Cover reveal time! Heated competition leads to even hotter romance in this YA summer rom-com for fans of Sandhya Menon, Emma Lord, and Wibbroka. Scroll down to see the cover of Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale AND read an early excerpt!
Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.
So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]
Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.
Cover/jacket design: Kaitlin Yang
Ruining the start of Ian Jun’s day is the favorite part of mine. He’s the only person for whom it’s worth going toe-to-toe with our AP Statistics teacher, who’s currently gaping at me like he can’t believe my hand is in the air first thing first period before he’s even had the chance to start Friday’s lesson.
Ian sits all the way in the front row, wavy black hair styled into a pompadour that I can grudgingly admit doesn’t look totally terrible. He’s probably freaking out and trying to correct the questions he got wrong on our just-returned homework. In that respect, we’re the same.
He hasn’t turned around yet. But he will.
I wiggle my fingers to get the teacher’s attention, lifting my butt off the seat to be noticed. After a long, drawn-out moment of watching me flail, Mr. Gage unsuccessfully turns his grimace into a smile. Closing his eyes, he says, “Yes, Kavya? Do you have a question?”
Somehow? lingers like a stink.
A few titters break out from those awake enough to get on my bad side.
Ian stiffens, shoulders snapping extra straight.
I’ve got his attention now.
“You docked me points for question number three,” I say. “My answer’s correct.”
Mr. Gage’s round glasses seem to magnify his absolute displeasure. “No.”
A unilateral no? Taken aback, I gawk. “But I—”
“We have a lot of material to get through today, so if I could get started?” He pauses as though he’s really waiting for my go-ahead. The exaggerated politeness makes me think he’s given up all pretense of not finding me the most annoying junior he’s ever had the misfortune of teaching z-scores and chi-squares.
Next to me, my best friend Blaire Tyler shuffles to the back of her stats textbook, where the answers to odd-numbered questions are provided. She slides it across the table to nudge against my arm, tapping her black-and-silver constellation nail against question three.
Okay, yes, the back of the book, dubbed our beloved “BOB,” has half the answers all the time, but I checked my work twice, and I choose to put my faith in me.
Without raising my hand, I say, “Mr. Gage, I showed my work. There’s no way I got the question wrong. Could you please work it out on the board?”
“This is not one-on-one tutoring, Ms. Joshi,” he says without looking up from his notes. “Now if everyone would please turn their attention to the linear regression on the whiteboard.”
Shut down twice in as many minutes. That’s a record.
No one’s looking at me anymore, but my face still burns with embarrassment and the flame of indignation Mr. Gage didn’t manage to extinguish.
I’ve never had a teacher this adamantly bullheaded in their own wrongness. They don’t need to like me as long as they respect me for being right. I’m willing to bet that he hasn’t even tried to solve the problem himself, relying wholly on his answer guide.
Parker Ellis, the boyfriend I’m planning to dump, sniggers from the row behind me. My spine stiffens with a flicker of foreboding. It’s not the first time he’s found my standoff with Mr. Gage amusing, but he usually does a better job of hiding it.
Blaire leans in to whisper, the small lavender beads at the end of her honey braids gently clinking. “Hey, fuck him. It’s just one point. You can let it go.”
I fix her with a look. She’s known me how long, now?
“But you’re not going to,” she acknowledges with a sigh.
My pencil scratches against notepaper as I work out the answer again, joining the soft background drone of twenty-nine other pencils trying to keep up with Mr. Gage’s speed.
“What answer did you put?” I mutter.
Blaire shoots a furtive look up front before saying, “I got the same answer you did, but I changed it when I checked the back.”
“Why did you do that? You had the right answer.”
“Like you did?” She chin-nods toward the red ink slash across the third question. “Kavs, it’s one point. You still got an A on the assignment. Even if you’re right and he’s wrong, and the book’s wrong, and everyone else in the thousands of classrooms using this textbook got it wrong, it’s not worth the fight for one measly point.”
I begrudge so much that she’s right, but letting this point go means letting Ian Jun win. If I think real hard, squinting back the last five years, I can almost remember a world in which I wasn’t constant and bitter rivals with the boy in the first row who has only now, finally, turned to raise one perfectly arched What now? eyebrow.
It’s that eyebrow that does it. The smug assurance that I’m going to keep my mouth shut.
“When it comes to Ian, a point is never just a point.” I forget to keep my voice low, hissing the words while keeping my eyes unblinkingly fastened on Ian the whole time.
“Ms. Joshi,” says Mr. Gage without turning around. “Why don’t you come up here where I can keep an eye on you?”