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Of course the day I’m reading a book with a prominent set of breasts on the cover is the day my boss asks me, “What are you reading?” as I saunter into the break room with my book.

Fortunately, there’s no shame in my reading game. I flashed her the cover with a smile and said, “It’s a lot like Game of Thrones.”

And I stand by the comparison. The Queen’s Bastard IS a lot like Game of Thrones--the TV show, not the books. You know how when you try to read the Game of Thrones books, you drown in extraneous junk about obscure characters who don’t matter? Yeah, there’s none of that here. Each scene is presented much the way it would be on the screen: the characters appear, stuff happens, and then we’re ushered smoothly on to the next scene. It’s like you’re an omniscient fly, somehow stuck to every wall in the castle right next to whatever shit is going down.

And lots of shit goes down. Belinda Primrose is, after all, a spy and assassin, as well as the unacknowledged bastard daughter of the queen. She’ll go to any lengths to protect her queen and by extension her country--up to and including sexing up and murdering her targets. I’ve seen some reviewers complain about her ruthlessness, but I have to wonder how many of those reviewers have watched a James Bond movie without batting an eye at 007’s promiscuity and cold-bloodedness. Mayhaps what really gets such readers’ tighty-whities in a bunch is the fact that the lusty murderer is actually a murderess? *sips tea*

Lord forbid a woman enjoy both her conquests and her line of work, amiright?

Anywhoodle, I love books that make me constantly question characters’ motives. Who’s on which side, who’s betraying whom, who’s lying, who’s cheating, who’s working for whom, who’s looking out just for their own interests, I love it all. That is this book from page 1, and it’s awesome. And there’s a sequel--excuse me while I go shove it into my face.

Love stories are going to get me through this crazy year. Outside, the country may be losing its collective mind, but in here it’s warm and cozy and imperfect people still get happily ever afters. Courtney Milan’s books have become my new favorites because of how she incorporates real issues from history. It makes me feel like I’m getting an escape, without a guilt hangover afterward for wanting to disengage. Social class struggles, women’s suffrage, lady scientists, evolution—it’s all in there and it’s all awesome. And unlike a lot of series I’ve read, each book is better than the last. (Needless to say, I have high hopes for the fourth and final installment I just bought in audio!)

If too-good-to-be-true, perfectly beautiful, socially demure ladies are your jam, these books might not be for you. Milan’s characters buck stereotypes and challenge their men and the world around them at every turn. In The Heiress Effect, Jane is a big, curvy girl with ostentatious taste in fashion and a sizeable dowry that makes her a target of all manner of unsavory individuals. A relationship with an up-and-comer in government who is also the bastard son of nobility seems impossible, but…well, you know in Romance World, nothing is impossible.

In The Countess Conspiracy, Violet is a botanist and an expert on reproduction and inheritance, but as a woman she isn’t allowed to present her theories herself. For years, her best friend Sebastian has published her work as his own (and since evolution is such a scandalous idea in 1867, his speeches often result in vegetables being thrown at his head by crowds of angry skeptics). Will Violet ever be able to take credit for her groundbreaking work—and will she be able to overcome the painful baggage in her past and admit her true feelings for Sebastian? Swoon!

In both books, the male leads love their ladies because of their oddness, not in spite of it. Neither Jane nor Violet fits easily into polite society, but both are fiercely intelligent and loyal. Finding someone who loves you for you and doesn’t want to file off your rough edges, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Well, that, and discovering the chromosome.