I adored Shelly Laurenston’s Hot and Badgered when I read it last year. The second book, In a Badger Way was fine, but I found it more work and less charming. Badger to the Bone is a delightful return to bananapants. The Honey Badgers Chronicles would make an awesome tv series. It could go for years. The world is diverse with both a small town feel and an international scope.
Max MacKilligan has had my heart since she pulled a rocket-propelled grenade launcher out of her trunk in defense of her sisters in Hot and Badgered. She is so joyfully violent that her sisters worry she may be a sociopath. But she worries too much about her sisters, and her friends for that to be true. At the beginning of the book she assists in her own kidnapping (she’s trying to get to the man who keeps threatening her) and in the process finds ZeZé Vargas, a cat shifter who has no idea he’s a shifter at all. He has infiltrated this mercenary group and is trying to rescue Max. Max rescues him instead.
The process of Zé coming to accept that shifters are real and that he is one is delightful.
Shen motioned behind him. “Wanna climb a tree with me? ”
At that point, Zé couldn’t do anything but look as confused as he felt. “Why the hell, as an actual adult, would I want to climb a tree with another man?”
Shen simply looked at the tree and so did Zé. It was a good-sized tree with a wide trunk. The branches were extremely thick and covered in lush leaves.
“Oh, my God,” Zé gasped out. “I want to climb that tree.”
As is usual for The Honey Badger Chronicles, there are many different stories happening. People keep thinking they can impose themselves on the MacKilligan sisters and always find out they are wrong. It might be a family member, a stranger, or an organization, but the only people who can tell a MacKilligan sister what to do is another MacKilligan sister. I love that Laurenston doesn’t make them change in order to have a romantic partner. They don’t change to fit Zé into their lives, he adapts to them. At the end, while there’s no explicitly stated happily ever after, Zé is clearly sticking around and he is mean enough and independent enough to survive Max and to give her the space to be herself.
I’m looking forward to the next book, coming out in August. I hope we see more Max and Zé, and more Charlie and Stevie.