Friday, November 28, 2014

(42) YA Fantasy Romance: BELLA AND THE CURSE

TITLE: Bella and The Curse
GENRE: YA Fantasy Romance

Aquila, future queen of Alogo, needs shape-shifters in order to save her country from a cursed plague. Her only option: marry a man whose secret could kill her. Especially if she falls for him.


Aquila Katharros, eldest Princess of Alogo, stared at the portrait.

The King of Leontaria definitely lived up to the myths surrounding his name. It wasn’t what his people called him—The Kind King—that she could comment on, since for that she didn’t know one way or the other. But as for other more physical descriptions…well, for those, Aquila could find no exaggeration.

Seated atop a horse, he was dressed in rich velvets, a fur cloak, and heavy jeweled chains—clothing fit for no less than a king. With wide shoulders, a lean waist and muscular arms, his body would have been the focal point—perfectly formed as it was—if he had not had that face to accompany it. It was a face of legends: deep-set blue eyes, a prominent nose and full lips. And a scar running from ear to chin, cutting through a close-shaven beard. Those imperfect features—features that could have easily been smoothed with the touch of cream paint—combined to shape a face that Aquila found hard to tear her eyes from.

Her future husband.

Aquila’s stomach churned at the thought.

She could no longer even count the amount of times she had looked at the portrait. Still, she couldn’t quite understand what it said about the king that he left his features so raw. Her own mother had personally hovered over the palace painter until her face was flawless. Perhaps like her, he did not really care for the marriage. Or perhaps his head was simply too big.


  1. I LOVE a good arranged marriage story. So much wonderful conflict. I also absolutely loved your last two lines. They had so much punch and voice in them, but were also succinct and right to the point. Love it.
    I'm not sure, however, about your opening.
    This sentence in particular:

    It wasn’t what his people called him—The Kind King—that she could comment on, since for that she didn’t know one way or the other

    forced me to reread, and i guess i'm still a little confused, pulled out by the "that she could call him" bit. If we remove the part seperated by the em-dash we're left with:

    It wasn’t what his people called him that she could comment on, since for that she didn’t know one way or the other

    which is still kind of awkward.
    Maybe rearranging some would help?

    She couldn't comment on what people called him--the kind king--since she didn’t know one way or the other.

    Clarity like that in this sentence, and elsewhere i think, would really help smooth things out and efforetlessly bring your readers along.

    Good luck in the auction!

  2. At first I thought this was kind of a "slow" opening. But I think it fits. 1. we're starting out with the main conflict of the story, her arranged marriage. 2. since I'm guessing this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I'm wondering if this painting IS the best they could come up with for the king. Maybe he's physically hideous. Haha. I'd be willing to read further to find out!

    Sidenote, I also got stuck on the sentence Sarah pointed out above. Actually, taking a look at this opening, you have a LOT of em-dashes within two paragraphs. Is there a way you could revise them out? I actually think a few of them could just be replaced with commas.

  3. This sounds like a really interesting story.I was drawn in by the arranged marriage that seemed to worry her and the contrast between his portrait and what she thinks he should look like. I, too, had to reread the line about her not being able to comment on whether or not he was kind. It also seemed to contradict the sentence just before it: ...[he] lived up to the myths surrounding his name. What are the myths he lives up to? Since we first hear that she can't comment on his kindness and then she goes into the physical description, I was left wondering. Also, starting with the thought he's known as a kind king might take away a little suspense. Now if he'd been known as a ruthless king...! (Anyway, you might want to leave the kindness part for later since it was her fascination with his physical traits that seems to propel the story at this point. Would love to read more!

  4. Your other comments have already pointed out some great things.

    I think slower, descriptive set ups like this are good for romances, but (and this might be my personal taste) I felt this was a little too slow and if you compacted some of it, you might be able to move us into the action before your 250 ended. That being said, the writing is beautiful, and the details well developed.

  5. Like K.A. Simon, I also thought that the description started dragging just a touch. Rather than going from the clothes to the body to the face, could you just choose a few select details to give us?

  6. I agree that this is a slow opening. What happened on this page? A girl stared at a portrait and thought. What did we learn? She's going to marry the man--the king--in the portrait. So nothing happened, and we don't even know how she feels about marrying this man.

    Perhaps start the story at a point where something is happening, or there is a conversation going on.

  7. Is this title a play on Beauty and the Beast? I'm thinking Bella is a version of Beauty ... anyway, I thought the pitch was intriguing.

    I don't read a ton of YA fantasy, so what caught my attention as I was reading was that in this first page she sounded much older than I expected. I think that may be because she's studying a portrait of a man, not a boy, and yet she doesn't make any kind of comparison in their ages. I just would have liked a feel for that, but maybe that comes on the next page :).

    Also, like someone else mentioned, I wanted to know what the other myths were aside from being a kind king and would also rearrange that first sentence.

    Otherwise, though, the description is great and I would definitely read on.

    Good luck!

  8. Ooh, I was intrigued as soon as arranged marriages and shape-shifters were mentioned! Already I have questions about why the shape-shifters are needed to cure a plague and how they function in this world - I definitely want to know more.

    Though the premise hooked me, I had a bit of trouble getting in to this first 250, and I think it's because this passage is very description-heavy. The paragraph about the portrait, in particular, goes on a bit long, so - as others suggested - perhaps there's a way to describe him more succintly.

    I also had trouble connecting to Aquila. We barely get to know her in this passage, as most of her thoughts are about her intended. I wonder if there's a way to inject more of her voice and emotions into this first passage, so that we can sympathize a little more with her and understand her better.

    I certainly want to know when Aquila meets her future husband in person... Good luck!