The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Romance

The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest

A February 2023 Read This Next! Title

Lily is stuck in a dead-end job as an editor’s assistant, the one Greene sister who hasn’t managed to make a success of her life. On a whim, one day she emails the author of her favorite fantasy book — and he unexpectedly writes back! They correspond regularly, opening up to each other in ways neither of them has before and becoming close, until Strick breaks things off suddenly. Lily is heartbroken…until she meets her hot new neighbor, who figures out pretty quickly that Lily is the Lily from the emails. But he has reasons for keeping his identity secret, so he agrees to help Lily find a date for her sister’s wedding, even though he can’t get her out of his own head. A fun, flirty, bookish romance that will appeal to anyone who’s had fantasies of hitting it off with their favorite author.

The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593546437, February 2023)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

This book is such an unexpected delight! It’s told in an epistolary style- journal entries, with you, the reader, being an outside observer to events that have already happened. However, Heather Fawcett’s style of writing is such that it seamlessly blends with the narrative and you forget entirely that you’re reading a journal! It’s cozy, heart-warming, absolutely page-turning, and will leave you both satisfied and wanting more. It’s unique, enchanting, and one of my favorite reads of this year, perfect for anyone who loves fantasy and especially the fae!

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, (List Price: $28, Del Rey, 9780593500132, January 2023)

Reviewed by Preet Singh, Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia

Spotlight on: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

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Kate Clayborn, photo credit Kate Clayborn

I have to be honest—I had a friend fic! It was a notebook I shared with two close friends during my first year of high school. We would write these stories to each other and pass the book back and forth. In Georgie, All Along, she and her best friend do the same, although their version of it is a little more focused than mine was—young Georgie and her best friend are very focused on imagining the perfect versions of their lives once they get to the new high school they’ll be attending. My friends and I, I’m embarrassed to say, were far more focused on our celebrity crushes! But I was really inspired by that hopeful, imaginative experience of my teenaged self—I wanted to think about what that notebook represented about the experience of growing up.” ―Kate Clayborn, Interview, Above the Treeline

 

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

What booksellers are saying about Georgie, All Along

  • Clayborn, All Along! She never disappoints. With supportive, but odd-duck parents, Georgie has always had a “soft” place to land and as a result is “expansive”, so much so that she has a hard time focusing in on what she wants in her life and her future. Levi had no such parents, with no support network from his family when he needed them most, and as a result has made himself tight and small in his life and his wants/needs. When they meet, they learn to let go of their past and with her as his “soft place to land” and he allows himself to expand into himself and she learns to trust her own self and what she truly wants.
      ―Angela Trigg from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn’s books come with high expectations of an excellent story. She always delivers, and Georgie, All Along is no different. The writing is engrossing and diverting and it’s impossible not to relate to or love Georgie as she finds herself and her way. January is rich with romance, and this is an excellent winter read to curl up with.
      ―Preet Singh from Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, GA | Buy from Eagle Eye Book Shop

  • Kate Clayborn hits a home run with Georgie, All Along. I loved this relatable story about a woman coming home to find herself and reconnect with the dreams she had in high school. She’s a quirky mess who puts everyone’s needs before her own and she meets Levi, the brooding older brother of her high school crush, who also has a past he’s working through. I enjoyed the small town setting, the cast of characters and the nostalgia of revisiting high school escapades.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • A charming and witty story about how our pasts can shape us. Unexpectedly, Georgie, a personal assistant that has just lost her job and Levi, onetime town troublemaker, find themselves as roommates. They are both trying to reinvent themselves and use Georgie’s high school diary as a blueprint for their transformation. Georgie did not write in her diary about what was happening then, but her dreams and wishes for the future. Georgie and Levi have great chemistry and of course there is a great dog, Hank.
      ―Pam Crawford from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

About Kate Clayborn

Kate Clayborn is the critically acclaimed author of contemporary romance novels. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Bookpage, and more. By day she works in education, and by night (and sometimes, by very early morning) she writes contemporary romances about smart, strong, modern heroines who face the world alongside true friends and complicated families. She resides in Virginia with her husband and their dog.

