The Beautiful and the Cursed: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan1899: Ingrid Waverly is ruined in London, her reputation in tatters and her friendships irrevocably broken. In the wake of a disastrous summer, Ingrid can hardly bring herself to care when her mother uproots the family to open an art gallery in a Paris abbey.

Both Ingrid and her younger sister, Gabriella, are horrified by the sorry state of the abbey and the prospect of actually living in it. Worse, upon arriving in Paris the family soon learns that Ingrid’s twin brother Grayson is missing.

As Ingrid struggles to find some trace of Grayson she is drawn into a strange underworld of Paris filled with demons and monsters that boggle the mind. But not all of the grotesques Ingrid encounters will lurk in shadows. Some will be closer than she could ever imagine in The Beautiful and the Cursed (2013) by Page Morgan.

The Beautiful and the Cursed is Morgan’s first novel and the beginning of a series. It also started life with the much fiercer title of Grotesque.

A combination of a picturesque setting, an impossible romance and living gargoyles guarantees that The Beautiful and the Cursed will be wildly appealing to many readers. Particularly to readers who enjoy paranormal romances.

Unfortunately other pieces of this novel do not come as smoothly together.

Many aspects of the story do not make sense ranging from unlikely names* to poor plotting. The incident surrounding Ingrid’s departure from England seemed particularly unconvincing to the point of either being contrived or completely fabricated by an unreliable character.**

These problems could have been forgiven and the story truly has potential. The real problem, the one that became impossible to ignore, was how the romance aspect of the story progressed. Ingrid is immediately drawn to one of the abbey’s surly servants–a young man named Luc. While (rightly) Gabriella notices something with Luc, all Ingrid sees are his vivid green eyes. He is at times dismissive, arrogant, rude and brash in his interactions with Ingrid.*** There is absolutely no reason to believe Ingrid would ever be attracted to someone beneath her (albeit sullied) social station and given her supposed independent and pragmatic nature there is even less reason to believe that person would be Luc if such a thing were to happen. Readers who enjoy an unlikely romantic pairing and instantaneous attraction may still find redeeming qualities in Luc (much as Ingrid herself does).

Although the romance is fraught with problems and numerous narrators add unnecessary complications (and repeated information reveals) to the story, The Beautiful and the Cursed is an interesting historical fantasy romance. The story has suspense, drama and even some swoon-worthy moments. Morgan also does an admirable job creating a mythology for gargoyles that is all her own.

*Calling proper English girls Gabriella and Ingrid seemed strange to me. Perhaps with a French mother Gabriella makes sense, but Ingrid? Really?

**She started a fire. By accident. Really?

***I don’t care how tragic the backstory. Luc is a jerk. Really.

Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Enchanted Ivy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth DurstLily Carter’s future is at Princeton University. Her grandfather went to Princeton. Going to Princeton would allow Lily to move away from home without feeling guilt about not taking care of her mother. It’s the perfect school. Most importantly, Lily desperately wants to follow in Grandpa’s footsteps to make him and her mother proud.

Turns out her chance at Princeton might come sooner than she thinks when Lily accompanies her grandfather and mother to Princeton Reunions weekend where, thanks to Grandpa’s connections, Lily has a chance to take the top secret, super exclusive, Legacy Test. Passing the test means claiming what Grandpa calls her destiny. Oh, and it also means automatic acceptance to Princeton.

The only problem is that instead of filling in multiple choice bubbles or writing an essay, Lily has to find the Ivy Key. She has no idea what it looks like or even what it is. She has no idea where to start.

Still, Lily starts on the path to the Ivy Key. A path that leads Lily to talking gargoyles, a mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair, demonic library shelves, and magic. Lots of magic. Because Princeton isn’t a normal school and Lily might not be a normal girl.

If Lily can get to the bottom of Princeton’s secrets, she might also find answers about her mother’s illness and her family’s hazy past, she might even find her own place at Princeton in Enchanted Ivy (2010) by Sarah Beth Durst.

I loved Enchanted Ivy. Truly loved it. It’s a perfect fantasy with an original premise, a great plot and top notch world building. As a girl who once asked for a gargoyle for Christmas I especially loved the gargoyles in the story which, according to Durst herself, are all really at Princeton–how cool is that?

Gargoyles aside Enchanted Ivy is a strong story with appealing fantasy elements and truly delightful characters on every page. Lily is an authentic and likable heroine at every stage of her journey. To call Tye** a wonderful addition to the story is a vast understatement. Durst’s writing is complex, subtle and a real pleasure to read.

In addition to being a fun fantasy, Enchanted Ivy is a clever spin on the usual college admission woes seen in realistic YA novels. At the same time it has elements of mystery and action. The narrative asks hard questions with wit and aplomb. And there’s a whole section that takes place in a library. Seriously, what more do you want? Go, read this book, right now!

**Tye may or may not be the aforementioned mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair. . . . Okay, I lied, Tye is totally the aforementioned mysterious boy with orange and black striped hair.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Sarah Beth Durst.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Compulsion by Martina Boone, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Exclusive Bonus Content: Another reviewer raised the issue that the Princeton library in the book uses the Dewey Decimal classification system instead of Library of Congress. (The actual Princeton seems to use an amalgam of Library of Congress and classification systems made specifically for the Princeton libraries.) This change did not bother me for several reasons: first it’s a fantasy, second LoC is way hard to navigate, and third I just like Dewey better. It is a superior system. If you don’t think agree at least now you’ve been warned.