cover image Bloom


Delilah S. Dawson. Titan, $22.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-80336-575-6

Dawson (The Violence) creates a sweet, cottagecore lesbian romance and patiently twists it into well-crafted but brutal horror. Lush present-tense descriptions of food, decor, and gardens draw readers in as Ro, a lonely and awkward 27-year-old academic, falls head-over-heels for Ash, an ethereal beauty who runs a stall in the farmers’ market, having inherited a working farm from her grim grandmother. Their romance doesn’t turn wholly sinister until a hundred pages of seduction have gone by and Ro finds odd but damning evidence of animal cruelty in the trash can of her girlfriend’s quaint country kitchen. Ash can expertly cook anything from scratch—heaven for “chubby” Ro—but she also enforces boundaries so fiercely that she edges into Bluebeard territory. And, like Bluebeard, this dark fairy tale is revealed as a nightmarish world for women. Dawson revels in painting female lovers, mothers, and grandmothers as loathsome and corrupting stereotypically feminine spaces and pursuits, showing them as mediums of abuse. Even the language of self-care and empowerment is rendered toxic. Ironic? Interrogative? The point is not made entirely clear, which weakens the otherwise indisputable power of the storytelling. Still, fans of slow-burning scares will find much to terrify them here. (Oct.)