Grim Lovelies (Grim Lovelies Series #1)

Grim Lovelies (Grim Lovelies Series #1)

by Megan Shepherd

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328809186
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Series: Grim Lovelies Series , #1
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 15,858
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author


Megan Shepherd is the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy, The Cage trilogy and the middle grade novel, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. She lives and writes on a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, NC. Visit Megan at meganshepherd.com, on Twitter at @megan_shepherd, and on Instagram at @meganshepherdauthor.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

From the front-turret window of Mada Vittora’s Paris townhouse, Anouk couldn’t see the fountain at the far end of Rue des Amants. She could see, however, the hopeful souls who made their way down the sidewalk, tourists and Parisians alike, some with their noses in guidebooks and others who knew the route by heart, in search of the granted wishes that, according to an obscure fifteenth-century legend (and more recently made famous in a movie from the summer before), they’d receive in exchange for touching a lucky part of the fountain. What lucky part, Anouk wasn’t sure. No one would tell her exactly what it was a statue of. No books in the house made reference to the legend, and Mada Vittora wouldn’t allow a computer or television inside. Perhaps the fountain was a statue of a bubbling mermaid, or a prancing horse or a little peeing boy; maybe wishers were supposed to touch a special hoof or rub a lucky fin or a lucky . . . boy part. Anouk could hardly go outside and look for herself. Mada Vittora strictly forbade her to leave. Her whole life—​twelve months and eight days, though she looked closer to seventeen years old—​she’d never set as much as her big toe beyond the front door.
     A couple made their way down the sidewalk opposite the townhouse, and Anouk settled into the window seat, cradling her chin in her hands, and watched. Tourists, doubtless. Americans. Their too-white sneakers gave them away. They were holding hands, which made Anouk smile, but their faces were anxious. It was a look she saw too often. Wishers focused on the one thing they wanted so badly that they took this detour into the outskirts of the Sixteenth Arrondissement, to an area of Paris that had no other draw, no famous patisseries or cafés or landmarks except for the obscure fountain, in hopes that by some chance, the legend was real.
     Anouk knew the fountain’s magic was only a story, but sometimes, secretly, she wasn’t so certain. It was the wishers’ faces. Always strained on the way to the fountain but lighter on the return, as though the simple act of wishing had given them part of what they so desperately needed. She’d seen Mada Vittora create incredible things, floating cakes and poison earrings and mirrors that showed far-off places, but she’d never once conjured a look of joy on anyone’s face.
     She watched the Americans disappear beyond the window, pressing against the glass until she couldn’t see them anymore, and then she sighed. A Greek god? Yes, maybe the statue was of a Greek god. Now the view beyond the turret window was the same as always: The row of matching townhouses across the street. The line of parked cars, most of them black and expensive. The sad little tree in the front garden that no one ever remembered to water.
     A sleek car slid into the empty space in front of the townhouse, and Anouk sat up. Mada Vittora was back. Anouk quickly checked her hair, her nails, the floors for any rogue specks of dust she might have missed. The driver’s-side door opened and Beau appeared, tall and good-looking, in his black suit with his chauffeur’s hat shading his eyes, and strode around to the back. He paused to stifle a yawn before opening the rear door.
     Mada Vittora climbed out, glaring up at the sun through thick sunglasses. She wore the fox-fur coat that had been delivered last week from Galeries Lafayette. As soon as it came, she’d ripped open the package and clapped her hands together and told Anouk that she simply must try it on, just for fun, and they had giggled together as she had curled Anouk’s hair and rubbed blush into her cheeks and paraded her around the house in tottering high heels and the coat.
     My pretty girl, Mada Vittora had said, looking over Anouk’s shoulder in the mirror. My pretty little beastie.
     Anouk jumped up to open the front door. Two more figures slid out of the car’s back seat, catching her eye, and her good mood soured. Both of them were tall, one with hair the color of sunlight that matched his mother’s, the other with hair a dirty shade of charcoal. What were Viggo and Hunter Black doing in the city? Mada Vittora had sent them to handle business in London just last Tuesday. Surely they hadn’t arranged everything so soon.
     Anouk stepped back silently as Mada Vittora swept up the front steps.
