I’ve marked where the spoilers begin ♥️

Blurb

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings . . . until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.

Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic but wicked Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing. 

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game—and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after or the most exquisite tragedy. 

Book review (no spoilers):

Corresponding song: Corresponding songs are meant to capture a certain aspect of a book or the “vibe” of it. For “Once Upon a Broken Heart” the corresponding song would have to be “Love Story” by Indila. Guessing which characters relate to this won’t be hard (this song is absolutely gorgeous and so worth listening to even if you don’t understand french). My favourite lines and their translations are below <3

Intention of the book: the exploration of love as an emotion, how it is experienced ; transmitted.

This is such a wonderful commentary on love, more specifically our relationships with love and all its many forms. 

This book contains one of my favourite tropes: Evil god-like entity with no feelings that strikes a deal with a mortal girl who’s destined to do something world changing that she doesn’t really understand. If you enjoyed “Once Upon a Broken Heart” you should definitely read “Kingdom of the Wicked”, which is also the first book of a trilogy. . 

It was heart wrenching. It evoked such an array of emotions, with painful intensity. It isn’t often that a book makes its reader feel that way. The writing itself was good, great even, but not entirely special, but the content. The content was exceptionally engineered to pull at its readers heart strings. The content, the events, the plot and the way it served the overall intention of the book was what made this book so spectacular. It was like watching art be painted in front of my own eyes. A form of art that Stephanie Garber has shown she masters. 

Part of the beauty of this book is that we feel the same confusion and heartbreak as the characters. We can’t distinguish which of Jack’s actions are done out of care for Evangeline or because he’s worried his plans will be derailed, and that would be assuming that any of his actions have been done out of care for her at all. An assumption that sometimes feels rather dubious, other times: certain. Stephanie Garber leaves us just as entangled as Evangeline is in her tale. We suffer through the book with her, and with equal hopelessness. The infinite plot twists leave us disorientated and second guessing ourselves. We too do not know who to trust. In the end the only person we can trust is evangeline but her perception is limited, and so we are forced to stumble along with her. 


The recurring theme of  the subplots/underlying tales of this book is that they do not have “happily ever afters”. The ends are, to put it simply, “unfair”

Stephanie Garber pinpoints what I believe a lot of romance readers seek, and then effectively chastises us for it. In a nice way, but still. We seek out the sort of boundless love that wraps up the heroines of our books, with the desperate (sorry this might be a tad hyperbolic, but let me be a little dramatic here) hope that someday we may find the same all-encompassing love for ourselves. 

To twist the knife further, Jacks is a character destined to love. He isn’t human. No, love is the goal of his existence. These men, who love deeply, who wish to sing songs about the woman they love, and crumble without them, they don’t exist. They live in fairytales. They’re not even real men. 

By addressing the central purpose of romance books through this fantasy book with a romance subplot, Stephanie Garber’s able to portray all the manners in which love can manifest itself. Either by using magic or characters to display its forms and intensity literally, or through more subtle, consistent images of love. The fact that she chooses not to focus on romantic love only, is part of what makes this book so “whole”:

  • Evangeline’s adoration for her dead parents, and their love for her when they were alive. 
  • Tiberius and Apollo 
  • Apollo and Evangeline 
  • Apollo and himself
  • Luc and Evangeline 
  • Jacks and Evangeline (?) 

The fact that it was actually relatively easy to read (without neglecting the meaning and intended effect of the book), helped balance the book and made it easier to follow the (many) plot twists. The plot twists being, in my opinion, the most impressive part of the book. 

The whiplash I received from the amount of plot twists in this book, and they were fabulous. I have never written so many predictions, which were wrong by the way, in my notes, ever. The plot curved around itself. I adored our main characters. 

I must admit I have absolutely no idea how many kisses we are at now. As I counted 3 and then she indicated that there was, in fact, still one kiss left. “His cold fingers found her wrist and slipped underneath the edge of her glove to stroke the last remaining broken heart scar” p280 I will assume that her kiss on the cheek for the fortuna matriarch didn’t count.

Why was it 4.5/5 rather than 5/5.

 There was a slight dislocation between the prologue and the actual text.While the beginning was gorgeous and incredibly gripping, it lacked an obvious coherence with the plot, and the style seemed to change too.  I almost wish the entire book had been written in that style. It wasn’t overly jarring but felt somewhat misplaced when it was only briefly  referenced rather late on in the book. Although it wasn’t too hard to figure out who the prologue was referring to, I felt it should have had slightly more significance considering IT WAS IN THE PROLOGUE. I hope it will return with more importance in the upcoming book. From what I could tell from this book, it could

Spoiler !!!!!

I must say I was rather disappointed in the fact that the pretty, dainty, more feminine (as in, corresponding to the stereotype) character ended up being the villain. I had predicted she was the villain by page 129 according to my notes, but I remained hopeful. Far too often femininity is scrapped by authors as if it’s a liability in a character. Marisols’ femininity was almost too heavily emphasised for her specific villanisation to go ignored. I know it wasn’t intentional but it’s a really aggravating event that keeps occurring in fantasy novels and it’s just rather tiring (and is beginning to make books a little predictable) 

Corresponding song:

Original version (French):

Prends ma main; Promets-moi que tout ira bien; Serre-moi fort; Près de toi, je rêve encore; Oui, oui je veux rester; Mais je ne sais plus aimer; J’ai été trop bête; Je t’en prie, arrête; Arrête, comme je regrette ; Non, je ne voulais pas tout ça; 

Je serai riche; Et je t’offrirai tout mon or; Et si tu t’en fiches: Je t’attendrai sur le port; Et si tu m’ignores; Je t’offrirai mon dernier souffle de vie

Une bougie; Peut illuminer la nuit; Un sourire; Peut bâtir tout un empire; Et il y a toi; Et il y a moi; Et personne n’y croit; Mais l’amour fait d’un fou un roi; Et si tu m’ignores; J’me battrai encore et encore.

