Title: Blessed Curses
Author: Madeleine Ribbon
Length: 42,533 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Magic, Weddings, First Times, HEA, Hurt/Comfort, Nerds/Geeks, Light and Sweet
Rating: So So
Though he’s a sorcerer with a talent for creating blessings, David can do very little with any other magic. He works the night shift for his cousin’s magical supply shop because he’s cursed—his brother did it when they were kids—and now people can’t stand to be near David since he inspires irrational fear. Many experts have tried to remove it, but the curse has proven completely binding. Then David meets Vaughn at his brother’s wedding.
Vaughn works for the magical enforcers, picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law. He has the ability to dampen magical effects around him and loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s. He quickly develops a more personal interest in David. Despite the distance David attempts to keep between them, he finally realizes when Vaughn is injured on the job that he doesn’t want to stay away anymore. But what about the curse?
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I’ve read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise — a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others’ magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He’s completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd’s friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get’s jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He’s uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn’t compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they’re afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He’s shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it’s rather lackluster in relation to so many other people’s gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he’s fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd’s wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He’s confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him — other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can’t seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David — wooing him in baby steps the whole way — the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it’s length. It’s short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn’t a whole lot left to read. I won’t say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David’s fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I’m not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that’s why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship — I didn’t feel the “burn” in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it’s effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it’s own way I didn’t feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn’t find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it — the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won’t take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It’s heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you’re looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.