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Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts

Author Adam Sass On Tour
Read by Torian Brackett, Adam Sass On Tour
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A swoony contemporary romance from Adam Sass following a boy who is cursed to doom any romantic relationship—and the summer that changes everything.

Grant Rossi is never getting a happily-ever-after.

Ever since he was a kid and made a wish on his family’s iconic Wishing Rose, his romantic relationships have been cursed to end. Following his most recent (and extremely public) dumping, Grant is languishing in a hot Chicago summer, abandoning his beloved design projects to sink back into depression. But when his family suggests spending the summer helping his aunt and uncle refurbish their beautiful but rundown B&B and vineyard—the home of the Wishing Rose that changed everything for him—Grant decides to accept. Maybe he can finally find a way to recover his creative spark...and break his curse. 

But things at the vineyard are not what Grant expects. The place is in almost total disrepair, and—even worse—the person his relatives hired to help is his former childhood crush, Ben—the first boy who broke his heart.  

As their chemistry sparks and the summer heats up, the wedge between them can’t be ignored. But while they race to restore the B&B in time for the beloved local rose festival, grumpy but lovable Ben starts to break through Grant’s carefully crafted defenses. Can Grant find a way to overcome his curse and open his heart, even when it’s broken?
Chapter 1
Invidioso
I design fashion. I design art. I do not design chintzy two--for--one flyers for my aunt’s failing B&B. Yet Mom still sent over the mockup of my aunt’s upcoming ad so she could make use of my “design eye.” But all I could see was a once--great destination spot offering massive discounts throughout their busiest season. That’s all anyone else will see, too. Two--for--ones through the whole summer? Even during the Rose Festival in August? That festival is our crown jewel. Yet here my family is, admitting we can’t even give these reservations away.
On the off seasons, Vero Roseto’s rose garden and vineyard are crushed by unforgiving Illinois winters—-totally deserted except for the most desperate tourist. And thanks to climate change, spring doesn’t exist anymore (vanished along with the visitors who used to seasonally escape to the vineyard). Summer is all Vero Roseto has—-and summer is not enough to break even.
“Ma, there’s three exclamation points in this,” I say, looking over the abysmal ad. “Aunt Ro’s gotta cut it down to one or none.”
Over speakerphone, my mother grunts impatiently. “We just thought it was so drab without them! She wants people to know they’re excited.”
“Every time she adds an exclamation point, her desperation goes up a font size.”
Mom snorts. “You got judgmental in the city.”
I don’t blink. I just stare up at my nonmoving ceiling fan. My studio apartment is stifling in the early summer heat, but I don’t have the willpower to switch on the fan. My clothes lie on my body as heavily as an X--ray vest. My ratty gray T--shirt is due for a wash, but at least I can’t smell myself anymore. My nose has acclimated to the wretched sad boy fragrance that’s currently strangling this airless room.
Look at me. Two weeks out of graduating high school, and I’m already thriving.
The city has done wonders for me. Truly, so grato about it.
“Yep,” I say tonelessly. “I got judgmental in the city. Judgmental and sad.”
Over the phone, Mom clicks her tongue—-my poor, pathetic son—-and says nothing. For long seconds, we stew in silence. I’ve done the thing I’m not supposed to do: mention my depression. She lets me talk about whatever I want, but the truth makes her quiet. It reminds her of the meds I used to take—and should get back to taking, once I make an appointment. It’s nothing I’m embarrassed about, but she doesn’t like thinking of me needing them, like I have a terrible infection she’s doing her best to ignore, and I’m rudely reminding her of it.
“Grant,” she says, lowering her voice, “it’s almost been a year. There’s more than one boy in the world—-”
“I thought you called to talk about this crummy ad.” Anger whips through my chest like a cobra. Guilt immediately follows, but I don’t take it back. If I can’t mention my sadness, she can’t mention my ex.
My heroic, romantic, sweetheart ex everyone fell in love with—-his thousands of Instagram fans, my design program friends, and my family (who didn’t even meet him before I was dumped). They adored him—-that sweet bunny and his new bunny boyfriend (the best friend he fell in love with) who couldn’t hurt a fly.
Except they hurt me.
But I don’t count. I’m a beast, not a bunny. A beast with baggage and a curse on my head where no relationship lasts longer than a month. When my ex and I were dating, he and I were the golden couple. Then he fell in love with someone else, and I had to go. But where was the sweet, simple fairy tale his followers demanded? From their point of view, our broken fairy tale wasn’t nuanced reality, it was just . . . my fault. But in reality, I’m a cursed boy, so where was this honestly gonna go anyway?
