By a Charm and a Curse
By: Jaime Questell
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.
Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.
Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.
A curse. A circus. A charm. A kiss.
A trip to Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic was supposed to be a fun night out with a friend. It was not supposed to end with Emma being passed a curse that protects the circus but leaves her cursed to stay with them until she can pass her entrapment to someone else.
Jaime writes a fantastic setting, her characters were human, if not perfectly formed, and her romance was slow and sweet. We see this world through and insider, Ben, and a newcomer, Emma, which I loved. I liked that we see these two perspectives on the carnival and it allowed the reader to learn more about the setting than just as Emma learns. Emma is an interesting character, she grows so much throughout this book, she comes out of her shell. And she moves from feeling lost to taking control of her situation.
A sort of slow beginning gives way to a fantasy romance that draws you in quickly once Emma’s situation takes a drastic turn for the fantastical. There is a touch of the mysterious as Emma tries to figure out her curse, and accidents add a sinister air as she tries to navigate her new reality. But don’t worry, there is a happily ever after ending for our lovely leading couple.
Leslie smiles at the girl with a mixture of pride and tentative hope. “It took us a few days to get Sidney set up somewhere else, and I’m sorry about that. But this wagon belongs to the occupant of the box.” Leslie strokes the side of the ladder that leads to the door. “What you’re going through is terrible, we know it is, though we can never truly understand. It’s a small comfort, but we want you to have a place that’s just your own, a place that you can use to escape.”
A weak, wobbly smile lifts the corners of the girl’s mouth as her gaze roves over the outside of the wagon, a shadow of the smile I saw the other night, when she was with her friend. I wonder what it would take to get her to smile for real.
“What about Sidney?”
“Sidney can make do.” Leslie’s smile broadens into a grin. “Have you seen the way he’s been eating? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him waddle out of the cook shack one of these mornings like Templeton the Rat.” She dangles a small copper key from the end of a length of faded red ribbon. “It’s like I said—the carnival owes the person in the box. This is the least we can do for you in return.”
The girl’s hand shakes as she reaches for the key, and she wraps her slender fingers around it tightly, as though she’s afraid of dropping it. I lose sight of her as she steps inside, and all I can do now is hope she likes the wagon.
I turn to head home and feel the sickening lurch as my foot lands in a slick patch of mud and whips out from beneath me. I throw out my arm. A flash of white-hot pain flares through my hand, but I manage to keep my footing. I step out of the mud that had nearly sent me sprawling on my ass, unsure as to how I even missed it in the first place. Then my hand begins to throb.
A gash runs diagonally across my palm. Blood wells from the wound, filling my cupped hand. The pain sets in, a deep pulsing starting in my palm and radiating up my arm. I glance over at the trailer and see a splash of red smeared along a sharp flap of metal. I must have sliced my hand on that as I tried to grab onto something to keep from slipping.
Falling on carnival grounds doesn’t happen; the charm sees to that. But my bloodied hand begs to differ.
JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing. Currently, she lives in the suburbs with her family, one derpy dog, and one imperious cat. If she had her way, she’d have an army of corgis, like the Queen of England.
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