February is traditionally associated with romance for many, and though that concept is complicated across the LGBTQ+ communities, part of why we love LGBTQ+ romance as a genre is that it's often an easy place to find queer joy portrayed openly and defiantly. So for this year's February, we're all about non-binary romance, featuring three books that portray compelling and sizzling relationships that tell the gender binary to take a hike.
We start in the Moonlighters series by Anita Kelly with Sing Anyway, which explores lives and relationships touched by everyone's favorite queer karaoke dive bar, Moonie's. The book is perfect for someone looking for a quick, fun read, being novella in length and not skimping on the romance, drama, or humor. From the author:
"After a lifetime of failed relationships, non-binary history professor Sam Bell is committed to a new (non)romantic strategy: Thirst Only. It’s the actual drinking where things get too complicated, where Sam inevitably gets hurt. Sam is good at being thirsty, though, especially when it’s karaoke night at The Moonlight Café, otherwise known as Moonie’s to its largely queer regulars. Moonie’s is fun. Comfortable. Safe. Except for tonight, when one by one, all of Sam’s friends abandon them. Disappointed, they prepare to leave—until their #1 karaoke crush catches their eye…"
"For Lily Fischer, karaoke at Moonie’s is the only time she can step outside of her quiet shell. When there’s a mic in her hand, she’s no longer merely a receptionist harboring big dreams. At Moonie’s, Lily can pretend to be someone else: someone bold, who takes what she wants. And tonight, what Lily wants is the way Sam looks at her across the room as she sings her signature opening song, like they see her exactly as she wants to be seen. Like Moonie’s Lily is real. As the night progresses, both Sam’s and Lily’s personal fears are tested, and the real world outside of Moonie’s looms. But maybe sometimes, the real world should be a little more like karaoke. It’s not always about knowing all the right words or having the perfect voice. Maybe all Sam and Lily need is a little courage to pick up the mic, and sing anyway."
We stay with Anita Kelly for our next book as well, but shift the focus from karaoke dive bars to reality cooking shows with Love & Other Disasters, the first in a series about America's favorite cooking show, Chef's Special. Kelly treats readers to a romance playing out on a big stage, as two wannabe chefs battle for votes even as they find themselves caught in a magnetic attraction to one another. Can they silence the trolls and prove to the world (and themselves) that they deserve the warmth of the spotlight (and one another's arms)? From the author:
"Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money. After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan."
"As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after."
Last but not least, author TJ Alexander keeps things focused on cooking in Chef's Kiss, where two workers at the premier cookbook publisher find themselves fighting for their jobs while their hearts decide to take up a much different kind of challenge. Can they help each other through the trials and tribulations of working at a big publisher while still holding to their passion for cooking and their budding feelings for each other? From the publisher:
"A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com. Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life."
"To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray. Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart)."