So, the bunnies get to keep their little dewdrop love story while the beast remains shut away in his dungeon. Just like in those fairy tales my ex tricked me into believing in.
“Back to the ad!” Mom says, fiddling with loud pots and pans. “Instead of exclamation points, what if we put some words in all caps?”
“No,” I moan.
“Why not?”
“Writing in caps is for millennials who are too online. Vetoed.”
“Well, we’ve gotta show enthusiasm somehow!”
“We don’t. Enthusiasm is desperate, and Ro’s discount looks desperate enough. People come to Vero Roseto to feel classy, exclusive, like it’s a club they can’t get into. If Ro plays it cool in the ad, nobody will notice the place is in trouble.”
“Speaking from experience?”
My heart screams, but I don’t judge her too harshly. It’s an Italian thing, gagging your kids like this, and I’m the youngest of eight, so she had lots of practice before she got to me. “Ouch, Ma.”
“Well, ouch, yourself. You just said our family’s business is in trouble.”
“It is in trouble.”
“And so are you,” she says firmly, but with extreme care.
She’s right, but I’m too empty to respond. Mosquito bites roar across my ankles, but I can’t even find the energy to reach down and scratch them.
Mom sighs. “Why don’t you get away to the B&B? I can tell you aren’t taking care of yourself, and Ro would die to have you over. Spend a few weeks. Get out of that city. She’ll cook. She’ll clean. And she gets a cool, artistic teen who’ll tell her everything she’s doing wrong with the business.” Knowing she hasn’t closed her hard sell yet, Mom laughs. “I’m giving you an open invitation for free food that doesn’t come out of a microwave AND to criticize your family without back talk! How else can I sweeten this deal?”
I clear my desert--dry throat. “I’m just busy. I can’t get away.”
“Busy sleeping in past noon?” Mom’s exhale blows out my phone speaker. “Okay, so you moved to the city, and some rich boy was careless with your heart. So what? It’s a tale as old as time. You’re creative. Take all that crap he gave you and feed it into your work—-”
“I’ve done that—-”
“You’re handsome! And tall—-gays love that.”
I retch. “Okay, but how do you know that?”
“There’s other boys—-”
“I’ve tried.”
“Enough! Grant, he wasn’t that great—-”
Like I’ve been jabbed with adrenaline, I sit up in bed for the first time in hours. I can almost hear my body peeling off the mattress. “Ma!” I practically wail. “He wasn’t a bad guy. He just didn’t love me.” Phlegm collects in my throat as my fourth cry of the day approaches. “What was he supposed to do? Stay with me forever just because I’m cursed?”
“Piglet, no . . .” Mom’s voice fills with fear.
Hot tears build behind my eyes. I set my phone on my nightstand cluttered with empty pop cans and cartons of Easy Mac. After wiping my eyes dry, I hurl my top sheet onto the floor. “It’s so hot in here!”
“Well,” Mom clears her throat, “the AC over at the B&B is freezing.”
“I’m not going to Vero Roseto, Ma.” My head collides with my pillow as I pick up the phone again. “Sorry, but I don’t think it would help me to be around something that’s dying.”
There—-that comment ought to scare Mom enough to leave me alone.
We mutter goodbyes to each other, and I let my phone slip down my chest, where it settles somewhere beneath my ribs. With my last ounce of energy, I search around the carpet for The Bad Magazine, the one I hurt my feelings with when I get in these moods. It’s a complimentary promotion for the Art Institute of Chicago’s student design program—-the show I worked on with my ex last year. The last thing we did together.
We were the stars of the show, so a publicity photo from the event’s red carpet entrance made the cover: me and him, the fairy--tale couple that was going to conquer the industry. When he left, he took my love for my work with him. That has to be why I’m still like this after a year. I’m just not me anymore. I’m something else now—-a beast.
Or maybe this is the real me. Maybe the person I was with my ex was the fake.
Months ago, during a spiral, I scratched out my face with a black pen. Traces of my smile—-a silly, ignorant smile—-appear around the edges of the scratch marks. I couldn’t stand looking at myself that happy. It was a lie.
Looking at this photo, it helps me remember—-I’m cursed.
My ex is just the latest of many who realized they were dating The Training Boyfriend before coming to their senses.
My ex got his fairy--tale ending, but there’s none of that for me. A low, scalding flame simmers beneath my heart knowing that even if I do find someone who wants me, it will be too late to get my pure, wholesome fairy tale. That chance is gone. Whoever this new boy will be, he’ll have to deal with neediness, repressed anger, and—-yes, Mom—-desperation.
He’ll have to deal with the curse, something no boy has ever survived.
Who would even have the patience? The time? The strength?
Who could ever learn to love a beast?
"Adam Sass has done it again! Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts has the perfect blend of romance, regrets, and enchanted roses—with an added dose of not-so-gentle ribbing—that'll keep you rooting for love on every page. Consider yourself cursed if you don't pick up this book!"—Jason June, New York Times bestselling author of Out of the Blue and Jay's Gay Agenda

