Gareth Inglis, unwanted child turned dismissed law clerk, unexpectedly inherits his absent father’s title and country estate. Tench House is situated in Romney Marsh, a remote wetland not-so-secretly controlled by smuggling gangs. Much to Gareth’s surprise, his local area is under the control of the Doomsday clan, led by none other than his one-time lover.Joss Doomsday is confident, charming, and eminently reasonable – and on the Marsh, his word is as good as law. But he is eager to avoid Gareth, who once spurned him in a fit of melancholy. At least until Gareth unwittingly puts his sister’s freedom at stake. As the dust of this treacherous first encounter settles and the two form an unlikely partnership, peril encroaches on them from all sides. The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen is an adventurous Regency romance populated by swashbuckling smugglers as well as prickly high society. It is also somewhat of a naturalist’s book; Gareth’s explorations out on the Marsh taught me a surprising amount about the great diving beetle. There are stolen fortunes, dangerous missions under cover of night, a lady scandalously wearing trousers, and murders to boot. But the real heart of the book lies in healing trauma and finding love (in partners as well as family). Gareth and Joss are shaped by their experiences, by their relationship to one another, and the end of the book finds them better situated for happiness than they’ve ever been before.
The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles, (List Price: 16.99, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 9781728255859, March 2023)
I wish I could put this book in a time machine and send it back to my high school youth orchestra friends in the 2000s! I’m so glad that books like this exist for teens to read now. Edward Underhill’s passion for the piano and classical music shines on every page of this book and his trans protagonist Miles who is figuring out who he is and what he stands for as he prepares to enter a big competition will capture your heart. I also loved that this book is set in Wisconsin, a state I don’t know very much about!
Always the Almost by Edward Underhill, (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250835208, February 2023)
Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Tate and Penny are not quite enemies. Under other circumstances, maybe they’d be friends, but it’s hard to be friends with someone who is always there, who witnesses the worst moments of your life — and then there is that inconvenient attraction, far too strong and pervasive to ignore. I loved all the tropes, all the stubborn resistance, and I loved these two girls. Angry and resourceful, hopeful and determined. When they kissed, I cheered.
6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) by Tess Sharpe, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316302791, January 2023)
After loving the first book in the series (and being quite charmed by Nash), I was eagerly awaiting the second installment in Score’s knock-out Knockemout series. Luckily for all of us, this book definitely lived up to the first. (I think I liked it more!) This is a delicious slow burn with all the suspense elements you come to expect with a Lucy Score novel. Lina & Nash made for great characters, and overall, these ~600 pages flew by.
Things We Hide from the Light by Lucy Score, (List Price: $18.99, Bloom Books, 9781728276113, February 2023)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is a story about grief, community, family and love. Chao’s writing invites you into a community that is rich in Chinese culture and traditions that you can see, smell, taste and hear. Throughout the story you get to see Kai and Liya grow as individuals and find their way back to each other in the most heartwarming way. This beautiful story is sure to tug on your heartstrings!
When You Wish Upon a Lantern by Gloria Chao, (List Price: $18.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593464359, February 2023)
Reviewed by Keeshia Jacklitch, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
If I Can Give You That is a heartbreaking debut from Michael Gray Bulla covering a variety of issues that will tear at your heartstrings. Gael is a high school senior that’s used to keeping to himself. But when his best friend finally convinced him to go to a local group for LGBTQIA teens, he finds himself finally making some more friends. But that doesn’t come without difficulties, especially with his father back in his life and his mother’s problems.
If I Can Give You That by Michael Gray Bulla, (List Price: 19.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780063091702, February 2023)
Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia
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)
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)
“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
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.
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
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)
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)
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
“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
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.
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)