     “We’re going to have company, my sweet.” Mada Vittora ran her nails down Anouk’s cheek as she breezed into the foyer, tossing her coat on the entry table. The fox fur smelled of leather and perfume. Anouk smoothed its wrinkles and hung it in the hall closet. “Tomorrow night. A dinner party, and dancing too. You’ll have to air out the ballroom. It still smells of sulfur.”
     “Who’s coming?”
     “The Royals.”
     A secretive smile played at the witch’s lips, and no wonder. The Shadow Royals were the elite rulers of the magical realm that, within French borders, was called the Haute—​and they had never dined at the Rue des Amants townhouse. It had only ever hosted the occasional Goblin tea party, the guests with their dusty top hats and garish makeup, even on the men. (Especially on the men.) Goblins might look perfectly human, save the almost imperceptible point of their ears, but they were just as likely to gnaw on the table as on Anouk’s fruit tarts.
     She’d need to order better wine.
     “How many?” she asked.
     “Six all together,” Mada Vittora said, unpinning her hat. “Now, be a dear and fetch us some tea and a drop of whiskey for Hunter Black—poor thing, he’s had a devil of a day. We’ll take it in the salon. And here. Put this away. Carefully.”
     She handed Anouk her bag, parting with it as though lending a treasured book. Today it was a black Hermès purse, ostrich leather soft as a newborn’s skin, gleaming gold hardware. Yesterday the same bag had been a crystal-studded clutch. The day before that, a crocodile Gadino. The witch’s oubliette: Mercurial and magically vast, it held the deepest of secrets.
     Viggo strode into the hall next, tossing his hat to Anouk without a glance, but Hunter Black paused long enough to look her up and down with those dark eyes that always made her anxious.
     “You’ve never worn that necklace before,” he said.
     Anouk’s hand flew to her throat, to the small token tucked just beneath the collar of her dress. Leave it to Hunter Black to spot the peek of gold that no one else had. Guiltily, she fished out the charm and worried it between her fingers: an old franc coin, worthless now, with a hole punched in it. She’d strung it on a chain.
     “It’s . . . it’s from Luc,” she stammered. “I mean, I found it in his room. He wouldn’t mind me taking it.”
     And he wouldn’t. She knew that if Luc had been there and seen her show even the slightest interest in it, he would have tossed it to her with a wink. She’d found it that morning, caught in the crack between two floorboards when she’d gone to his attic to fetch a vial of vervain. His rooms had felt suspended in time without him. The lingering smell of summer on his garden shears, the still-rumpled sheets on his bed, the desiccated herbs tied up in the rafters, English thyme and rosemary and rue, awaiting his hand at the mortar and pestle. It had been a week since he’d disappeared.
     She toyed with the franc coin, working her worries into the etchings. It still smelled of thyme; of him.
     Hunter Black’s gaze went to Mada Vittora in the hall.
     “She wouldn’t mind either,” Anouk said quickly. She tucked the necklace back under her dress collar and cleared her throat. “I’ll hang up your coat, if you like.” She set down the oubliette and held out her hands.
     Hunter Black gave a gruff sort of cough and sauntered off behind Viggo. She let her waiting hands drop. That had gotten rid of him, at least. It could be ninety degrees outside, and still he wouldn’t remove the coat unless someone forced it off him at knifepoint. The three of them disappeared into the salon, discussing business and gossiping and speculating over tomorrow’s party. She brought them drinks and listened to their glasses clinking as she returned to the foyer.
     “Hello, cabbage.”
     Wet lips brushed Anouk’s cheek, and she jumped. She whirled on Beau. The driver’s hat was askew on his head, a boyish grin on his face. She smacked him on the arm and then made a show of smearing away his kiss with the back of her hand.
     “You’re awful, Beau.” She picked up the oubliette and turned to the closet. Carefully, reverently, she stepped onto the stool, stowed the oubliette on the top shelf, and then climbed down and dusted off her hands. She lowered her voice. “What are they doing here?” She jerked her chin in Hunter Black and Viggo’s direction.
     Beau let out a long sigh as he tugged off his driving gloves. “Things went sour in London, I take it. The Trafalgar Witch didn’t want to agree to the new terms. Sent them packing as soon as they arrived. Viggo’s in a mood.”
     “Viggo’s always in a mood.”
     “Mada Vittora said something in the car about more pressing matters here. I don’t think she was referring to just the dinner party.”