"Beasts abound in this fantastic and unputdownable novel; the past, misunderstandings, break-ups, depression. Sass handles them all with a deft and sympathetic hand, showing us how what often feels like fate is just us limiting ourselves, and love can transform us into our best selves."—L. C. Rosen, author of Camp and Emmett

"Who could ever love a Beast? Adam's signature sass is back in full force with Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts—a heartfelt exploration of the lengths one teenager will go to discover that beauty is found within. A must-read for those searching for love among cursed fairytales and enchanted red roses."—Anthony Nerada, author of Skater Boy

"What an absolute beast of a book. Adam Sass sprinkles fairytale charm onto a story about lost love and flawed but oh-so-delightful family in a way that forced my eyes to leak way more than anticipated. Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts had my gay Midwest heart bursting at the seams."—Robbie Couch, New York Times bestselling author of If I See You Again Tomorrow

"Magic, tender and savage, beats in the heart of Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts. Adam Sass has given us a fairy tale about the work and the growth it takes for us to earn a genuine Happily Ever After."—Caleb Roehrig, author of Teach the Torches to Burn and Last Seen Leaving

"Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts is a hilarious, cozy read. Adam Sass delivers another swoony romance featuring complicated queers, a biting wit, and (most importantly) lots of Italian food. A perfect long weekend of a story."—James Acker, award-winning author of The Long Run and Teenage Dirtbags

"The painterly construction of the characters is a high point of this novel. . . A sincere love story that patient readers will appreciate."—Kirkus Reviews

"Middle school friends reunite to save a moldering B&B in this energetic second-chance romance from Sass"—Publishers Weekly

"The conclusion is the delicate combination of realistic, hopeful,satisfying, and slightly open-ended that Sass has demonstrably mastered. Come for the Wishing Rose, stay for the work-in-progress characters,and walk away assured that Grant's journey is just beginning."—Booklist
© Ian Carlos Photography
Adam Sass began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. (He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte.) His debut YA novel, Surrender Your Sons, was named a best book of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews and Foreword INDIES, a best first novel for young readers by Booklist, won the Gold Medal for YA fiction at the IPPY Awards, and was a selection for ALA’s Rainbow Book List for 2022. His YA rom-com, The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers, was named a Best Book of 2022 by Seventeen and received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. He is also the author of the thriller, Your Lonely Nights Are Over.

Adam has been featured in Teen Vogue and the Savage Lovecast. He is also a recurring co-host on the popular podcast Slayerfest98, where he recaps Buffy the Vampire Slayer, horror movies, and other pieces of pop culture. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and dachshunds.

