that he gets wasted on one glass because he has never drunk alcohol before? Adorably 5/5.

For Fans of Fierce Heroine X and Broody Hero Y:

Harper hates that people coddle and underestimate her. She's got celebral palsy and a limp, but that doesn't stop her from fighting and clawing her way through Emberfall. She slowly grows into her confident, powerful persona. I would sort of compare her to Alina (Grishaverse) because she comes into her physical power once she learns to believe in herself more.

Meanwhile, Rhen is intelligent, handsome, but scarred by his curse. In true beastly fashion, he used to be an arrogant prick. Now he's set up walls around his heart because he's afraid of hurting other people. He's afraid of failing. He's calculating and cunning but has trouble with emotions. I can't think of similar characters right now, but he's a compelling person!

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

On to the actual review...

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that shifts between modern Washington, DC and the fictional medieval land of Emberfall. It features a dual POV between Harper, our modern girl, and Prince Rhen, the "beast" from Emberfall. The plot is really simple. Prince Rhen has been cursed to relive his eighteenth birthday over and over, doomed to become a mindless beast once the season ends. His loyal (and only) guard Grey has the ability to cross into other worlds for one hour at the start of every season. So each year, he must kidnap a girl, bring her back to Emberfall, and hope that she falls in love with Prince Rhen so that his curse can be broken.

In terms of fairy tale retellings, this is one of the most straightforward.

I feel like any enemies to lovers fan would also be a fan of the Beauty and the Beast narrative. However, perhaps due to personal taste, I thought this book wasn't that great. It's not bad... But it's also not good. It's... mediocre. I would still recommend it, but I'll explain more of its merits and demerits below.


I feel so spoiled by authors with beautiful prose (Hodge, Christo, Maas) that anything other than intricate writing is just... disappointing to me. A Curse So Dark and Lonely has a very simple, straightforward writing style. I would even call it the stereotypical YA style. There are moments where Kemmerer's talent shines through, but I wish that she used her pretty prose more often. Even if the book is meant to be fast-paced, I would still appreciate some flourishes.


I really enjoyed Emberfall, and I understand that Harper's awkwardness is really meant to prove how much she clashes with this alternate world. But it was just. So. Uncomfortable to read. I'm not sure why. She's not meant to fit in, so she's much more informal and modern compared to the rest. But it really annoyed me because I felt like I was being yanked out of the story. I like my fantasies immersive, you know? I only started getting into it halfway through, when she learned how to blend in more. It took a while.

Contrary to Emberfall, I didn't enjoy the DC scenes. They're necessary for her backstory and character development, yes, but it just seemed so basic to me. Yeah, she's got every Wattpad heroine's backstory: her mom is dying and her brother is working for the mafia and blah blah she meets a prince who saves her from this terrible situation. No matter how emotional she got, I still couldn't connect with her. Maybe it's just a me problem.

Characters and Relationships

And here is the brunt of the review... and also where the saving grace is.

So, first: I actually really enjoyed the characters and their relationships! Harper is easy enough to root for. Rhen is seemingly cold and calculating, but he actually hides a soft side. Gray is also cold and stoic, but his soft side is revealed first. I love Gray a lot, fyi. He's my fave.

In the beginning, there's a hint of a love triangle: Will Harper fall for Rhen or Gray?! But it's not really a major love triangle. If anything, Harper's friendship with Gray is really heartwarming. Gray and Rhen's friendship too (this is one of the few things that kept me reading). And because I'm a slut for enemies to lovers dynamics, I powered through Harper and Rhen's bitter beginnings because I wanted to see them fall in love, ok.

Harper begins by hating Gray and Rhen, which is perfectly understandable considering they kidnapped her while she was on look-out duty for her brother. She tries to kill them, escape numerous times, and generally make a nuisance. But soon she learns that they aren't as bad as she thought and decides to stay to at least help the people of Emberfall.

Obviously the romance is a major part of this book, but it does have an over-arching political plot that's interesting to read through. Because of the curse, Rhen's kingdom has fallen to bandits and the threat of invasion. So he has to regain his power and defend his people... while time is ticking on his eventual transformation. Rhen is handsome and fiercely intelligent, which is great, because at least he doesn't make me want to bang my head against my table. 

Is the Harper and Rhen romance believable? Yes, it is. It's believable and makes you want to root for them! It's no epic love story, but it's still a very enjoyable read. Maybe it's the inner writer/critic in me, but every time I read some lines that foreshadowed their romance (oh my! they must ride on the same horse and share body heat! they realize the other is actually attractive after cleaning up!), I would snort. But also, I finished the book anyway, because cheesy romance tropes are my love. So really, I'm just playing myself.

Before I end the review, I just want to say something that isn't related to the romance bit. It's that... the cliffhanger ending disappointed me. I think this will be a trilogy, but I honestly don't think it should be one (or I'll judge it when the 2nd book is released). It would have been perfectly fine as a standalone. I felt like the cliffhanger just came out of nowhere... and even ruined a theme that had been building up throughout the entirety of the novel. I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free so I'll discuss it in a future blog post instead.

TL;DR A Curse So Dark and Lonely is rated 3/5 stars. It's not a masterpiece, but it's not terrible. If you want to be entertained, then go ahead and read it. It will still appeal to fans of Beauty and the Beast.

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