I know everyone’s moving on to spooky season and so there will be about five billion rec lists accordingly over the next couple of months, but first, let me squeeze in a little bit of delightful joy in the form of this absolutely delightful m/m romance. The Charm Offensive is like the show UnReal meets Red, White & Royal Blue, with both great mental health rep and great ace-spec rep. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and you will too, so check it out!
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Today is a very exciting day on the site, thanks to a cover reveal for one of my most anticipated companion novels of ever, The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke!
If you’ve already read the first book (The Girl With the Red Balloon, which is not necessary to read in order to read this one), you know one of the best secondary characters ever was queer Mitzi. Here, queer characters are front and center, and they’re siblings, too! (More on that from Katherine later in the post.) Here’s the book’s official copy:
In a nuclear arms race, you’d use anything for an edge. Even magic.
Ilse and Wolf Klein bear many secrets. Genius Ilse is unsure if her parents will ever accept her love of physics. Her brother Wolf strives for a quiet life, though he worries that there’s no place in the world for people like him. But their deepest secret lies within their blood: with it, they can work magic.
Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.
When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the secret letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?
Loyalties and identities will be tested in this sweeping fantasy and a fast-paced thriller that bravely explores the tensions at the dawn of the nuclear age.
And now, the cover, together with a note from the author!
I am so excited to reveal the cover for my next YA novel, The Spy with the Red Balloon! The book takes place entirely in 1943, about 45 years before Ellie of The Girl with the Red Balloon accidentally time travels. This is the story of two Jewish American siblings trying to find their way through a war using all their wits and magic. I am absolutely in love with this cover. It’s incredibly dynamic and full of motion, which reflects the book as well. I love the searchlights because most of this book is about searching: for a way forward, for a way home, for friendships, for relationships, for science, for magic, for a bomb, for a spy.
The rep isn’t obvious from the cover copy or the cover, but I’m not hiding it when I talk about the book and it’s certainly not like a SURPRISE! reveal in the text. Both Klein siblings are queer.
Wolf is demisexual and in love with his best friend, Max. He doesn’t have the language for demisexual but he does call himself queer (most notably when he punches a Nazi and snarls “Tell your momma you got punched by a queer Jew, you lousy piece of —”.) He tells another character that he doesn’t experience desire the way others do, and thinks to himself except for him. Meaning Max. I based Wolf’s sexuality off my own. I identify as demisexual/ace-spectrum and Wolf’s feelings draw from mine.
I knew from the moment I started working on The Spy with the Red Balloon that Ilse was bisexual. I wanted her to explore that the way she explores everything: with a sudden intensity, with questions, with scientific methodology. She has feelings for another girl in her magical working group, so she sets out to test the theory. Ilse and Wolf approach their relationships very differently, but they both get to have same-gender relationships on the page, and that was really important to me. Not just as a queer writer, but as a queer Jewish writer trying to add to the growing Jewish YA canon.
Katherine Locke lives and writes in a small town outside of Philadelphia, where they’re ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. A keeper of eclectic dayjobs, they’ve worked on nuclear nonproliferation activism, safety programs at a mushroom farm, lead poisoning education and prevention, and literacy advocacy. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales. They are the author of Turning Pointe, Second Position and Finding Center (Carina Press, 2015). Their debut Young Adult novel, The Girl with the Red Balloon, was a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. They can be found online at @bibliogato on Twitter and Instagram and KatherineLockeBooks.com.