The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Romantic Comedy

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

A December Read This Next! Title

Second in Sutanto’s YA series, Didn’t See That Coming focuses on Kiki as she’s forced by her parents to transfer to a top school for her final year. Fortunately, her young friend Eleanor Roosevelt is there, but that seems to be the lone bright spot as she’s bullied by nearly everyone from the principal to her classmates. But Kiki is able to escape into gaming where, because of the massive amounts of abuse, she’s been playing as a male player. But she’s made a great friend in game. However, when she realizes that her friend actually goes to her new school, she must find out who he is. Didn’t See That Coming is both hilarious and heartbreaking while being a fantastic read.

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto, (List Price: $12.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593434048, December 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander

A December Read This Next! Title

Second Chances in New Port Stephen is the perfect mix of heartwarming holiday charm and queer romance. The author does a wonderful job of acknowledging and addressing so many important topics (like being trans in Florida) while remaining hopeful and lighthearted. I loved that the characters are more mature and older – this is not a YA story. And I loved that we get a second chance story, which fits for the age group and for the holiday themes. The tension and slow-burn is great and readers are rewarded at the end! I won’t give any spoilers, but I loved the ending. The characters made my heart ache, they made me laugh, and they gave me the warm fuzzies that come from knowing there are wonderful, genuine, and kind people in the world. Second Chances in New Port Stephen is full of joy and hope and inclusivity with just a dash of holiday cheer. It’s the perfect queer romance for December!

Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander, (List Price: $17.99, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 9781668021965, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura

A December Read This Next! Title

This is the romance I’ve been yearning for, one that fills all my needs for a romance novel version of Romancing the Stone, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Indiana Jones. The story features a whip-smart and capable female archeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía who ends up on a dig that could be the find of a lifetime and ends up being forced to finally deal with the one man she hates the most- Dr. Ford Matthews. What could’ve been haunts her, and him too. Unrequited lust/love definitely builds the tension between them to dizzying heights, and makes when they finally give in to their feelings so satisfying.I was surprised by and enjoyed the suspense subplot. Made for a very unexpected and surprising plot twists. The ending itself was ambiguous, but the epilogue more than made up for it! Jo Segura’s debut novel is exciting and a wonderful new addition. I am eager to see what she writes next!

Raiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593547465, December 2023)

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

Spotlight On: Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey


Tessa Bailey, photo credit Tessa Bailey

This is the challenge going into a modern romantic comedy. Readers expect there to be high stakes on the road to happily ever after. We don’t need the path to be easy, simply because the book has humorous situations or a humorous tone. A lot of us deal with the heavier aspects of life by laughing or creating levity. So that is my balancing act—making sure there is depth to the characters and their struggles, while also making sure the champagne bubble, fizzy feeling of romance is on the page.
― Tessa Bailey, Interview, Bookpage

Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey

What booksellers are saying about Wreck the Halls

  • I cannot say enough about this book. I finished it in 2 days and it would have been done in 1 day but life got in the way. The perfect hilarious, laugh out loud, feel good, swoon worthy, libido enhancing holiday romance! You fall in love with these characters from the very start and fall even harder throughout this book.
      ― Mandy Harris, Angel Wings Bookstore in Stem, NC | Buy from Angel Wings Bookstore

  • Melody and Beat grew up the children of former bandmates, but they never met before they were 16 because their moms broke up their band just before they were born. But the world is clamoring for a reunion, and when a reality TV show producer comes knocking with a very lucrative deal, Beat needs the money enough that he can’t say no, and Melody decides to go along for the ride (and also for Beat). While they attempt to coerce their moms into performing together again (or even just mentioning each other’s names without the world ending), Melody and Beat develop an intimacy born of knowing that they understand each other more than anyone else possibly could — though the millions of people tuning in to their livestream certainly understand something is going on. I love Tessa Bailey, and this book is no exception. A fun and steamy holiday read about finding your person, with absolutely delightful characters.
      ― Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Tessa Bailey just keeps getting better and better! My heart leaped to the music of Melody and Beat as they worked through their issues to reach their HEA! I also appreciated the subplot of their mothers.
      ― Angela Trigg from Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from Haunted Book Shop

About Tessa Bailey

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey can solve all problems except for her own, so she focuses those efforts on stubborn, fictional blue-collar men and loyal, lovable heroines. She lives on Long Island avoiding the sun and social interactions, then wonders why no one has called. Dubbed the “Michelangelo of dirty talk,” by Entertainment Weekly, Tessa writes with spice, spirit, swoon and a guaranteed happily ever after. Catch her on TikTok at @authortessabailey or check out for a complete list of books.


