Cursed (Fallen Siren Series #1) by S.J. Harper

Cursed - S.J. Harper
Emma is a siren, banished from Olympus by Demeter for failing to keep Persephone safe, she now must seek redemption by saving kidnapped women and girls as an FBI agent if she is to ever have any hope of returning to Olympus. And in the meantime she must avoid any romantic entanglements or risk Demeter’s spite
Which makes her new partner, Zach, who she previously had a fling with, very complicated indeed. Especially since he’s a werewolf with a difficult past and fleeing political turmoil in his pack.
But emotions aside the job calls, people are going missing, people without any apparent connection between them – it’s their job to find them, preferably alive.
The story and world are definitely appealing – Emma is a cursed Siren and we have a wonderful new take on Siren mythology (especially since siren mythology is one of those that has several different versions). Emma’s quest for redemption, without any real confidence of ever being redeemed, is a powerful one – but not one that eats up the story with angst. She seeks redemption so she gets on with her job – she’s not happy with Demeter but she isn’t going to curl up into a sobbing ball for pages of how miserable she is, but at the same time her sadness, frustration and despair is apparent.
The book is a police procedural and I know that has been done a lot in Urban Fantasy – but it works. It works because it is actually a police procedural with the law and detective work and channels and procedures to follow. “Detective” isn’t a job just used as a title to justify why the woo-woo character happens to be involved in the latest case, it actually means something. Which in turn leads to the story being compelling as Emma and Zach hunt down leads, follow up possibles actually have to interview people and work and chase dead ends and generally do police work.
It’s got a wide world that has only been hinted at but already leaves me eager for more – the different werewolf packs and politics from that, the vampire kings and their own politics. With lovely extra twists like the vampires not wanting to reveal themselves to humans because they distrust the humanity of humanity! Because human exploitation, arrogance and cruelty is such that they think it wiser to hide from them – I love that twist.
When it comes to romance there’s usually a lot of tropes going on that give me headaches – but this managed to navigate them well, much to my happy surprise.
Firstly, there’s no love at first sight or love at first woo-woo – there’s attraction that grows into more and there’s also history between them. Just the fact they have been together before, that they know each other, that they’ve worked together gives a foundation on which that attraction and emotion can actually be built upon rather than just racing to the “rawr, sexy times!”


There’s a curse preventing true love with Demeter’s wrath falling on any man she forms a meaningful relationship with. I know, I started the eye-roll – doomed relationship, curse, conflict, angst – but hold those rotating eyeballs! This actually works! It works because it is developed, it works because there’s a reason behind it and, most of all, it works because the protagonist doesn’t just ignore it! She doesn’t just say “oh I’m cursed woe woe angst angst cry me a river, I am the saddest panda of all!” and then ignore the curse until it conveniently shuffles off and goes away. She changes her behaviour because of the curse, she tries to work round it, she tries to actually end a doomed relationship. And, at the end of the book, the curse hasn’t magically vanished. This is a curse that is there for development of Emma and her relationship – not just introduced for some easy conflict and angst. It has meaning, it has a purpose it is part of the story.
And there’s a jealous ex, a violent jealous ex who hates Emma – yes, those eyes are rolling again! But no, because she is humanised, she is given a full set of motivations. Her relationship with Zack is given context and meaning. And her anger at Zack leaving has far more basis than a woman scorned – there are other consequences, other things happening with her pack and her life that are affected by Zack leaving and she’s gone out on a limb not just for herself but for her entire people. So, yes, she’s pissed at one of the main impediments to Zack coming home and sorting shit out.
I could probably sum up the romance in this book by simply saying it takes so many of those romance tropes you love to hate – and then does them RIGHT.