One of the best parts of writing the Harley Quinn trilogy has been the support from Harley fans, most specifically Harlivy fans. I’ve had readers send me the nicest fan mail, artists share the most gorgeous art, and more people than I can count tell me how much it means to them to see Harley as a bisexual scientist. And it means a lot to me too. I care deeply about doing a good job for y’all. I think about how you’ll react when I make Harley pick up her mallet for the first time or what you’ll feel when Ivy smells like evergreen-juniper-holly in the winter but peaches and fresh-cut grass in the summer.

The truth is, I have never had so much fun writing books. And this last novel in the trilogy is my favorite yet, partly because it includes two of the most gruesome villains—a serial killer who murders his victims at tea parties (though forensic evidence suggests the victims actually killed each other), and a Dollmaker who performs horrific experiments, turning girls into playthings.

Then there’s the romance. I took my favorite love story tropes—a main character and a love interest who can’t kiss for Reasons and a character who will burn down the entire world to save the girl she loves (I’m looking at you, Ivy)—and I wove them into Harley and Ivy’s relationship.

But what I hear most from readers is a lot of you love Harley because you see pieces of yourself in her. I firmly believe that queer characters deserve epic love stories. Characters with ADHD and from low-income backgrounds deserve epic love stories. And yes, bisexual chaos monsters deserve epic love stories, too.

I hope you enjoy the final book in the Harley Quinn series. I hope you see yourself in its pages. And if you’re a Harlivy stan, I want you to know I wrote the Pride scene just for you.

I wrote it for all of us.

– Rachael Allen

My timer buzzes from across the room.

“Oh! My experiment!”

I run over and eyeball the toxicity levels and then ex­port the results so I can analyze them. Ivy buzzes around me while trying to pretend she’s not hovering.

“Huh. It’s still showing high levels of toxins when you think about me. Or when you think about anything at all, really. Not as high as when you think about Woodrue, though, so that’s something!”

Ivy takes a step back and sits on the table. “Yeah. For sure.” But her voice is hollow, and I know no amount of ex­cited plant questions are going to fix this.

I sit next to her and press my shoulder against hers.

“It’s okay. We’ll keep trying.”

She nods.

I have another idea I’m working on—one where I try to isolate exactly what it is in Ivy’s saliva/body/whatever that’s keeping her from dying from her own toxin, but I’ve had absolutely zero luck finding it so far, so I don’t mention it. It’s been hard to keep our hopes up lately.

It’s not just our kissing problem. We’ve hardly made any progress on trying to find the missing girls or the trafficking gang either. I remember how powerful I felt last semester watching The Scarecrow get arrested during grand rounds. Realizing that I hadn’t been pushed into those chemicals—I’d jumped so that the very last of the mind-control chips would be destroyed. And even though I knew it wasn’t over, that The Scarecrow had intended to supply those chips to a bigger operation that had been kidnapping girls all over the city, I wasn’t worried then. I told Ivy we’d cure ourselves and find the missing girls in a single spring-break road trip. And now it’s summer, and we’re still right where we started. No progress. And that’s with the mastermind behind the missing girls sending me serial-killer letters in the mail for the last two months.

Sometimes the letters aren’t all he sends. Sometimes there are “gifts.” Packages tied up with twine. Dolls nestled in tissue paper. Horrific, ugly little things with bat wings sewn into their backs and tentacles coming out of their faces.

And the letters that come with them . . .

I discovered the most intriguing girl in a back alley yesterday. Her face is plain, and I think she may be addicted to a couple of vices, but I already have ideas for how to transform her. What do you think? Beautiful, no?

Because it turns out the dolls he sends me aren’t just dolls. They’re plans. Blueprints. This isn’t your usual human-trafficking operation. He’s taking the girls because he wants to make them “transcendent.” Turn them into what his sa­distic brain thinks of as art. I shudder just thinking about it.

Every time he takes a girl, I get a letter and a doll. Every time. He used to keep them on a shelf in his (no doubt dreadful) lair, but now he sends them to me because appar­ently I’m just that special. And every time I get one, I feel that much more like a failure. Another girl mangled. One more I’ve failed to save. It got to where my hands shook every time I checked my Gotham U mailbox.

Another benefit of staying at Ivy’s? The Dollmaker doesn’t know where I am. I’ll get a break from his ghastly presents, if only for a week.