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Out of Character by Jenna Miller

What a delightful YA debut! Out of Character is pitched as Julie Murphy meets Ashley Poston — a high bar to meet, but this book reaches and even surpasses that bar! I adored Cass Williams, who is nerdy, fat, and queer, and completely comfortable with all but the first point. Her parents are getting divorced, she has her first girlfriend, and she’s not doing well in school, but her online role-playing community is what keeps her going — except no one in her real life knows about her online friends. I loved seeing Cass’s two lives come together and watching her grow. I can’t wait to see what Jenna Miller writes next!

Out of Character by Jenna Miller, (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780063243323, February 2023)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

On the cusp of graduation, being named valedictorian, and escaping her small town, Chloe Green is counting down the days. That is, until her academic rival Shara Wheeler kisses her and then disappears, leaving only pink envelopes in her wake. Full of wit, charm, and heart, I Kissed Shara Wheeler fits perfectly into the pantheon of contemporary YA.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (List Price: $19.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250244451, May 2022)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Pleased to report that Hibbert’s signature, beloved wit and undeniable charm carries over into her YA debut. Both of these characters are incredibly well-fleshed out. Complex and unique without falling into dreadful cliches, I loved learning more about Brad and Celine as they navigated the turbulent teenage waters of will-they-won’t-they. Spicy, sassy Celine who just wanted the world to be fair and right. Brad, the darling soccer player (excuse me – footballer) who copes with his OCD by needing things to be just so. I loved them both. Their banter was off the charts in a way only Hibbert can achieve.This was one of those books where I blinked and suddenly I was 87% of the way through it. I just couldn’t stop reading about this duo!

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert, (List Price: $18.99, Joy Revolution, 9780593482339, January 2023)

Reviewed by Hannah Kerbs, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Begin Again by Emma Lord

A January 2023 Read This Next! Title

Emma Lord brings the feels in her new novel, Begin Again. Andie didn’t get into her first choice college with her boyfriend, but she has a plan. She works really hard and ends up getting in as a transfer student after her first semester at community college. The problem is that she planned her transfer as a surprise for her boyfriend….who did the same thing, transferring to the school Andie WAS at.

Begin Again by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250783363, January 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Spotlight on: Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun

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Alison Cochrun, photo credit Hayley Downing-Fairless

When I first started writing queer books, I was terrified that readers would think they weren’t “queer enough” or queer in the right kind of way. I hadn’t been out long, and in many ways, I was this baby queer in a thirty-three-year-old body. I felt like people would read my book and revoke my gay card. With Kiss Her Once for Me, I was able to mostly move past my queer imposter syndrome—queer people aren’t a monolith, and all I can do is write from my own experiences. That said, it’s important to me to write stories that deal with queerness (or at least what queerness means to me), not simply stories that feature a queer romantic pairing. I like writing about characters who are questioning their sexuality, characters who are fluid and defining things for themselves, characters who are in search of queer community, because these are all things that were critical to my own journey.” ―Alison Cochrun, Interview, Musing, Parnassus Books

 

Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun

What booksellers are saying about Kiss Her Once for Me

  • Alison Cochrun’s new novel is a wintry delight! Ellie’s struggles with real issues – anxiety, fear of failure, parental boundaries, and sexual identity. At the same time, Kiss Her Once for Me is a beautiful, steamy romance with witty banter, a fake marriage, and a love trapezoid. I loved it.
      ―Monica Swofford from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • If you’re sitting around this holiday season and you’re thinking, “What I REALLY would like is a sapphic holiday love story with fake dating, forced proximity, baking, crazy grandmas, and lots of snow” then look no further!
      ―Jennifer Jones from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