You can visit Adam Sass online at AdamSassBooks.com or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @TheAdamSass. View titles by Adam Sass

About

A swoony contemporary romance from Adam Sass following a boy who is cursed to doom any romantic relationship—and the summer that changes everything.

Grant Rossi is never getting a happily-ever-after.

Ever since he was a kid and made a wish on his family’s iconic Wishing Rose, his romantic relationships have been cursed to end. Following his most recent (and extremely public) dumping, Grant is languishing in a hot Chicago summer, abandoning his beloved design projects to sink back into depression. But when his family suggests spending the summer helping his aunt and uncle refurbish their beautiful but rundown B&B and vineyard—the home of the Wishing Rose that changed everything for him—Grant decides to accept. Maybe he can finally find a way to recover his creative spark...and break his curse. 

But things at the vineyard are not what Grant expects. The place is in almost total disrepair, and—even worse—the person his relatives hired to help is his former childhood crush, Ben—the first boy who broke his heart.  

As their chemistry sparks and the summer heats up, the wedge between them can’t be ignored. But while they race to restore the B&B in time for the beloved local rose festival, grumpy but lovable Ben starts to break through Grant’s carefully crafted defenses. Can Grant find a way to overcome his curse and open his heart, even when it’s broken?

Excerpt

Chapter 1
Invidioso
I design fashion. I design art. I do not design chintzy two--for--one flyers for my aunt’s failing B&B. Yet Mom still sent over the mockup of my aunt’s upcoming ad so she could make use of my “design eye.” But all I could see was a once--great destination spot offering massive discounts throughout their busiest season. That’s all anyone else will see, too. Two--for--ones through the whole summer? Even during the Rose Festival in August? That festival is our crown jewel. Yet here my family is, admitting we can’t even give these reservations away.
On the off seasons, Vero Roseto’s rose garden and vineyard are crushed by unforgiving Illinois winters—-totally deserted except for the most desperate tourist. And thanks to climate change, spring doesn’t exist anymore (vanished along with the visitors who used to seasonally escape to the vineyard). Summer is all Vero Roseto has—-and summer is not enough to break even.
“Ma, there’s three exclamation points in this,” I say, looking over the abysmal ad. “Aunt Ro’s gotta cut it down to one or none.”
Over speakerphone, my mother grunts impatiently. “We just thought it was so drab without them! She wants people to know they’re excited.”
“Every time she adds an exclamation point, her desperation goes up a font size.”
Mom snorts. “You got judgmental in the city.”
I don’t blink. I just stare up at my nonmoving ceiling fan. My studio apartment is stifling in the early summer heat, but I don’t have the willpower to switch on the fan. My clothes lie on my body as heavily as an X--ray vest. My ratty gray T--shirt is due for a wash, but at least I can’t smell myself anymore. My nose has acclimated to the wretched sad boy fragrance that’s currently strangling this airless room.
Look at me. Two weeks out of graduating high school, and I’m already thriving.
The city has done wonders for me. Truly, so grato about it.
“Yep,” I say tonelessly. “I got judgmental in the city. Judgmental and sad.”
Over the phone, Mom clicks her tongue—-my poor, pathetic son—-and says nothing. For long seconds, we stew in silence. I’ve done the thing I’m not supposed to do: mention my depression. She lets me talk about whatever I want, but the truth makes her quiet. It reminds her of the meds I used to take—and should get back to taking, once I make an appointment. It’s nothing I’m embarrassed about, but she doesn’t like thinking of me needing them, like I have a terrible infection she’s doing her best to ignore, and I’m rudely reminding her of it.
“Grant,” she says, lowering her voice, “it’s almost been a year. There’s more than one boy in the world—-”
“I thought you called to talk about this crummy ad.” Anger whips through my chest like a cobra. Guilt immediately follows, but I don’t take it back. If I can’t mention my sadness, she can’t mention my ex.
My heroic, romantic, sweetheart ex everyone fell in love with—-his thousands of Instagram fans, my design program friends, and my family (who didn’t even meet him before I was dumped). They adored him—-that sweet bunny and his new bunny boyfriend (the best friend he fell in love with) who couldn’t hurt a fly.
Except they hurt me.
But I don’t count. I’m a beast, not a bunny. A beast with baggage and a curse on my head where no relationship lasts longer than a month. When my ex and I were dating, he and I were the golden couple. Then he fell in love with someone else, and I had to go. But where was the sweet, simple fairy tale his followers demanded? From their point of view, our broken fairy tale wasn’t nuanced reality, it was just . . . my fault. But in reality, I’m a cursed boy, so where was this honestly gonna go anyway?
