Today on the site I am so excited to reveal the cover of The Last 8 author Laura Pohl’s first book in her brand new series, The Grimrose Girls! A Beautiful Doom releases from Sourcebooks on August 3rd and features two f/f couples, a demi-bisexual lead, and an aroace lead, and if dark academia and fairytales are your jam, this is your next can’t-miss read. Check out the blurb:
The Descendants meets Pretty Little Liars in this story of four troubled friends, one murdered girl, and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed. Reimagined fairytale heroines must uncover connections to their ancient curses and forge their own paths… before it’s too late.
After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled Ariane’s death as a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.
When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events that no one could have predicted. As the girls retrace their friend’s final days, they discover a dark secret about Grimrose—Ariane wasn’t the first dead girl.
They soon learn that all the past murders are connected to ancient fairytale curses…and that their own fates are tied to the stories, dooming the girls to brutal and gruesome endings unless they can break the cycle for good.
And here’s the iconic cover, designed by Maggie Edkins and Nicole Hower!
Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
But wait, there’s more! We also have the first two chapters:
The first day of school started with a funeral.
This was not, of course, the usual for the Grimrose Académie for Elite Students, whose student body mostly lived to their eighties, and went on to command corporate conglomerates or win Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes and other such trifles. Therefore, everyone was shocked, and whispers were heard in every corner of the castle, from the library tower to the girl’s bathroom on the fifth floor.
The whispers, especially, followed Eleanor Ashworth.
Ella gazed upward self-consciously, tightening her hand on the strap of her bag. “How long do you think this is going to last?”
Eleanor, known to her friends only as Ella, was a small girl of seventeen, with light blond hair cut to her chin and equally light brown eyes, reddened cheeks, freckles all over her face and arms, and clothes that had seen better days. The whispers had followed her before, but never with such commitment.
“A month, if we’re lucky.” Yuki, Ella’s best friend answered, a crease appearing in her ivory forehead.
“We won’t be,” Rory muttered, glaring at a group of younger girls who dared to dart eyes in their direction. “What the hell are you looking at?”
“You do realize that attracts even more attention, right?” Yuki said, raising an eyebrow.
“At least I’ll get a reason to fight,” Rory replied with a satisfied shrug.
The Grimrose Académie was exclusive not only in name, but also in reputation. Its location in Switzerland and the exorbitant prices ensured that only the richest and most powerful were able to attend. It sat on one of Alps’ most beautiful lakes and boasted a giant fairytale-like castle with four towers and white marble, gardens extending beyond the mountains that surrounded them, and a crystalline lake to complete the view.
Studying at Grimrose was a guarantee of your future. When you studied at Grimrose, nothing could ever go wrong.
Except that on the eve of the first day of school, one of the Académie’s most exceptional students had drowned in the lake.
For most students, it meant an uproar. For the Académie, it meant an open line for calling parents reassuring the safety of their children, and keeping the death out of the papers. Drowned in the lake besides the school, alone.
But for Ella, Yuki, and Rory, it wasn’t just another tragedy. Ariane Van Amstel had been their best friend.
Ella avoided the stares and the whispers, knowing all the students wanted to ask her the same questions. Had she been suicidal? Did she know how to swim? Did Ella know she was sad? And why hadn’t Ella helped her?
The last question was the worst, the reminder a sting.. How could she not know if one of her best friends had done the unthinkable? Ariane had been happy, daughter of a rich businessman from Holland and with a bright future ahead of her. Just like everyone in the Académie.
Well, everyone except Eleanor Ashworth.
The worst part about the stares was how they made her feel ashamed, because she ought to have done something. She should have acted. She should have saved her friend, because that’s what friends did.
Ella stepped forward in the cafeteria line, looking at their lonely table in the corner. Everyone else in the cafeteria was lively, friends gathering for the first time in three months, groups coming together with only happiness in their minds. But for them, the table was missing something. Stacie caught her looking wistfully at the popular table, and she gave the smallest nod to her stepsister.
Stacie and Silla, her twin stepsisters, belonged to Grimrose in a way that Ella couldn’t. They paid full tuition. Ella was the scholarship student.
In truth, Stacie and Silla owed their place to Ella. The Académie had personally invited her, but her stepmother ruled that she would go only as long as there had been openings for her two daughters. That had been five years ago. Sharon said if Ella wanted to go to an expensive school, she had to deserve it.
Rory slammed her tray on their table as they settled down. The table felt too big for them now. There was a space where Ariane was supposed to be, at the table she had chosen herself. It felt like a part of her was missing, and Ella could not find anything big enough to hide that absence.
The three girls sat in silence. Ella finished her lunch and opened her bag to pick a pair of knitting needles.
“Knitting already?” Rory asked, chewing with her mouth open.
“This is just…” Ella started. “I promised Ari. Couldn’t finish it because Sharon kept nagging me last week. So now I have to finish it before… before…”
She didn’t finish her sentence, letting out a frustrated breath. Ella knew she was ranting. That she was stuck in a loop. She had to finish her goodbye present. If she didn’t, then…
The good thing was that Ella’s brain could not imagine a consequence worse than the situation they were already in.
“The memorial is this afternoon,” Ella said. “I promised it. I’m doing it. Ella Ashworth doesn’t let her friends down.”
Not even if they were dead, she thought to herself.
Yuki Miyashiro waited for her friends in the garden.
She stood perfectly still as other students passed her, glancing at the tall lonely figure with ivory white skin and dark hair like a raven’s feathers that fell over her shoulders, turning their heads when they met the merciless black eyes.