  • If this doesn’t become a Netflix movie I’ll eat all the hats. Funny, thoughtful, relevant, this is a Christmas read with a big brain and a bigger heart. Cochrun has repackaged the rom com troupe of fake coupling and hidden desires, within the setting of Classic Holiday Mansion. For Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston fans.
      ―Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • If seeing Bill Pullman lean against a wall and look directly into Sandra Bullock’s eyes in the 1995 rom-com “While You Were Sleeping” fundamentally changed your brain chemistry (i.e., made you a butch lesbian), this is the exact book for you. This novel is a lovely exploration of second chances and accepting failure, even when it feels like failing isn’t an option. I was very charmed by Jack’s weird and wacky family and Ellie’s fake dating scheme! For an optimal experience, read with tea in hand and Christmas music on in the background.
      ―Gaby Iori from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

  • Pansexual demisexual protagonist? Count me in! If you’ve been looking for more queer holiday romance rep with a Hallmark-y feel this is a great choice!
      ―Lana Repic from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA | Buy from E. Shaver, bookseller

About Alison Cochrun

Alison Cochrun is a former high school English teacher and a current writer of queer love stories, including her debut novel, The Charm Offensive. She lives outside of Portland, Oregon with her giant dog and a vast collection of brightly colored books. You can find her online at AlisonCochrun.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @AlisonCochrun.

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Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, Vol. 2 by Whale

While I’m always here for a slow burn, I can’t help but adore how sweet and tender Noah is towards Raeliana. We often see male romance protagonists in this sub-genre come across as cold, stubborn, and belligerent, which has its own charm, but this is a swoon-worthy change of pace. True to form for this sub-genre, Raeliana is a strong-willed and capable leading lady that never fails to entertain! I can’t wait for volume three!

Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, Vol. 2 by Whale (Original story by Milcha) (List Price: $20, Yen Press, 9781975341107, November 2022)

Reviewed by Lana Repic, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow

This is the book I, a Jewish lesbian nerd with bushy hair and a love of corgis, needed as a teen. How to Excavate a Heart has all of the tropes us hopeless romantics love- a meet-cute, enemies-to-lovers, and kissing in the snow. It also has really great advice that teenage me would’ve benefited from: your partner should add to your life, but they shouldn’t be your whole life. There’s so much beauty in the world, and part of that can be your kind of mean, hot Jewish girlfriend, but she doesn’t need to be all of it! Besides the invaluable lessons in the book, the love story is compelling and well-paced, and sweet. Shani and May are learning about themselves and love and how to deal with parents and fish fossils together, which is what love is really about. Fill yourself with holiday cheer and read this book!

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow (List Price: $18.99, HarperTeen, 9780063078727, November 2022)

Julia Hirschfield from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Meet Frankie and Ezra. They’re about to ‘Party Like It’s 1999,’ if they can remember what happened during the last 24 hours. Find out what happens when you mix exes at a wedding, throw in a little college shenanigans, and stir up a decade-old hatred. Filled with ’90s nostalgia (including dial-up, pay phones, the start of Google, and, yes, online dating), you won’t put this down simply because you’ll want to know what exactly Frankie and Ezra did that night. If you’re looking for a light romance to bring in 2023, here it is! (Only thing missing: A curated list of songs mentioned in the book.)

The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593546536, November 2022)

Reviewed by Jenny Gilroy, E. Shaver bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Seoulmates by Susan Lee

Seoulmates is a fun young adult romance sprinkled with k-pop and k-drama references. Susan Lee gave me a glimpse into a Korean American home through this tender love story between two childhood friends who have grown up. A friends to enemies to lovers story, I couldn’t put it down..

Seoulmates by Susan Lee (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335915788, September 2022)

Reviewed by Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, Louisiana

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

This is one of my top romances of 2022! Gonzales’ YA books are charming and this new adult romcom is a delight. Maya’s cheating ex is about to star on a reality dating show and all of his exes are being called together as contestants – including the other woman that helped break Maya’s heart. Sharing a room with her arch-nemesis can only lead to the best revenge plot of all time, right? This has slow burn, hilarious, sapphic joy on every page. Gonzales does a great job with bi representation and she gets better with every book.