     “Great,” Anouk muttered. “The last time we had pressing matters, more than one body was found in the Seine. At least Hunter Black wears dark clothes. Viggo’s shirts are impossible. Don’t they understand how hard it is to get blood out of white linen?”
     “Laundry might not be the first thing on his mind, cabbage.” He tweaked the strap of her apron with his thumb, using the silly little nickname that always drove her mad. “But maybe it should be on yours.”
     She looked down to find streaks of dust across the apron’s front. “Impossible—​this is a fresh apron!” She wiped at the stain uselessly while Beau chuckled. Dust, dirt, crumbs . . . it was her job to clean the house from top to bottom, but even for a maid, she managed to collect a shocking amount of grime in the shortest span of time. She untied the apron’s bow at the back of her waist, fighting with the ruffles and ribbons. She pulled the apron over her head and balled it up against her plain gray dress.
     “What about Luc? Did they say anything about him in the car?”
     Beau’s expression darkened. He shook his head. “Nothing.”
     “It’s been a full week. People don’t just vanish.”
     Beau clutched his gloves in one hand and rested the other on her shoulder. “Let me worry about him, okay? I’ll figure it out.”
     Anouk’s fingers twisted in the apron’s straps. Movement outside the window caught her eye. Another couple strolling down the lane, arm in arm. Parisians, by the look of them. Her hand went to the franc coin at her collar.
     “I’d throw a coin in the fountain if I could. Wish him back.”
     Beau kneaded her shoulder. “You know wishes made in the fountain won’t come true,” he said softly. “It isn’t real magic, not like Mada Vittora’s. It’s just a silly thing they believe in the Pretty World. Daydreams and fantasies to keep themselves entertained.”
     Anouk didn’t answer, sliding the smooth franc between her fingers. Outside, the sad wilted tree dropped a leaf. The rosebushes along the street were dying too, without Luc there to care for them. From some upper room, the smell of English thyme drifted down.
     “Anouk.”
     Hunter Black had returned to the hallway, his dark hair falling in his eyes. He didn’t bother to brush it away. He never did. “Mada Vittora wants a word.”
     Beau’s hand fell off her shoulder. His look said he wouldn’t want to be her. “I’ll see you after dinner. I’ve got to wash the car anyway.”
     “Give the tree some water while you’re out there? And the roses?”
     “Sure.”
     Hunter Black inclined his head ever so slightly toward the salon, where Mada Vittora waited, but then he cleared his throat and motioned to her dress. He knew as well as she did that the Mada insisted Anouk always be in full uniform with one of the ruffled aprons. Hair pulled back in a matching ribbon too. Anouk stuffed the soiled apron in the hall closet and went to the kitchen for a fresh one. She looped it around her neck and started to pull her hair back in a black ribbon as she followed Hunter Black to the salon. Mada Vittora’s husky laugh mixed with the notes of clinking ice.
     “. . . business, I suppose. They’ll want to discuss new territory lines, and I’ll be damned if I let that decrepit Lavender Witch gain any toeholds in Paris. This city is mine.”
     “I assume the lord and lady are coming to dinner, and that girl, the one who plays at being a countess. Who’s the fourth?” Viggo’s voice lowered. “Prince Rennar?”
     A shiver caught Anouk at the prince’s name. Rumor was he hardly ever left Castle Ides, the imposing Champs-Élysées mansion from which he governed the Haute, and when he did, it was only to raze some entire country to the ground and then banish its memory from the history books. No one knew exactly how long the Shadow Royals had been working their magic through the world, but Anouk had found references to ancient civilizations—Egyptians and Aztecs and Romans—that contained allusions to peculiarly powerful men and women.
     “Rennar?” Mada Vittora’s cheeks were already flushed from whiskey. “No, he wouldn’t deign to come. It’ll be one of the others, some lesser Royal. A duke, probably.”
     Now the Royals’ kingdoms roughly followed political borders, and the various Royal families tended to keep to themselves except for the odd marriage to strengthen alliances and business dealings for trade purposes. They relied on witches to oversee their industries: food and wines, luxury goods, and, above all, the jewelry that Mada Vittora—​the Diamond Witch—​kept enchanted.
     Behind Anouk, Hunter Black cleared his throat. She jumped. “Was there something I could do for you, Mada?”
