A queer romance threatens to upend a reality dating show in this month’s romance column.
★ I’m Only Wicked With You
Historical romance doesn’t get more glorious than Julie Anne Long’s I’m Only Wicked With You, the third book in her Palace of Rogues series. While residing at a genteel London boardinghouse, self-educated and ambitious American Hugh Cassidy meets Lady Lillias Vaughn, an earl’s sheltered daughter. Hugh’s on a mission for a friend and has no time for or interest in aristocratic debutantes, but he’s fascinated by Lillias’ beauty and quiet strength. Lillias is equally struck by Hugh’s handsome face and clever ways, but she’s also nursing a secret heartache. The pull between them is undeniable, and though they try to ignore it, the attraction proves overpowering. The slow burn flares to fire, and then they’re in real trouble. Filled with witty banter, yearning and lush descriptions of passion, as well as wonderful, fully drawn secondary characters, this romance hits every note just right. Readers will be sighing in satisfaction at the gratifying happily ever after.
★ The Charm Offensive
Alison Cochrun twines an earnest exploration of mental health and sexuality through a truly memorable love story in The Charm Offensive. Dev Deshpande works as a producer on the reality dating show “Ever After.” It’s a dream job until he’s assigned to be handler of this season’s “prince,” germaphobic and touch-wary tech whiz Charlie Winshaw. Diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and generalized anxiety, Charlie hopes his TV stardom will erase his reputation of being difficult to work with. But he’s not particularly attracted to any of the women vying to become his soulmate, and he can’t stop thinking about Dev, with his busy brain and big heart. Can Charlie blow up his chance at a professional second act to reach for a different kind of future? Cochrun has a lot of fun with the behind-the-scenes glimpses of “Ever After,” but it’s The Charm Offensive’s tenderness and deep, believable emotion that will linger in readers’ hearts.
There are no dull pages in Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston. Siberian tiger shifter Finn Malone learns no good deed goes unpunished when he comes to the aid of a band of honey badger shifters under attack. They’re energetic, unpredictable and impossible for him to understand, but then he discovers that these women might be the key to finding out who’s responsible for the murder of his father. He and his brothers try to enlist their help, leading to more chaos as well as a surprising attraction to badger/hyena hybrid shifter Mads Galendotter. As usual, readers entering a Laurenston universe will find themselves immersed in a strange world full of family, friends and shifter dynamics that never fail to amuse. Secondary characters with smart mouths and interesting abilities boost the high-octane entertainment. There’s nonstop banter, plenty of blood and gore and flaming-hot lovemaking as the intrepid Mads battles her dangerous relatives while learning that teammates can be friends and that your true family is the one you choose.