Like so many people, Brand assumed Covid-19 probably wasn’t any worse than a bad cold or a bout of the flu. He was healthy and hale; he maintained an impeccable physique both to attract the kinds of men he wanted to get down and dirty with, as well as to add extra appeal to his online presence. Brand sold himself as a homesteader and tiny-home enthusiast and his video channel made him comfortably successful. But the wide open spaces offered by that lifestyle were no failsafe against an airborne virus and Brand discovered just how devastating the disease could be. Though he survived, his channel was all but defunct and his own body was just a shell of what it once had been. Brand also discovered how incredibly superficial the vast majority of his connections and supposed friendships were. Thankfully, Montana, virtually the only one of Brand’s friends who didn’t completely shut him out, has an amazing offer: a paid job designing and building housing at a small resort in upstate New York.
Brand may be on the mend, but not a single aspect of life at the resort–to say nothing of the work expected of him–seem doable. Swamped with guilt and regret, Brand struggles to fit in and to understand the depths of kindness and patience his new boss and coworkers shower upon him. Montana helps Brand remember flavors and smells. Sean, his boss’ boyfriend, shows Brand that mental activity can give as much of a sense of accomplishment as physical labor. And then there is Law, an amazing immigrant from Scotland who knows all about physical therapy. With Law’s help, Brand finally starts to get comfortable with and learn to cope within the limits of his physical condition. Before long, Law’s careful guidance and therapy sessions have Brand thinking he just might recover–if not to his former glory, then to a degree that lets him be more independent. In fact, Law seems too good to be true. Brand starts falling for Law, but is worried Law sees only another patient. Or worse, just a convenient dalliance. Brand couldn’t be further from the truth, but Law is worried his secret will send Brand packing.
Reflection of a Curse is the third book in Lissa Kasey’s Romancing a Curse series. Like the previous two books, it is set in upstate New York at Zach’s inherited manor house. Fans of the first two books should enjoy how much Zach and Sean, and Montana and Rio figure into the books. It was my impression that these four characters, as supporting cast here, strongly reflect a single dimension. Zach is generous to a fault, Sean is sibylline, and Rio bonds with Brand’s dog. Montana retains a bit of depth by being the one friend Brand can connect with and feel some measure of affinity with at the beginning…but is also basically cooking like there’s no tomorrow eight days a week. That said, having such singular focus in the supporting cast meant I got/had to focus on Brand and his situation.
As with the previous books, the MC tends to have laser-like focus on a particular aspect of his life. Zach was obsessed with family and how breaking Sean’s curse could give Zach that sense of belonging, while Montana was desperately passionate about feeding Rio. Here, Brand is besieged with regret over making light of the Covid-19 pandemic and all he lost because he didn’t take any precautions. On the one hand, I think it was very realistic for Brand to maintain that feeling post-Covid; he knows and fears that things will likely never go back to the way they were for him personally. Even as he makes progress in his recovery, Brand always seems to remind himself that a baby step forward isn’t much when you’re miles away from where you were. On the other hand, it was a long book to work through with that single line of thought prevailing in just about everything Brand does.
Unlike the previous books, the nature of the curse here was far less clear cut to me. The previous two books pretty clearly featured a love interest character who was literally cursed. I expected the same of book three and while I suppose that theme held true, Law’s curse doesn’t get really spelled out until very, very late in the game. When the subject is finally broached, we learn Law has no small amount of anxiety about the curse and it also had the potential for a delicious bit of angst. But on page, all this comes within the last tiny bit of the story. I was deeply disappointed that all of this emotionally charged material gets slapped in and resolved with a no big deal feel mere pages from the end. In short, I was disappointed with the framing of the plot in that it never bothered to help me set aside my expectation that “curse” would be a snag the MCs would have to work through to be together. My dashed expectations might also have helped make Brand’s narrative feel like it dragged because I kept waiting for something about the curse to relate to Law.
The overall romance was pretty tame. Like Montana and Rio, Brand and Law start off as accidental roommates. The waters get muddied when Law offers to be Brand’s physical therapist. If nothing else, we get to see Brand begin to process what his new reality is at that moment. And Brand being comfortable in his own body and feeling like he’s working towards recovery helps him focus less on himself and more on others. Most often this takes the form of desperately trying to repay everyone for their kindness. Of course, the fact that Brand and Law were roommates and patient/therapist also turned down the heat. Brand was notably worried he was just convenient for Law while the guy figured out his immigration status and employment options. They eventually make a connection, but it’s often tinged with a bit of doubt. Things hit a highly dramatic point, after which the plot kicks into warp speed and all that angsty drama gets resolved in a few pages with a big HEA.
All together, I think Reflection of a Curse fits well into Kasey’s series over all. There was a pretty big shift in the paradigm of what it means to be cursed here that I didn’t feel this book prepared me for. That, plus the pretty narrow focus in Brand’s life where he’s constantly battling to get back to who/what he was before Covid, hampered my enjoyment. That said, I thought the characters were kind of interesting. I liked how thoroughly the previous MCs got incorporated into the book and there seemed to be a better balance between this book’s MCs and those from earlier books. If you’re a fan of the series, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this read.