     “Ah, my dear. Yes.” She set down her lipstick-stained glass as a grin sliced between her pretty cheeks. Although four hundred years old, she didn’t look a day over forty-five. Sunshine-kissed hair in silken waves to her shoulders. Skin pulled painfully tight over sharp cheekbones. A fortune in plastic surgery, some might have said. Anouk knew better. All it took was a weekly bath of lavender-sage tonic mixed with two thimblefuls of Viggo’s blood.
     On the sofa behind his mother, Viggo wore a similar conspiratorial grin until Mada Vittora stood. The moment her back was turned to him, the smile melted off his face. He took a long, hungry draft of whiskey.
     “I have a surprise for you, my pretty girl.”
     Anouk’s hands froze on her hair bow. Half done, one snaking end of the ribbon falling to her shoulder. “Is it about tomorrow’s party?”
     She couldn’t keep the hopeful note from her voice. Anouk was never allowed to attend the parties. None of the beasties were, not even Hunter Black, who usually stalked the shadows of the foyer the whole time, scowling at everyone except Viggo. Parties were for the worthiest members of the Haute, not beasties—​mangy animals that had been whispered into the shape of human boys and girls and given brooms with which to serve. Anouk would stay in the kitchen with Beau, licking spoonfuls of strawberry icing from the mixing bowl, or tiptoe to the stairs to peek between the banisters at the beautiful dancing people.
     “No, my sweet. Not about the party.”
     Anouk tried not to let her disappointment show. She cocked her head, a question on her lips. Then what?
     Mada Vittora placed an icy hand on either side of Anouk’s face. Her smile stretched wide. “Tonight, my darling, you go outside.”
     Outside? Into the Pretty World, where the Pretties strolled hand in hand with the sun on their faces amid cars and mailboxes and traffic signals, walking down the tree-lined block and then the block after that and the one after that?
     Outside?
     “Do you mean it?” Anouk gasped.
     “Oh yes. But first, you’ll need a good pair of shoes.”

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Grim Lovelies 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
JillJemmett 18 days ago
I was drawn to this book because of the beautiful cover! I love the gold accents on it. This was a good story. It has an unusual setting. It seems to be set in modern day Paris, however the witches and Royals are living in the past. They have old-fashioned, Victorian homes and customs. Some characters used cell phones, so I could tell that it is happening today. The two kinds of settings created a strange kind of dueling atmosphere in the story. There was lots of tension in the story, especially at the end. The story was also fast paced. I read it in just a few hours, and I couldn’t put it down. I’m curious to see how the story continues. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Aditi-ATWAMB 24 days ago
N A NUTSHELL: Grim Lovelies DEFIED my every expectation by creating an intricate world filled with Magic and its consequences, well buried secrets, an unusual family, love, betrayal, murder, technology and power and it was SUCH a joy to read. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect, going into Grim Lovelies. It was my first book my Megan Shepherd, and while the cover was STUNNING, the description made it sound like there was a lot going on, and I didn’t know if all these elements would work together to form a good book. And yet, somehow, it WORKED. The magic, the vitae echo, the Haute, the beasties, witches, goblins, pretties and the Whispers – it all just came together in the wondrous 300+ page book and I AM DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON THE SEQUEL, and this book hasn’t even released yet. MY THOUGHTS: 1. HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT COVER? The designer in me is freaking out, turning it under different light angles and just MARVELLING at it. SO SO PRETTY. 2. This book started off, as almost all books do, rather slowly. It took me a while to get into in, as well as remember who all the characters were, but suddenly, after a certain death that the blurb promises, things got VERY VERY interesting. 3. As I always say, give me the worst character in the book, and I’ll probably fall in love with him. The same went for Prince Rennar in this book, ruler of the Haute (the magical order) Although we saw him in a grand total of three scenes of this book, he and his dark and twisty and morally grey logic and I fell for him. Whoops? 4. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE DESCRIPTIONS OF PARIS. Two of my closest friends just spent a semester there, and I’ve heard so much about the place, I practically felt like I was at home through Anouk’s descriptions as she was out in Paris for the first time. 5. Which brings me to HOW MUCH I LOVED ANOUK. She was this loyal, trusting skilled witch filled with courage and love for her family and she is basically one of the BEST new protagonists I’ve seen in a while! 6. I also loved the rest of the Beasties. I feel like we didn’t see enough of Luc and Hunter Black for me to really fall for them, but I LOVED Beau and Cricket. I loved how they each embedded their own animal traits and still found a way to be a human family. 7. Grim Lovelies was enchanting also strangely funny. I loved the dark magic, and the Marble Ladies and the vitae echo, but there were also love spells, magic gargoyles and enchanted bears named Toblerone. There was politics, power games, magic castles whose layouts change on the hour, dark Princes, familial elements and really, HOW CAN YOU ASK FOR MORE IN A BOOK? I basically fell in love with this book. It was everything I didn’t expect and I can’t recommend it enough.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This book had me from the first page to the last! I loved it so much! I hope the author makes a sequel. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves magic, goblins and witches.
