“Book Review: Curse of the Healing Kiss”
Reviewed by Joshua Ryan Bligh
A pastoral, honest look at love in a land far away.
In a quiet town by the sea, Malvinia and Modeste live unassuming but bright lives. When a jealous ex-lover of Modeste curses his wife, nothing seems to come from it. But as the full implications of the curse reveal themselves, their marriage is suddenly threatened.
With Curse of the Healing Kiss, McClelland weaves a deceptively simple tale, examining relationships and how they begin, grow, and, at times, collapse. The story opens with rural delight, carrying you off into this fairytale land filled with sensory enchantment. Much like the initial stages of a romance, the reader is lifted off their feet, swept along the early years of Malvinia’s life as a young woman.
“This jealousy is poison. I dream it, I’m devoured by it, it makes me push you away.”
The style of the story and its pacing also echo the tides of a relationship. Time seems to fly, stop, or linger depending on where you are in the story. The opening vibrancy and color soon swell into comfortable routine, and it is precisely in these moments where conflict is birthed. This “placid consistency of daily life” may “displace anxiety,” but it is also dangerous, and McClelland reveals how so in this story.
Malvinia’s healing kiss and how she deals with it begin to tear her apart from her husband. Though the curse might appear to cause the discord, the true origin is much more mundane. Jealousy, failures of communication, domestic stagnation, and curiosity all take their turns in fraying the threads between this couple.
McClelland’s novella may have all the hallmarks of a fairytale, such as daring rescues, princes, and ballroom dances…but there is no dragon to be slain or witch to douse with water. The real threat comes from within, and McClelland masterfully weaves a tale that demonstrates his understanding of people and how they are at their best and at their worst.
“And he kissed her back, and felt that this was what it felt like to wander safely through the dark.”
Here is a story by an author with a strong grasp of human emotion. In a sparse hundred pages, he shows us how we hide from things we fear, fear the things we hide, and hide the things we fear. And yet, the story is not without optimism.
Despite the poison of jealousy felt by Modeste and the mistakes made by Malvinia, he shows them working to address their shortcomings. Even people as wholesome as these two characters can experience difficulty in a relationship. Instead of being discouraging, this effectively shows that rough phases are a part of any human relations, romantic or otherwise. They are not exclusive to broken people, but even occur among the best of us.
By examining the gritty truth of love in a fairytale setting, McClelland highlights it all the more. This is not escapist fiction but rather a wholesome warning, much as the tales of the Grimm brothers or Aesop. With the cadence and whirling style of a fairy tale, Curse of the Healing Kiss is a story that is worth a read for anyone who has ever left something unsaid, not told the whole truth, or simply has cared for another human.
As the prince in the story says, “Love is infinite.” As Malvinia says, “Love is complicated.” Or as Modeste says, “I need to commit to one love.” Love may take many forms, but it will always demand work.
Paperback: 102 pages
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