English translation: 

Take my hand; Promise me everything will be okay; Hold me tight; By your side I’m still dreaming; Yes, yes I want to stay; But I don’t know how to love; I’ve been too stupid; Please stop; Stop, how I regret; No, I didn’t want all this; I’ll be rich; And I’ll give you all my gold; And if you don’t care; I’ll be waiting for you at the port; And if you ignore me; I’ll give you my last breath of life

In my love story

(…) 

A candle; Can light up the night; One smile; Can build a whole empire; And there’s you; And there’s me; And nobody believes it; But love makes a fool out of a king; And if you ignore me; I’ll fight again and again 

Thoughts (Spoilers):

In a way, I believe that this series will end up being a warning. I don’t believe Garber will give us what we want. Truly once we reached Apollo I wanted this to be her happy ever after, there’s still a possibility. He’s still alive.

Apollo is the consistent example of poor manifestations of love. He is lightly (but evidently) deeply in love with himself, and then overly in love with Evangeline. Not that that second form of love is really his fault, but still. Sure, Apollo is without question the funniest character in the book for me, but he’s also very well used to portray a variety of loves.

Now let’s discuss Evangeline and Jacks. I’ll point out the obvious and then I’ll go a little more in depth. 

P253: “He held onto her as if she were a grudge, his body rigid and tense, as if he really didn’t want her there, and yet his arms were tight around her waist as though he had no intention of letting go” 

P328: “He’s not half as strong as you- he didn’t even hesitate before he tried to bite you. And he wouldn’t have turned himself to stone to save you” 

  •  But Jacks resisted, albeit with Evangeline’s help near the end, but he held out for a remarkable amount of time considering his proximity to her at the beginning and end of their “vampire experience”.  He saved her from luc, no hesitation. Almost like he acted on impulse out of personal protectiveness. Almost as though he cared… 

 Let us not forget what the church smelt like for evangeline at the beginning of the book: 

P8: “ (…) the Prince of Hearts’s church held a different aroma for everyone who visited. It was supposed to smell like a person’s greatest heartbreak. But as Evangeline entered the cool cathedral, the air did not remind her of Luc-there were no hints of suede or vetiver. The dim mouth of the church was slightly sweet and metallic: apples and blood”.

 Now, who eats apples and regularly spreads blood over her lips (also for absolutely no reason as he tells her later on). I’m absolutely terrified as to how this will end.

However, I’m hoping that just because Jacks might be her biggest heartbreak. He won’t also be her great love. Evangeline truly deserves love. Women who love as strongly and as selflessly are owed a certain compensation. Goodness I hope these books don’t turn out to be solely an elaborate warning. 

This is my favourite quote:

P218: “And then they will write their vows on their hands and place them over each other’s chests, so they may sink into their hearts, where they will be kept safe forever and always.

It would have been a ceremony her parents would have ap-

proved of. It would have been a simple wedding made of oaths and love, and promises of an ever after spent together.”

And finally, possibly the most important quote for the comprehension of the purpose of this book:

 “ Luc wasn’t her weakness-love was. Not even just love but the idea of it.

    This was why parts of Jacks’s story had twisted so painfully inside her. It wasn’t because she wanted Jacks. She didn’t want Jacks. She just wanted someone to want her the way Jacks had wanted this girl. And she didn’t want it to be because of a spell or a curse. Evangeline wanted a real love powerful enough to break a spell, which was exactly what Jacks wanted, .”

I don’t know how true her statement about not wanting Jacks is, but I guess we’ll just have to find out…

(Oh yeah “The Ballad of Never After” is pre-ordered, although I’ve avoided reading the blurb so far) 

Predictions

P328: ““There’s always a way to break a curse. As soon as you drank from the Poison’s goblet, it refilled. I didn’t stay to explain the rules, but they would have appeared on the side of the cup. Luc could have saved you if he wanted.” 

Evangeline’s hands started trembling. No one had told her this. “That doesn’t mean anything. Luc was under a love spell from Marisol.” 

“He could have broken it,” Jacks said bluntly. “If he had really loved you, the spell could have been broken. I’ve seen it happen.”” 

Originally I wrote that I thought one of them, either Jacks or Evangeline, would fall under a curse and manage to break out because of their love for the other. Then I realised, Jacks is already cursed. Cursed to kill anyone, who isn’t his one true love, with a kiss. Speculate around that information as you wish. 

Furthermore, I don’t think we’re nearly done with Chaos. He has quite obviously taken an interest in her. Otherwise why would he have been checking in on her like the bodyguard from hell. Also, don’t tell me you don’t want to see under his mask. That’s another curse to be broken. 

Finally, I wonder if there’s a queen of hearts. Jacks is the name of the card below the king and queen. 

So. What if there are other “hearts”. More powerful ones.

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