So, the bunnies get to keep their little dewdrop love story while the beast remains shut away in his dungeon. Just like in those fairy tales my ex tricked me into believing in.
“Back to the ad!” Mom says, fiddling with loud pots and pans. “Instead of exclamation points, what if we put some words in all caps?”
“No,” I moan.
“Why not?”
“Writing in caps is for millennials who are too online. Vetoed.”
“Well, we’ve gotta show enthusiasm somehow!”
“We don’t. Enthusiasm is desperate, and Ro’s discount looks desperate enough. People come to Vero Roseto to feel classy, exclusive, like it’s a club they can’t get into. If Ro plays it cool in the ad, nobody will notice the place is in trouble.”
“Speaking from experience?”
My heart screams, but I don’t judge her too harshly. It’s an Italian thing, gagging your kids like this, and I’m the youngest of eight, so she had lots of practice before she got to me. “Ouch, Ma.”
“Well, ouch, yourself. You just said our family’s business is in trouble.”
“It is in trouble.”
“And so are you,” she says firmly, but with extreme care.
She’s right, but I’m too empty to respond. Mosquito bites roar across my ankles, but I can’t even find the energy to reach down and scratch them.
Mom sighs. “Why don’t you get away to the B&B? I can tell you aren’t taking care of yourself, and Ro would die to have you over. Spend a few weeks. Get out of that city. She’ll cook. She’ll clean. And she gets a cool, artistic teen who’ll tell her everything she’s doing wrong with the business.” Knowing she hasn’t closed her hard sell yet, Mom laughs. “I’m giving you an open invitation for free food that doesn’t come out of a microwave AND to criticize your family without back talk! How else can I sweeten this deal?”
I clear my desert--dry throat. “I’m just busy. I can’t get away.”
“Busy sleeping in past noon?” Mom’s exhale blows out my phone speaker. “Okay, so you moved to the city, and some rich boy was careless with your heart. So what? It’s a tale as old as time. You’re creative. Take all that crap he gave you and feed it into your work—-”
“I’ve done that—-”
“You’re handsome! And tall—-gays love that.”
I retch. “Okay, but how do you know that?”
“There’s other boys—-”
“I’ve tried.”
“Enough! Grant, he wasn’t that great—-”
Like I’ve been jabbed with adrenaline, I sit up in bed for the first time in hours. I can almost hear my body peeling off the mattress. “Ma!” I practically wail. “He wasn’t a bad guy. He just didn’t love me.” Phlegm collects in my throat as my fourth cry of the day approaches. “What was he supposed to do? Stay with me forever just because I’m cursed?”
“Piglet, no . . .” Mom’s voice fills with fear.
Hot tears build behind my eyes. I set my phone on my nightstand cluttered with empty pop cans and cartons of Easy Mac. After wiping my eyes dry, I hurl my top sheet onto the floor. “It’s so hot in here!”
“Well,” Mom clears her throat, “the AC over at the B&B is freezing.”
“I’m not going to Vero Roseto, Ma.” My head collides with my pillow as I pick up the phone again. “Sorry, but I don’t think it would help me to be around something that’s dying.”
There—-that comment ought to scare Mom enough to leave me alone.
We mutter goodbyes to each other, and I let my phone slip down my chest, where it settles somewhere beneath my ribs. With my last ounce of energy, I search around the carpet for The Bad Magazine, the one I hurt my feelings with when I get in these moods. It’s a complimentary promotion for the Art Institute of Chicago’s student design program—-the show I worked on with my ex last year. The last thing we did together.
We were the stars of the show, so a publicity photo from the event’s red carpet entrance made the cover: me and him, the fairy--tale couple that was going to conquer the industry. When he left, he took my love for my work with him. That has to be why I’m still like this after a year. I’m just not me anymore. I’m something else now—-a beast.
Or maybe this is the real me. Maybe the person I was with my ex was the fake.
Months ago, during a spiral, I scratched out my face with a black pen. Traces of my smile—-a silly, ignorant smile—-appear around the edges of the scratch marks. I couldn’t stand looking at myself that happy. It was a lie.
Looking at this photo, it helps me remember—-I’m cursed.
My ex is just the latest of many who realized they were dating The Training Boyfriend before coming to their senses.
My ex got his fairy--tale ending, but there’s none of that for me. A low, scalding flame simmers beneath my heart knowing that even if I do find someone who wants me, it will be too late to get my pure, wholesome fairy tale. That chance is gone. Whoever this new boy will be, he’ll have to deal with neediness, repressed anger, and—-yes, Mom—-desperation.
He’ll have to deal with the curse, something no boy has ever survived.
Who would even have the patience? The time? The strength?
Who could ever learn to love a beast?