The memorial was being held in the garden, the only place that could hold all the students, despite being inconveniently close to the lake where Ariane had drowned.
When Rory and Ella showed up, they went in silence together. The gardens were lush and covered in flowers and bright tones of green, the last touches of summer.
“You all right?” Ella asked, and for a moment, Yuki’s stomach twisted in guilt. She should be the one asking the question.
Ella had been her best friend since their first day of school, when Ella had declared Yuki’s shoes were the most beautiful she’d ever seen, and therefore both of them had to be friends. Only later Ella confessed that she didn’t like the shoes that much, but that she found complimenting people was always the best way to make friends.
Yuki wouldn’t know. She didn’t have a lot of friends.
“I’m all right,” Yuki answered, even though it was a lie.
Ella pulled her knitting from her bag. Ella always needed something to do with her hands. She took a deep breath, and Rory glanced at them both.
“You’ve been taking the pills?” Rory asked.
“Yeah,” Ella replied. “Wait, you think I haven’t?”
“That’s not what she said,” Yuki interrupted.
“I’ve been taking them.”
Rory looked at Yuki for reassurance, but Yuki could offer nothing. Ella had been diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety over a year ago, and it was still an adjustment..
It was a short walk. Every student was wearing their uniform, liberty blue skirts and pants, white shirts and silver ties and periwinkle blue blazers, a crowd of blue descending the path. The rain had stopped but the clouds had stayed, and the sky was gray like the mountaintops. Students started filling the front, but Yuki preferred the back.
Ariane’s parents were standing in the front row. There was no coffin—they would take the body home, sealed up so no one would ever see the bright red flaming head of hair, but there was a picture of her. Yuki avoided Ari’s eyes, and stared at the ground.
Ella had sat down almost immediately on the chair, and Yuki closed her eyes, but there were the whispers, talking of the bloated body, talking of Ariane drowning, her body sinking into the lake, and how they had found her, face up, barely recognizable. Accident. Suicide. Same thing. It didn’t matter. She was dead.
When Reyna Castilla stepped to the pulpit, Yuki was almost glad to hear her stepmother’s voice.
“It’s with great sorrow we are gathered here today,” she started. “One of our most promising students has been taken from us so abruptly. Ariane was a great student, and beloved by all. It’s difficult to describe how terrible her loss…”
Yuki tuned all of it out. Reyna didn’t know Ariane enough to truly understand what it meant to lose her. Her loss was pure, untainted by knowing and loving Ariane.
Yuki’s loss was not pure.
When she looked up, she saw another face in the crowd. Edric, Ariane’s ex-boyfriend. Only one week after he and Ari had broken up, he’d been with someone else. All over each other in the halls.
Yuki wished she could watch him choke.
To calm herself down, she recited the facts of the case to herself.
Ariane did not know how to swim. Ariane would not go near the lake at night. Ariane would not leave without saying goodbye. But there had been no foul play discovered.
Reyna’s eulogy ended, and Ari’s father took over the microphone, giving another thankful speech. All the students in the school were courteous enough to pretend they cared, even though Ariane did not belong with them.
She belonged to us.
Yuki’s heart beat faster in her chest.
The memorial dissolved little after that. Ella got up before any of them could stop her and walked decidedly over to Ariane’s parents. Yuki could almost hear what Ella was saying. She could imagine her words would be firm and kind. A flash of a smile from Ariane’s mother, a hug, Ella handing them the sweater she’d finished.
Someone else approached Yuki, and she turned to see her stepmother.
Reyna rarely looked tired, but today, Yuki could glimpse something raw in her, as if she’d lowered a barrier that wouldn’t be lowered again in the next hundred years.
Reyna didn’t look like she was old enough to be Yuki’s stepmother. Her medium brown skin was flawless, and her rich chocolate brown hair fell in generous waves over her shoulders. She dressed the part of the Headmistress at least, today a dark red dress that was both formal and elegant.
“Walk back with me?” Reyna asked, gesturing to the castle.
Yuki obeyed, as she always did. Perfect posture, walking calmly side by side. Their shoulders never touched. The silence stretched as they climbed.
“How are you doing?” Reyna asked at last, not unkindly.
Yuki did not answer for a moment. She knew what was expected of her. She’d seen the answer in Ella’s hands, in Ella’s gestures, in Ella’s words. She was supposed to be holding up, to accept her loss gracefully, to think of the others.
“Fine,” she answered curtly. “Just fine.”
Reyna paused as they climbed and Yuki was forced to stop her march.
“Yuki, one of your friends just died,” Reyna said. “I’m asking because I know you can’t be all right.”
“Well, I am.”
She spoke the words with such conviction that she almost felt like she could hear them ringing across the gardens, across the leaves and carried by the bird’s wings. I am. I am. I am.
She wouldn’t lose her composure. She was the headmistress’ stepdaughter, after all. Her behavior would always be examined first.
“I’ll ask the police to keep the questions to a minimum,” Reyna said, and Yuki took a deep breath, because she did not lose her composure, because she was always, always, the image of perfect, no matter what happened, and she was not going to lose her cool today. “It’s all routine.”
“I’m just preparing you for what’s to come,” she said. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. I know how hard it must be.”
Except Reyna didn’t know.
She had no idea.
She could never have any idea at all, because Ariane was dead, and it was Yuki’s fault.
Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature. She is the author of THE LAST 8 duology, which won the International Latino Book Awards. Her next novel is A BEAUTIFUL DOOM, which opens the Grimrose Girls duology. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com), and make sure to follow her on twitter, instagram, and pinterest.