I don’t want to write this review because I absolutely adored Danan’s first two novels. They were fresh and original and lovely. This novel is…well, it’s okay. That’s it. That’s the highest praise I can give it: okay.
Riley Rhodes is a cursebreaker. It’s a family thing that her grandma started (but initially the impression is given that it’s much older than that). Her mom didn’t take up the mantle and now, in her 30s, Riley is picking it up. She’s trying to make a go of it financially when she’s hired to break a curse at Arden castle in Scotland.
What’s the curse? Oddly, the nature of the curse is not ever actually explained until the very end when the ‘solution’ to the curse is discovered. Incidentally, the ‘solution’ to the curse will be clear to the reader by the midpoint of the book, but the alleged cursebreaker will only see it in the final pages.
Clark Edgeware is the archeologist on site. Before they know who the other is, they flirt at the local pub. The next morning brings a tornado of conflict as Clark works out who she is and wants to get her fired. He’s recovering from a professional setback and doesn’t want his redemption project to become a laughingstock, so she’s gotta go so that his site remains a pristine academic setting. However, this conflict is only explained in bits and pieces and for the first part of the book I was genuinely confused as to why he would even care that she was there except as someone to flirt with. Anyway, fireworks ensue. It becomes classic enemies-to-lovers stuff.
But I couldn’t lose myself in the story for two reasons.
1. It is difficult to buy that Clark’s work is undermined by a cursebreaker. Corporations (it’s a corporate group doing the land developing) do all kinds of things as marketing stunts. Why does hiring a cursebreaker mean that he’ll be laughed at? I don’t get it. He wants things to remain ‘academic’, but he’s finding absolutely no artifacts of interest so it’s not like this can be his big redemption tour anyway. He’s scratching in the dirt aimlessly, achieving nothing. Also, if he is cross for her being hired, then he needs to take that up with the corporation, not with her. The whole thing is very flimsy.
2. The book-world is very much our contemporary world – a world in which paranormal things are by no means widely accepted. Clark is a confirmed skeptic and the narration doesn’t give any clues that the curse or cursebreaking are legitimate, real things that happen in book-world.
It took a tremendous amount of suspended disbelief for me as the reader to buy into the idea that a) curses are real in this book-world and b) they can be broken by cursebreakers. There wasn’t a lot of supporting evidence for me to follow.
Spoilers for plot
Side note: I definitely couldn’t buy into them breaking the curse with sex magic of all things.
The book didn’t flow for me. Yes, the sex is hot, but there were too many things that pulled me out of the story. Too many little things that were so convenient for pushing the plot forward, but didn’t contribute to the plot and book-world having internal integrity. Another example: the site needs a supervisor but then just before they’re about to ~do mysterious curse-breaking things~ in the castle, the supervisor is off for a few weeks? It’s too convenient.
I still read the whole thing and I will definitely be reading Danan’s fourth book whatever that might be about. But this one was a miss for me and I wish it wasn’t.