Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #1)

Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #1)

Stephanie Garber

For anyone who has ever made a bad decision because of a broken heart

Warnings and Signs

The bell hanging outside the curiosity shop knew the human was trouble from the way he moved through the door. Bells have excellent hearing, but this little chime didn’t need any particular skill to catch the crude jangle of the gaudy pocket-watch chain at this young man’s hip, or the rough scrape of his boots as he attempted a swagger but only succeeded in scuffing the floor of Maximilian’s Curiosities, Whimsies & Other Oddities.

This young man was going to ruin the girl that worked inside the shop.

The bell had tried to warn her. A full two seconds before the boy opened the door, the bell rang its clapper. Unlike most humans, this shopgirl had grown up around oddities—and the bell had long suspected she was a curiosity as well, though it couldn’t figure out exactly what sort.

The girl knew that many objects were more than they appeared and that bells possessed a sixth sense that humans lacked. Unfortunately, this girl, who believed in hope and fairytales and love at first sight, often misinterpreted the bell’s chimes. Today the bell was fairly certain that she had heard its cautionary ring. But, from the way her voice affected an excited edge as she spoke to the young man, it seemed as if the girl had taken the bell’s early toll as a serendipitous sign instead of as a warning.


The Tale of Evangeline Fox


* * *

The Whisper Gazette


By Kutlass Knightlinger

The door to the Prince of Hearts’ church has disappeared. Painted the deep bloodred of broken hearts, the iconic entry simply vanished from one of the Temple District’s most visited churches sometime during the night, leaving behind an impenetrable marble wall. It’s now impossible for anyone to enter the church—

* * *

Evangeline shoved the two-week-old newsprint into the pocket of her flowered skirt. The door at the end of this decrepit alley was barely taller than she was, and hidden behind a rusted metal grate instead of covered in beautiful bloodred paint, but she would have bet her father’s curiosity shop that this was the missing door.

Nothing in the Temple District was this unattractive. Every entry here was carved panels, decorative architraves, glass awnings, and gilded keyholes. Her father had been a man of faith, but he used to say that the churches here were like vampires—they weren’t meant for worship, they were designed to entice and entrap. But this door was different. This door was just a rough block of wood with a missing handle and chipped white paint.

This door did not want to be found.

Yet it couldn’t hide what it truly was from Evangeline.

The jagged shape of it was unmistakable. One side was a sloping curve, the other a serrated slash, forming one half of a broken heart—a symbol of the Fated Prince of Hearts.


If hope were a pair of wings, Evangeline’s were stretching out behind her, eager to take flight again. After two weeks of searching the city of Valenda, she’d found it.

When the gossip sheet in her pocket had first announced that the door from the Prince of Hearts’ church had gone missing, few imagined it was magic. It was the scandal sheet’s first article, and people said it was part of a hoax to sell subscriptions. Doors didn’t simply disappear.

But Evangeline believed that they could. The story hadn’t felt like a gimmick to her; it had felt like a sign, telling her where to search if she was going to save her heart and the boy that it belonged to.

She might not have seen much evidence of magic outside of the oddities in her father’s curiosity shop, but she had faith it existed. Her father, Maximilian, had always spoken of magic as if it were real. And her mother had been from the Magnificent North, where there was no difference between fairytales and history. All stories are made of both truths and lies, she used to say. What matters is the way that we believe in them.

And Evangeline had a gift when it came to believing in things that others considered myths—like the immortal Fates.

She opened the metal grate. The door itself didn’t have a handle, forcing her to wedge her fingers into the tiny space between its jagged edge and the dirty stone wall.

The door pinched her fingers, drawing a drop of blood, and she swore she heard its splintered voice say, Do you know what you’re about to step into? Nothing but heartbreak will come from this.

But Evangeline’s heart was already broken. And she understood the risks she was taking. She knew the rules for visiting Fated churches:

Always promise less than you can give, for Fates always take more.

Do not make bargains with more than one Fate.

And, above all, never fall in love with a Fate.

There were sixteen immortal Fates, and they were jealous and possessive beings. Before they’d vanished centuries ago, it was said they ruled over part of the world with magic that was as malevolent as it was marvelous. They never broke a bargain, although they often hurt the people they helped. Yet most people—even if they believed the Fates were merely myths—became desperate enough to pray to them at some point.

Evangeline had always been curious about their churches, but she’d known enough about the mercurial nature of Fates and Fated bargains to avoid seeking their places of worship. Until two weeks ago, when she’d become one of those desperate people the stories always cautioned about.

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