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250819161, December 2022)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Spotlight on: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

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I set out secretly thinking of this book as my own homage to You’ve Got Mail, and specifically a bit of a hat tip to Parker Posey’s character. But looking back, I’m really amazed how much more of my love of that movie seeped into the book. The publishing industry, the quaint bookstores, the love for New York, the enemies-to-lovers, and the flirting over email.” ―Emily Henry, Interview, She Reads

 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

What booksellers are saying about Book Lovers

  • This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I love the way Emily Henry writes a story. She makes her characters well rounded and adds elements to their story outside of romance. But she writes the romance so well you can’t help but swoon. She makes me laugh, she makes me emotional, and she makes me never want to put her book down.
      ―Emily Bowers from Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, FL | Buy from Tombolo Books

  • Anything that Emily Henry writes is an automatic buy for me and I know will be popular! Book Lovers was no different. The writing flows, the dialogue is funny, witty, and loaded with emotion. The relationship between the characters is everything you want in a romantic comedy. You’ll find yourself rooting for everyone, including the supporting characters. Absolutely adored Book Lovers!
      ―Emily Lessig from The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, VA | Buy from The Violet Fox

  • Everything I love about the bookstore I own – and the life I get to led – in small town North Carolina is described somewhere in these pages. Most people will laugh out loud while reading. I got teary at the end as I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters. This book reminded me of Susan Wiggs’ The Lost and Found Bookshop, just sheer delightfulness wrapped between covers consisting of pure love for indie bookstores.
      ―Alissa Redmond from South Main Book Co in Salisbury, NC | Buy from South Main Book Co.

  • Emily Henry has done it again and stolen my heart completely with her two main leads. In this one, a literary agent and a book editor end up stuck together in his tiny hometown, which happens to be the whimsical setting in the bestselling book she agents for– one he gave a scathing rejection to upon their very first meeting. It’s a “we think we’re enemies” but are actually idiots-to-lovers who perfectly fit each other kind of story. Henry is the unquestioned queen of banter, but this is probably her wittiest, most laugh-out-loud funny book to date. I had so much fun reading BOOK LOVERS
      ―Cristina Russell from Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL | Buy from Books and Books

About Emily Henry

Emily Henry is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read. She studied creative writing at Hope College, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. Find her on Instagram @emilyhenrywrites.

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Spotlight on: Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin

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I know this is so cliché, but honestly, just write. When I sat down to start writing, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me forever. Just actually starting to write and then reaching out and finding a community. I actually found my first writing partner in a mom group. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. We were just like, ‘You’re so good. You’re so good too.’ That’s all it was — finding support because it can be really lonely. Sitting down and finding one person that you can trust not to just stomp on you is really important.” ―Alexa Martin, Interview, Medium

 

Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin

What booksellers are saying about Better Than Fiction

  • Drew isn’t a reader. But she did LOVE her grandma. So when Grandma died and left Drew her bookshop, Drew put aside all her dreams and ran the bookshop. Now, she hasn’t had much luck with men, including her human garbage can of a father, so she’s just put dating out of her mind. But then in walks Jasper Williams: popular romance author and sheer perfection of a human being. She doesn’t stand a chance.
      ― Jennifer Jones from Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, GA | Buy from Bookmiser

  • A rom-com that centers around Drew, a woman whose grandmother has just passed and in turn has left her the old bookstore she ran for years. One issue: Drew is not a book lover, and she can’t especially stand romance. And then comes Jasper Williams, the dreamiest romance author, whose mission becomes for Drew to fall in love with reading. It’s fun, steamy, and has a fantastic cast of characters, especially the residential book club The Dirty Birds. I also loved how this portrays grieving, and that adds something so special to this book. Sure to make your heart warm up with just utter joy, this is the cutest!
      ―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • An utterly delightful read — how can anyone resist a romance set in an indie bookstore? I loved that Drew Young, new owner of her late grandmother’s beloved Book Nook, is NOT a reader. It was such a fun set-up for Drew’s romance with a romance novelist. It’s catnip for bookstore lovers. I adored that Alexa Martin wrote in so many lovely day trips out of Denver; I felt like an armchair tourist reading this book, and I made a list for the next time I’m in Colorado!!
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.

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