Finishing a beloved book series always brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, you can’t wait to find out how the story you’ve consecutively invested time, money and emotion into will end. On the other hand, there’s a bittersweet sadness that comes from saying goodbye to characters you’ve come to genuinely love. And no characters deserve readers’ adoration quite as much as Evangeline Fox and Jacks – the central will-they-won’t-they duo in Stephanie Garber’s Once Upon A Broken Heart trilogy.
The final book, A Curse For True Love, sees hopeless romantic Evangeline and the wonderfully wicked Prince of Hearts battling curses, amnesia and vengeful love rivals as they fight for the happily ever after they’ve both been deserving of since the very beginning. With the previous book ending on a cliffhanger that saw our Little Fox robbed of her memories – not just of Jacks but of everything – this conclusion begins in the immediate aftermath, as Evangeline finally gets the life she always yearned for: the life of a princess.
But her husband, Apollo, isn’t quite the prince charming Evangeline always hoped she’d marry. Not only is he hell-bent on ensuring she doesn’t ever remember the life and love she’s forgotten, but he’s determined to kill Jacks too. Meanwhile, Jacks might have vowed to stay away from Evangeline for her own good, but keeping his distance becomes increasingly difficult when people keep trying to kill her. It’s up to Evangeline to regain her memories before it’s too late and she loses her true heart’s desire forever.
I am a monster, but whether you remember it or not, I’m your monster, Evangeline.”
It’s hardly a secret amongst YA fantasy lovers that Stephanie Garber writes the most enchanting and transportive fairytales. A Curse For True Love continues the beautiful world-building and magic of the first two books, whilst at the same time answering lingering questions and delivering the romance that readers have been rooting for. After the pitch perfect enemies-to-lovers plot in The Balled of Never After, it’s a surprise that Evangeline and Jacks don’t actually spend all that much page time together here. It’s initially disappointing – after all, the tantalising ill-fated love story has always been this series’ biggest draw. But that disappointment disintegrates in the breathlessly paced second half of the book; the fact Evangeline and Jacks keep finding each other, only to be separated again, makes their short and sweet moments together all the more precious.
This has always been a book series that hinges on the idea that heroes don’t get happy endings. “They give them to other people.” But let’s face it, we’ve all been hoping for Jacks’ happy ending ever since he proved himself to be so much more than the tricksy, selfish Fate everyone believed him to be. Though he might have started out as something of a villain in the original Caraval books (the trilogy that introduced the Prince of Hearts), Jacks quickly won fans over with his sharp tongue, tragic backstory and reckless saviour complex when it comes to a certain pink haired heroine. With the welcome addition of his and Apollo’s POVs, this book feels as much Jacks’ story as it does Evangeline’s.
After everything these characters have been through – heartbreak, betrayal, curses, near-death experiences – this book delivers a heartening end that doesn’t just feel right for Evangeline and Jacks, but feels right for the entire series. Stephanie Garber’s writing is so magical, inventive and engrossing that these characters will live on in readers’ memories for years to come. And the wonderful thing about this book is that the story feels as if it’s still shifting and continuing. It’s not neatly tied up with a bow. Some characters get happy endings, some don’t. Garber gave us just one ending but to quote the book that started Evangeline’s tale: “Every story has the potential for infinite endings.” Let’s hope this particular end leads to even more spinoffs.
A Curse For True Love was published by Hodderscape on 24 October 2023