Sandy5 4 months ago
Megan Shepherd is one of my favorite authors and I knew I had to read this novel. Fantasy is not one of my favorite genres but I really enjoyed this novel, once I got into it. With beasties, witches, pretty’s, royals and goblins, I really got myself in deep with the magic in this novel. Anouk watched the world from the windows of the townhouse she was imprisoned in. Anouk was a beastie, enchanted by witch Mada Vittora, preventing her to leave, making her a servant, along with many other beasties who were under Mada Vittora powers. Then, one day it happens, the beasties discover the body of Mada Vittora and they realize they need to escape. They all claimed their innocence yet someone killed her. The beasties know that individuals will be others hunting them down, for they need to find those responsible for her death. As the beasties run, they also know that they are under a time-constraint. With Mada Vittora’s death, her enchantment on them will end in three days. The beasties which are now in human form will return to their beast state unless they receive a new spell. They can’t hide for they need someone to cast a new spell on them. Another witch? Yet, that witch might be looking for them. Who can they turn to? The more I read this story, the more I couldn’t put it down. The imagination and other fantasy aspect of this novel were entertaining and captivating. Again, I’m not one for fantasy but I couldn’t stop thinking about this novel. The fights, the battle, Anouk’s love for her friends and those who helped, it became a whirlwind of action at times and other times, we caught our breath and mapped out the next plan of action. I feel that the novel showed a commitment, a responsibility that Anouk felt. I can’t believe that Ms. Shepherd left me hanging in the end, just left me hanging…… Now, I can’t wait for the next book in this series to be released. Wait, me excited for a fantasy book to be released, this is a first!
Anonymous 5 months ago
from the moment I started reading the first chapter I was hooked savoring every chapter I read I hoping and praying theirs a book #2 of the grim lovelies I really wanna know if Anouk ends up falling in love with Rennar? ps im kinda hoping they do and how her journey begins and ends at the witches academy. will she become the new ruler of the haute to saver her friends? or will she destroy it avenging the people who took captive the only family she has ever known? buy the book you just might end up falling in love with it like i did ;)
taramichelle 5 months ago
At first I was a bit unsure about Grim Lovelies. However, I soon got swept up into this wild adventure. This Cinderella retelling was so fresh and unique.It was a fantastic blend of magic, adventure, coming-of-age tale, and politics. Anouk was a great protagonist. Her growth throughout the book felt so natural. But I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance, I think her story would have been stronger without it. The other characters were so fun to read about. There was a big cast of characters but Shephard did a great job making each one distinct. They didn’t all have huge roles in the book but I loved it when they did appear. I also would have loved to get some chapters from their points of view! But the book did work well with just Anouk as narrator. I can’t say too much about the plot without spoilers but Grim Lovelies was an entertaining read. The pacing lagged a bit in the middle but quickly picked back up for an explosive finale. I think that the villain could have been a bit more developed. However, I’m really looking forward to the second book, it’ll be interesting to see where the story goes next. Grim Lovelies was a fun and entertaining read. I’d recommend this one to fans of YA fantasy who enjoy unique retellings. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
MoWaters 6 months ago
A magical, mystery with fantastic creatures, characters and plot twists. It's been a while since I've picked up a book and not been able to put it down for more than an hour. Megan has created an imaginative world that delights and pulls you into its strange castles, tunnels and time-traveling locations, populated with characters you're not sure whether to love or hate, or trust. A great read that women under 30 will be drawn to, though my husband and I are both new fans!
KevinTheWolf 7 months ago
Great, now I’ve got to go to Paris! I’m a busy person and I don’t need this author filling my head with delicious magical fantasies that now I’ve got to go investigate…just in case.