Tuckington Belle works at his family’s dress shop, but his real love is music. When an important client comes in, Tuck’s mom sends him to sneak inside the castle walls to steal some wildflowers to adorn the dress they are making. The castle is mostly quiet as the young prince hasn’t been seen in ten years. Rumors abound about what has happened to the prince, or if he is even still alive. But Tuck remembers the day very clearly that Prince Frederick George Deor closed the castle gates and no one has seen or heard from him since.
When Tuck falls and conks his head while attempting to get the flowers, he awakens to find himself in the castle. He is joined by a man who calls himself George and won’t let Tuck see him. As it turns out, “George” is actually Prince Frederick, a man suffering under a curse that has left him with snakelike skin. Frederick hasn’t let anyone but his few closest advisers and servants see him in the last ten years, and although he is both intrigued by and attracted to Tuck, Frederick is sure the man would reject him if he knew the truth. But Frederick is so drawn to Tuck, and Tuck seems to enjoy his company as well, so he begs Tuck to return each night.
The men get to know one another, always with Tuck’s eyes covered. And they begin to fall for one another too. But Frederick fears what will happen if Tuck sees him, or learns the truth about who he is. Then again, love and acceptance may be just what is needed to break the curse, if only Frederick can take a chance on love.
I am a big fan of the Beauty and the Beast trope, and His Cursed Prince jumps into this fairy tale theme with both feet. We have the arrogant young prince who is cursed for his bad behavior and the commoner who is able to see past appearances to the man underneath. We also have a nearly empty castle staffed only by a few trusted servants, and we are even told Frederick’s last name means “beast,” giving us a true Belle and Beast pairing. But author Ryan Loveless also expands upon the traditional story and adds some unique elements, as well as giving the whole thing some humor and a touch of whimsy. This is a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and there are a lot of humorous and silly touches. For example, when the men are discussing their love, Frederick notes he has loved Tuck for so long, aka four days. Or at least I took them as jokes poking a bit of fun at the fairy tale trope. So this story doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t either, but there is also a nice message here about acceptance, both of others and yourself, as well as the importance of friendship and family.
On the relationship end, things are fairly light (I have noted the whole four days thing), so this isn’t a real in depth romantic development. The guys spend time together and we get to know them, but it is fairly surface level in terms of their connection. I liked Frederick and Tuck together, but you just have to kind of go with it as things move quickly here. The two also feel quite young, though they are supposed be 24 and 26. I get that Frederick has been sheltered for years, so it isn’t necessarily strange, but their interactions at times felt like two young adults rather than two men in their mid-twenties.
In terms of world building, this story is an interesting mix of modern day world (they have cell phones and social media), a fantasy world with carriages and peasants and castles, and a fairy tale world. I found it fun and interesting to see the ways Loveless has brought it all together. I think if you don’t ask too many questions about why sometimes they can make a phone call and others they must travel by horseback to share a message, or other things that are inconsistent from one scene to the next, this works fine. But I do think a little more effort could have been made on the rules of this world to pull it together a little tighter.
That said, I think this book pretty much does just what it sets out to do. It is a fun, sometimes silly story that also has a nice message and a sweet romance. I found it entertaining despite some issues, and if you are looking for a quick, humorous read with a fantasy bent, and especially if you are a Beauty and the Beast fan, this is worth checking out.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.