Team TBR Challenge Review: The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss by Kristen Painter

The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss (Shadowvale book 2) by Kristen Painter
Paranormal romance released by Kristen Painter on June 24, 2019

Shadowvale isn’t your typical small town America. The sun never shines, the gates decide who enters, magic abounds, and every resident bears some kind of curse.

Vampire Constantin Thibodeaux was cured of his sun “allergy” when he moved to Shadowvale. Now he runs the local bookstore, which is really just a sideline to filling his own library. Books, unlike people, are far more forgiving of his prickly nature. But he doesn’t care if people don’t like him. He is who he is. And he’s happy. Well, he’s content. Okay, he’s…fine.

Sprite and all around party girl Andromeda Merriweather loves her carefree life – or at least she did until her sister cursed her into a magical time out. Thankfully, she’s just been set free by a totally hot, but kind of grumpy vampire. Too bad this handsome grouch now holds the key to her freedom, something she’ll only get if he agrees to abide by the rules of her curse.

Constantin isn’t interested in the terms and conditions Andromeda gives him, until he needs her to be his temporary girlfriend to shut his brother up. Then Constantin agrees. But what happens after a surprisingly fun evening creates brand new problems for both of them. Sure, two opposites can attract, but will that attraction last? Or are they both too cursed to give love a chance?

I adore paranormal romance (PNR). Now, I started reading romance when I was a young thing, maybe 11 or 12. I cut my teeth on Harlequin and Silhouette category romances, dipping my toes into the waters of historical romance. Think Bertrice Small, Judith McNaught, and Johanna Lindsey. I also read horror and especially loved the now defunct Twilight: Where Darkness Begins imprint. Sprinkled in were SFF books by Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Douglas Adams. It’s no wonder that when I stumbled across PNR in the late 90s that I read almost everything in sight. PNR can be a wonderful blend of SFF, contemporary romance, and horror. It’s amazing!

I  purchased the fist two books in Kristen Painter’s Shadowvale series because I was going to be traveling and was loading up my kindle with  books that would be quick reads. A friend had recommended Kristen’s books, and these two seemed like they would make great car reading. I know I read the first book in the series, The Trouble With Witches, but for whatever reason, The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss sat on my kindle until recently, when I was dealing with vaccine brain and once again needed something light to read.

Andromeda, call me Andi, Merriweather is a twentysomething sprite with a problem. She’s sunshine, vivacious, fun loving, and serial dater who leaves when relationships just before things become too real. That is until her sister cursed her into a magical time out that traps her in a book, and requires the opener of the book to fall in love with her. Easy peasy. Except the book is opened a year later by a vampire who doesn’t believe in love.  She struggles with deceiving Constantin, especially as she gets to know him.

She also struggles with being completely dependent on another person. She has no money, no identification, no usable skills, and no wings or sprite magic (thanks to her sister).  She’s still sunshine and light, trying to find the positive in her situation, and along the way realizes she has actual feelings for Constantin. Andi is a likeable character, possibly a bit too likeable given how she describes herself prior to the curse. But this is a light and fluffy PNR so diving too deep into the dark side of being human, or paranormal, isn’t the point. She does grow over the course of the book, and is even willing to sacrifice her wings and magic forever for the man she loves, even if she gets nothing back in return. Sacrifice is the word I think of when I think about her journey.

Constantin Thibodeaux is a cantankerous 200 year old vampire who wants to be left alone with his bookstore. He and his family moved to the magical town of Shadowvale because it’s the only place in the world where it’s overcast every day, therefore safe for vampires to be outside no matter the time of day. He loves his family, though he is jealous of his older brother, Valantino, who he sees as the golden child to his recluse. Constantin also doesn’t believe in love. He was left at the alter by his fiancée, an event that he carries around with him like a ball and chain, keeping him closed off and, well, grumpy. When he opens the book Andi was trapped in, his first response is to run away. Which he can’t do because they are magically tethered. His next is to do whatever needs to be done to free Andi so he can go back to his regularly scheduled life, including using her as a fake girlfriend when his brother drops the bomb that Con’s ex is going to be in town.

The physical attraction is close to instantaneous for both Andi and Con, given that their first kiss happens in first hour of meeting. Neither want to be in the situation they find themselves in, saddled with each other until Andi’s curse is either broken or time runs out. This is a very chaste romance with a lot of the feelings of attraction and falling in love without any sex at all, as most of Ms. Painter’s books are. There’s hand holding, sharing food, a few kisses, sensual touches, and some longing, but again, no sex. Period. Which is very different from most of the PNR books I’ve read. And I get it, sex on the page, or even closed door sex isn’t for everyone. And while it was missing, I was able to enjoy watching Andi try to be kind while also trying to get Con to fall in love with her, while at the same time watch Con realize that love might exist after all.

The book is light and fluffy, as I said, but not without conflict, most of which is internal. The curse itself is a huge source of conflict, especially for Andi as she makes a lot of realizations about the life she lived prior to her curse, and who she wants to be now. Con figures out that he doesn’t have to live in his brother’s shadow, and makes a lot of realizations about love, especially after the curse is lifted. Man, does he ever. I don’t want to spoil things so all I’m going to say is that I’ve never seen a vampire do a mental 180 as fast as Con does.

Even with the misunderstandings and the prevarications, the book isn’t high angst. As with most romances, the black moment puts love on the line. And while you know there’s going to be a happy ever after because this is a romance novel, Andi and Con both have to really work for their HEA. I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It was a little too cheesy for me, and doesn’t resolve the sacrifice issue completely. But I’m super picky, so you may not feel the same way.

All in all The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss was a good book, and I recommend it especially if you enjoy light and fluffy, low angst, and no sex in your PNR. There are two more books in the Shadowvale series so far, and I’m likely to read the other books in the series the next time I want a light and fluffy PNR fix. I’m really glad there are authors out there, like Kristen Painter, who write a little outside the normal conventions.

Grade B+

You can buy a copy here.

 

 

 

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