Reviews

"Adam Sass has done it again! Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts has the perfect blend of romance, regrets, and enchanted roses—with an added dose of not-so-gentle ribbing—that'll keep you rooting for love on every page. Consider yourself cursed if you don't pick up this book!"—Jason June, New York Times bestselling author of Out of the Blue and Jay's Gay Agenda

"Beasts abound in this fantastic and unputdownable novel; the past, misunderstandings, break-ups, depression. Sass handles them all with a deft and sympathetic hand, showing us how what often feels like fate is just us limiting ourselves, and love can transform us into our best selves."—L. C. Rosen, author of Camp and Emmett

"Who could ever love a Beast? Adam's signature sass is back in full force with Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts—a heartfelt exploration of the lengths one teenager will go to discover that beauty is found within. A must-read for those searching for love among cursed fairytales and enchanted red roses."—Anthony Nerada, author of Skater Boy

"What an absolute beast of a book. Adam Sass sprinkles fairytale charm onto a story about lost love and flawed but oh-so-delightful family in a way that forced my eyes to leak way more than anticipated. Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts had my gay Midwest heart bursting at the seams."—Robbie Couch, New York Times bestselling author of If I See You Again Tomorrow

"Magic, tender and savage, beats in the heart of Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts. Adam Sass has given us a fairy tale about the work and the growth it takes for us to earn a genuine Happily Ever After."—Caleb Roehrig, author of Teach the Torches to Burn and Last Seen Leaving

"Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts is a hilarious, cozy read. Adam Sass delivers another swoony romance featuring complicated queers, a biting wit, and (most importantly) lots of Italian food. A perfect long weekend of a story."—James Acker, award-winning author of The Long Run and Teenage Dirtbags

"The painterly construction of the characters is a high point of this novel. . . A sincere love story that patient readers will appreciate."—Kirkus Reviews

"Middle school friends reunite to save a moldering B&B in this energetic second-chance romance from Sass"—Publishers Weekly

"The conclusion is the delicate combination of realistic, hopeful,satisfying, and slightly open-ended that Sass has demonstrably mastered. Come for the Wishing Rose, stay for the work-in-progress characters,and walk away assured that Grant's journey is just beginning."—Booklist

Author

© Ian Carlos Photography
Adam Sass began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. (He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte.) His debut YA novel, Surrender Your Sons, was named a best book of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews and Foreword INDIES, a best first novel for young readers by Booklist, won the Gold Medal for YA fiction at the IPPY Awards, and was a selection for ALA’s Rainbow Book List for 2022. His YA rom-com, The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers, was named a Best Book of 2022 by Seventeen and received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. He is also the author of the thriller, Your Lonely Nights Are Over.

Adam has been featured in Teen Vogue and the Savage Lovecast. He is also a recurring co-host on the popular podcast Slayerfest98, where he recaps Buffy the Vampire Slayer, horror movies, and other pieces of pop culture. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and dachshunds.

You can visit Adam Sass online at AdamSassBooks.com or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @TheAdamSass. View titles by Adam Sass