Cupcakes and Passion Open a Gateway to Horror in Delilah S. Dawson’s Bloom

Cupcakes and Passion Open a Gateway to Horror in Delilah S. Dawson’s Bloom

io9 has shared the work of Delilah S. Dawson before (check out an excerpt from her 2021 dystopian thriller The Violence), and we’ve got another unsettling exclusive for you today: a first look at Bloom, the tale of two women whose powerful attraction evolves into something that’s supernaturally toxic.

First, here’s a synopsis. Beware the farmers’ market meet-cute!

Rosemary meets Ash at the farmers’ market. Ash — precise, pretty, and practically perfect — sells bars of soap in delicate pastel colours, sprinkle-spackled cupcakes stacked on scalloped stands, beeswax candles, jelly jars of honey, and glossy green plants.

Ro has never felt this way about another woman; with Ash, she wants to be her and have her in equal measure. But as her obsession with Ash consumes her, she may find she’s not the one doing the devouring…

Told in lush, delectable prose, this is a deliciously dark tale of passion taking an unsavoury turn…

Here’s the full cover, designed by Julia Lloyd and making its debut here on Gizmodo, followed by an excerpt from Bloom.

Image: Titan Books
Image: Titan Books
She feels eyes on her, a soft and curious prickle like moth feet, and she turns to find the most beautiful girl in the world staring at her. While attempting not to flatten a child, Ro has somehow managed to stumble into a stall she hasn’t seen before, and the girl behind the counter looks like a goddamn elf, like the apotheosis of cottagecore, like if a Studio Ghibli heroine could be a pale white girl with long hair as tawny and true as corn silk. On the table before her are bars of soap in delicate pastel colours, sprinkle-spackled cupcakes stacked on scalloped stands, butter-gold beeswax candles, jelly jars of honey with thick blocks of comb and gingham tops tied with ribbons. The sides of her stand feature wooden shelves crowded with glossy green plants in grower pots — plants with round leaves like lily pads and pointy leaves like puppet tongues and wide, veiny leaves like elephant ears. Ro doesn’t know their names, but she’s seen them on Instagram.

“See anything you like?” the girl says with a knowing smile.

For a moment, Ro can only stare at her, taking in the details of her ice-blue eyes and her constellation of freckles and her perfect, tiny teeth and the creamy skin revealed by the low-cut neck of her dress, which is lavender and long and airy and looks homemade, exactly like the sort of thing that should be worn right before someone is abducted to Faerie.

Ro doesn’t know what to say. Words are her world, and yet she is speechless. This happens sometimes. She understands books so much better than she understands people. That’s why she writes non-fiction, and that’s why she has trouble making friends and has mostly dated very nerdy guys who share her esoteric literary interests.

Before this moment, she was fairly certain she was straight, but now she is thrown into utter chaos.

“What flavour are the cupcakes?” she asks, deflecting.

The girl — because yes, of course she is a woman, and yet there is something uniquely fresh and innocent about her — points with a long, graceful finger. “Lavender, lemon, strawberry, vanilla. All the chocolate are gone, I’m afraid.”

“Do you make them yourself?” Because yes, yes, the more questions she asks, the more the girl has to answer and the longer Ro can stand here being mesmerised. She briefly wonders if eating the girl’s food is anything like Persephone slipping rose-red seeds between her lips in the Underworld.

“I do. It’s my grandmother’s recipe — well, the base recipe, at least. I like to experiment with frosting flavours.” She points to a dainty porcelain tray loaded with samples of cake, each bite-sized cylinder tufted with frosting. “Try one, if you like. The cupcakes are four dollars each or four for fifteen.”

Ro plucks one of the lavender samples and pops it in her mouth, painfully aware that the girl is watching her with sharp eyes. Flavour explodes on her palate — she’s never tasted frosting this silky before. She rubs it between her tongue and the roof of her mouth, luxuriating in it. Their eyes meet with an electric shock, and she feels seen, she feels known. She feels magic.

“Good God,” she murmurs as she chews. “That’s the most flawlessly unctuous thing I’ve ever tasted.”

The girl’s eyes brighten, and she smiles like a cat — she has a crooked canine.

Ro wants to lick it.

And she doesn’t know what to do with that information.

She swallows and wipes the crumbs from her lips, annoyed because she knows the hunter-green polish on her nails is chipped and that the girl has definitely noticed. Ro thinks of herself as a cosy mess; this girl is precise, polished, and practically perfect.

“Unctuous,” the girl says as if tasting the word for the first time.

Excerpt from Delilah S. Dawson’s Bloom reprinted by permission of Titan Books.

Bloom by Delilah S. Dawson is out October 3; you can pre-order a copy here.

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