With Valentine’s Day near, there is nothing better to celebrate romance and love than with a new book. Of Curses and Kisses releases on February 18th and is filled with all of the things you love in Sandhya Menon’s previous books including When Dimple Met Rishi.
I love fairy tale retellings in different and exciting ways, and Of Curses and Kisses is no exception. This is the first book of Menon’s new series set at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, and I was so excited I was able to email her questions about Of Curses and Kisses.
TYF: In your own words, can you please explain what the book is about?
Menon: Of Curses and Kisses is a Gossip Girl-esque, loose, contemporary Beauty and the Beast retelling set at an elite boarding school in the Colorado mountains. It follows an Indian princess, Jaya Rao, who’s on a mission to make the misanthropic British aristocrat Grey Emerson fall in love with her to avenge her family’s honor. Grey’s plagued by a generations-old family curse, which may or may not have everything to do with the rose pendant Jaya wears around her neck…
Where did the idea for this story come from? When and how did you know you wanted to rewrite a fairy tale – especially Beauty and the Beast?
I’ve always been such a huge fan of both fairy tale retellings and boarding school stories. I remember watching the TV show Gossip Girl one day and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a Gossip Girl-esque series of books set at a boarding school and somehow combined the magic of fairy tales without being overly fantastical?” And then I realized I was an author and could make it happen! :) Beauty and the Beast was an easy choice for the first book in the series because it’s easily one of my very favorite fairy tales, and I thought there was a lot, plot-wise, that I could do with it.
Jaya and Isha, her sister, have just transferred to a new school, St. Rosetta’s International Academy. What inspired you to make this the start of their journey?
I wanted to introduce readers to the sprawling world of St. Rosetta’s Academy through the eyes of two newcomers so they could see it fresh, too. Plus, at the beginning of the story, Jaya and Isha are already reeling from a pretty big upset at home and so showing them ready for a new beginning just felt like the right place to start the story. Of course, Jaya has other plans that Isha isn’t privy to—plans that involve fake love and a curmudgeonly British aristocrat.
Among other heartfelt topics, each of your books contain a great love story. What is it like to write romance books for the modern YA audience?
I truly love my job! Writing romance for modern YA audiences feels like such a privilege and honor. I get to show the magic of first kisses and “I love you”s whispered under starlight, but I also get to show young people what healthy love looks like at this age.
There is a lot of discussion on book Twitter about what is and what is not appropriate to write on a love story for the YA audience. How do you feel about these discussions?
I do take my responsibility very seriously as a writer for younger audiences. I’m cognizant of the way I write relationships and romance because I know it may influence how my readers view the relationships in their own lives.
What was it like to write the relationship between Jaya and Grey as well as coming up with the backstory of their families’ feud? When did you know you wanted to dive into the history of British colonialism in India?
Jaya’s and Grey’s relationship was honestly so fun to write because it was so multilayered and richly textured because of the complex histories of each of their families. I knew I couldn’t write a love story between a modern-day Indian princess and a British aristocrat without at least touching upon the British Raj in India, especially given the provenance of Jaya’s mysterious rose pendant. I was definitely mindful of the fact that this is a YA romance, however, and tried to keep that exploration relevant to the plot, the romance, and the curse!
Lastly, with Valentine’s Day around the corner – do you have any suggestions of YA romance books for those who would love to read a great one around the holiday?
Oh, so many! Everyone’s favorite, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is always a good read for something light-hearted and romantic, especially now that Netflix is adapting the series. Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan is an adorable f/f romance set at a theme park and is perfect for those who love the fake-dating trope. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is a time-bending tale of lost love you won’t be able to stop reading until the you turn the last page—I promise. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is a love story set in Tuscany that’ll definitely leave you shedding a tear.
About the Author
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels with lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been featured in several cool places, including on The Today Show, Teen Vogue, NPR Book Review, Buzzfeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado.
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon releases on February 18, 2020.