When I got that first letter, and the first doll that went with it, I was disgusted. Panic-stricken. But it gave me some­thing to follow up on. The man behind the trafficking gang, one of the two men who were collaborating with The Scare­crow, had revealed himself to me. Named himself, even—The Dollmaker. And I already knew one of his other aliases, Anton, from his emails to The Scarecrow. He wasn’t being nearly as careful as he should have been.

Why is it so hard to find him, though? I’ve been to every dive bar and hole-in-the-wall in the East End, seeing if I can get some drunk person to spill that they maybe thought they saw something a few days ago. I’ve pumped my underworld connections for any information they might have on a guy named Anton or someone who goes by “The Dollmaker.” I’ve asked all the girls in my old neighborhood if they’ve no­ticed anyone more suspicious than usual lurking around. But other than the confirmation that, yes, girls are disappearing more rapidly than normal, and a couple people claiming to have seen the same idling black car, I’ve got nothing. I think back to my gap year, when I was part of the Reckoning. How much the five of us accomplished in such a short amount of time. Sometimes I wonder if the reason Ivy and I are having trouble making progress is because it’s just the two of us.

I never ended up hearing back from Jasmin and Bianca last semester, even though I sent them a bunch of texts. Jas­min’s still a grad student at Gotham U for another year, so I guess I could find her on campus taking summer classes. I want to find out how Bianca’s back surgery went too. It was months ago that she broke her back trying to follow a traf­ficking gang on a mission that I couldn’t risk helping with. Months ago that they flew her to Santa Prisca for experi­mental surgery.

The fact that I haven’t heard from her since before the surgery worries me. So, I guess I could try to track down both of them, but I don’t know. They could easily get in touch with me, and they haven’t. Maybe I need to respect their boundaries. It is my fault we’re not talking, after all. The result of me damaging our friendship by not being there for them when they needed me. Being too laser focused on what I thought my future was supposed to look like. Trying so hard to do things the “right” way that I wronged everyone around me.

Turns out the right way doesn’t work for me. I’ll take the way that gets results any day. Though it may be too late to get my friends back.

I shake away the thought. Thank goodness I’ve got Ivy.

Our eyes meet and she says, “You want to do our nails? Or go swimming? The sunlight always makes me feel better.”

I blink. Wow, if Ivy is trying to cheer me up, I really must look deep in my feelings.

“Yeah. That would be awesome,” I say.

She frowns. “Which one?”

“Both,” I answer quickly, jumping up from the table. “Um, in whatever order would make the most sense.”

She rolls her eyes. “You are so weird.” She starts to move from the table to a flower bed, but I grab her hand and pull her closer to me before she can turn away.

“You like it.”

“Maybe I do,” she says in a teasing voice that makes me think all kinds of dangerous things. Her thigh is touching my hip bone. Her peaches-basil-summer-rain smell feels like a drug. Kissing her would be like eating a fistful of belladonna berries, but I’d do it. Cure or no. If she asked me right now, I’d—

Ivy pulls away, panting, which is good because the ratio­nal part of my brain would actually like to live to see tomor­row.

“We have to be careful,” she says.

“Yep.” I close my eyes because the being-careful thing is a whole lot easier if I can’t see her.

Especially now that we spend almost every second with each other, working in the greenhouse, elbows touching, waking up in Ivy’s bed. Double especially if we’re about to go swimming and I’m going to see her in a bathing suit for the first time.

Ivy. In a swimsuit.

“Definitely gotta be careful,” I squeak out.

There’s a knock at the conservatory door, and THANK FREAKING GOODNESS, because I’m not sure how I was supposed to survive the next five minutes.

The Isleys’ butler enters.

“I’ve got a package for Miss Quinzel.”

And I tear my eyes away from Ivy long enough to really look at him and what he’s holding. Not just any package. A pretty white box tied with twine. Big and rectangular—the same size as the others. The feeling of safety I had here evaporates. Dissolves like cotton candy in a rainstorm.

I glance at Ivy, and the dread I’m feeling is mirrored on her face.

“Thank you, Mason,” she says with only the tiniest quaver in her voice, and he nods and places the package on the table gently and obliviously because he doesn’t know there’s a time bomb of suck inside.

As he leaves, I walk over to the table so I can look at the tag.

I confirm what Ivy and I already suspect.

“It’s from him.” The pieces connect in my head, a hor­rible puzzle taking shape. “He knows I’m here.”

Harley Quinn: Redemption by Rachael Allen will be available at bookstores, libraries and online retailers on April 23, 2024.