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Cover Reveal: Beast in the Mirror by Laura Bradley Rede

We’re excited to share with you the cover reveal for Beast in the Mirror, Laura Bradley Rede’s forthcoming LGBT fantasy novella. Laura is a Minnesota author who I had the pleasure of meeting this past summer when she came to visit the YA book club I facilitate through the public library. We had a great time talking books and writing with Laura, as well as a bit of a wild (and fun!) time doing a writing prompt exercise. Check out Laura’s website, where you can find information on her other writing, and go follow her on Twitter, too. Laura’s novella will be available soon–we’ll share the release date when it’s out.

 

First, a blurb (isn’t blurb a weird word?):

 

Once upon a time, Bella Ashton was the teenage model to watch . That is, until her anorexia got the better of her and she passed out on the runway. Now, fresh off a year of eating disorder rehab, Bella is eager to get back in the game. But when she and her photographer cousin break into an abandoned Irish manor to stage a photo shoot, Bella finds herself face to face with the house’s owner: a hideous Beast who used to be a girl like her. Taken captive, the terrified Bella will do anything to escape. But as she learns more about the Beast, she discovers they aren’t that different—and that the Beast, in her own way, is a prisoner, too. How far will she go to save the Beast she’s slowly learning to love? And can finding the beauty in someone else help you find it in yourself?

 

Laura Bradley Rede gives the “tale as old as time” a fresh new twist in this queer, feminist reimagining.

 

(Please note:  This story’s intent is to be healing, but it does contains discussion of anorexia that may be triggering for some readers.)

 

And now for the stunning cover, designed by Damon Za

 

 

An excerpt from Beast in the Mirror:

“Teach me the bottom-hand part,” I say.

She looks at me doubtfully. “You play?”

“Not a note, but you can teach me, right? Just that one part.”

“Fine.” With her human hand, she arranges my fingers on the keys. “First this.”

I play a hesitant chord.

“And then like so.” She rearranges my fingers slightly. Her hand is very warm. Does she get hot under all that fur? My own hand trembles on the keys as she teaches me the rest of the phrase.

“Are you cold?” It sounds like an accusation. She frowns at me. Concern and annoyance look identical on her inhuman face, and I can’t tell which one she is feeling.

I shrug. “I’m always cold.”

“Why?” It’s not polite curiosity. The Beast just demands.

I almost say, None of your business, but I tend to talk when I’m nervous. I can’t help it. “When I was thin—”

“You are thin.”

“When I was thinner, it screwed up my thyroid or something. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t have any fat to burn for warmth, or for insulation or whatever. I felt cold all the time.”

The Beast frowns. “That sounds unpleasant.”

“It was painful, really.  I would wake up in the night with numb feet. My toes hurt if I touched them, like I had frostbite.” I should stop talking, but I can’t. “Once a doctor told me I should watch out for numbness in my arms—because it’s a heart attack symptom, you know? And my body had started eating my heart muscle? He was like, ‘Tell me right away if your arm goes numb,’ and I was like, ‘My arm has been numb for a month.'”

I’m kind of trying to be funny, but the Beast doesn’t get it. I think her scowl is a look of concern. “That sounds like torture.”

I play a wistful little tune on the piano. “I liked it, actually, at the time. Shivering burns calories. I’d drink a big glass of ice water and wrap up in a blanket and shake.”

The Beast stares at me for a long moment. “You’re a very unusual person.”

I laugh. “You’re calling me unusual?”

“I am.” Those eyes. So serious.

“Well, I’m not really unusual. I’m just a little further up the spectrum than some people. They’re like here.” I plunk a note towards the middle of the piano. I have to reach across The Beast to do it, which feels bold. “And I’m more like here.” I reach even farther past her, my arm brushing against her warm fur, and plink the third to highest note. Even as I do it, I wish I could be the highest.

I pull my hand back, self-consciously.

“And where am I?” The Beast asks, “Here?” She reaches around behind me with her bird claw and thuds the very lowest note. It echoes her deep, growling voice.

I laugh. “Something like that.”

The Beast leaves her arm around me for a heartbeat. At least, I think it would be a heartbeat. My own heart seems to be frozen in my chest.

Then she lets her arm drop. She puts her hands back on the piano. There’s an itchy little silence.

“Here, you said?” She plinks that third-highest note and a little chill goes through me, like she just ran her finger down my spine.

“And here, right?” I sound the lowest note. Its so deep, I feel the vibration in my core.

Her hand feels too far away from mine now. How many keys are there on a piano? Eighty-eight? So that means we’re…My mind won’t do simple math. I’m too distracted.

I trip my fingers back towards hers, hitting random notes along the way. She slides her hand back to meet me. Our fingers brush somewhere just south of the note I called “normal.”

“Can we play that piece of a song now?” I ask.

“If you haven’t forgotten it.” Her facial expressions are still too hard to read, but I’m starting to recognize a little glint in her eyes that means she’s joking.

“Of course not!” I say, and then realize I could have faked forgetting it and she would have shown me again, with her hand over mine.  But that would be lame, right?

“Then we can play,” she says, “But only if you stop shaking. I’m starting to think you’re afraid of me.”

“Not in the least.” I smile up at her. I know what I’m saying isn’t entirely true. On the scale of “fear” to “not fear,” I am still a middle note.

“Then you have to warm up,” she says. With her bird-claw hand, she pulls the edge of her curtain cape around me, resting her claws on my shoulders.

I stiffen. The bird hand is so strange, the talons so curved and sharp.

But I don’t let myself flinch away. I let myself feel it, warm and dry, the skin like scales. This must be what it feels like to touch a dragon.

“Ready?”

I nod. Together, we play: me haltingly thumping the chords, her patiently picking out the notes. It’s timed all wrong, the notes banging up against each other, like knocking teeth on a first kiss.