By a Charm & a Curse by Jaime Questell
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
I enjoyed this story, although it does have some flaws. When I first read the summary and saw that Emma was the new ‘Girl in the Box’ for some reason I pictured her in a steamer trunk? Not sure why, but I was happy to find out that wasn’t it, because I found that idea confusing. The box is actually a fortune teller booth and she isn’t ‘trapped in it’, she just can’t leave the carnival. Luckily that was all cleared up in the first chapters, although how she becomes part of the curse of the carnival was a bit rushed and not super clear at first. The whole story of the carnival and the charm and curse that is involved is told throughout the whole book. I was very intrigued by that part of the story and would love to see a prequel that told that story with a lot more detail than we get here.
The story is told through Emmaline (Emma) and Ben’s point of view. I liked both of them and I liked the two of them together too, they were sweet. I have seen a lot of people calling their relationship instalove and I can see that, but the story does take at least two maybe three months to unfold and they don’t admit their feelings until toward the end. They are attracted to each other, but friendship definitely develops first before the love, but part of that is Emma’s position as the Girl in the Box. Ben is a sweetheart and I can see almost anyone falling for him. Emma was difficult to take at times, and I think she accepted her fate a little too quickly, but I still liked her.
There are lots of secondary characters in this story that are also fun. Duncan and Pia are twins and add a lot of comedy to the story. They are also central to breaking the curse because it was their family that cast it. Sidney was one of the best characters, even though he was the one to trap Emma. I felt so sorry for him. There were some not so likable characters, the Moretti brothers were pretty awful and I’m not sure why they were kept on by the owner of the carnival, but they play the part of the villains very well in this story. I actually thought their part was going to end up bigger and more important than it was, but that is ok. Ben’s mom also wasn’t very likable. I got why she wanted to keep Ben and Emma apart, but it still doesn’t justify how she went about it.
The overall plot of the story was interesting. There were things that happened that were a bit confusing and I’m not sure why the author chose to go the way it went, but it was still a satisfying story. The writing was good, lots of good atmosphere and descriptions of what it might be liking in a traveling carnival. Like I said before I found the story behind the curse and the charm to be one of the more interesting parts of the book and would love to see a prequel about that. Also Sidney’s story would be good too.
If you enjoy stories set in a carnival with a little bit of magic and a romance than you will probably like this one. I liked the author’s writing style so I will probably pick up another book by her sometime in the future.