With or Without You by Eric Smith

Jordan and Cindy are at war. They’re also in love. One of these statements is false. Jordan and Cindy’s families clashed when they both opened food trucks at the same time, parking them in the same spot. They’ve been feuding ever since. Well, for the internet. The families are secretly friends and Jordan and Cindy are dating. But when they’re approached by a reality show that wants to make them into a series, things just get more complicated.

With or Without You by Eric Smith, (List Price: $19.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335458070, November 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel

After reading Sleepless in Dubai, you will be itching for a trip to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi! Nikki and Yash have been best friends since birth. But this last summer, their friendship blew up and they’ve been avoiding each other since. Now their families have a trip planned together to Dubai for Diwali and they’re going to have to find some way to get along.

Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel, (List Price: $30, Amulet Books, 9781419766961, October 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

To Have and to Heist by Sara Desai

To Have and to Heist is a wild-ride from start to finish. Think Oceans 11 with serious screwball romantic comedy energy. The plot is complex, but Desai is no novice. A seasoned romance author whose previous works have charmed us for the last few years (The Single’s Game, The Wedding Planner & The Dating Project), Desai is known for loveable, awkward leads caught in the cross hairs of cultural expectations and hijinks. Simi, her floundering heroine with zero filter, is instantly loveable. Jack is Simi’s perfect foil; secretive and gruff but also floundering in his own way. Their chemistry is instant. While Simi and Jack’s relationship takes the lead, sizzling with sexual tension, their heist crew provides the perfect goof-ball comedic relief. Would I trust an Uber driver, a hit-man, a nerdy man-child, and an animal loving HIMBO to have my back in a heist? In these circumstances… you bet. Sara Desai brings us the experiences of many young, second generation Indian Americans- pressure to live up to familial expectations, be successful, and, of course, get married. Expertly weaving these experiences into laugh out loud romances. To Have and To Heist is the fun, heart-racing, summer romance adventure that we all deserve.

To Have and to Heist by Sara Desai, (List Price: $17, Berkley, 9780593548509, July 2023)

Reviewed by Katie Garaby, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Tilly in Technicolor by Mazey Eddings

Tilly and Oliver first meet on an international flight, and their first impression is not great on either side. So it seems like the worst luck when Oliver shows up at Tilly’s sister’s place to start work as an intern with Tilly…and they’ll be spending the summer traveling together. Working together. Staying in hotel rooms together. Tilly struggles with her ADHD, as always, but Oliver’s autism allows him to understand her in ways no one else has, and the two grow close. Readers of Eddings’s adult romances will adore this story about Tilly growing into herself, and her relationships that grow with her, and Oliver’s enthusiasm for colors and for Tilly. Eddings has obviously put a lot of herself into this book, and it’s paid off.

Tilly in Technicolor by Mazey Eddings, (List Price: $20, Wednesday Books, 9781250847065, August 2023)

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

The Prince & The Apocalypse by Kara McDowell

McDowell hits it out of the park with her new novel about an American stranded in London and the crown prince on the run from his family…all while a massive comet is about to land on earth, destroying everyone in 10 short days! The action is non stop, the banter is witty, and the prince is swoony. You won’t be disappointed in this one!

The Prince & The Apocalypse by Kara McDowell, (List Price: 12, Wednesday Books, 9781250873064, July 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

A heartwarming rom-com full of hope! I fell in love wit Katherine Center’s writing with The Bodyguard. This book just cemented that. She has an amazing way of showing real life problems but filling the story with hope as well.

What would you do if you couldn’t see faces? Our sole way of recognizing people is by their face. Imagine losing that ability. This happens to Sadie after having what the doctor called a small surgery. Only problem is she wakes up unable to see faces. This effects her everyday life but her lively hood. Not being able to see faces for a portrait artist is not good at all. Sadie tries to work through life dealing with face blindness and her haunting past and her future. Is love truly blind? Sadie will soon find out just how important seeing other faces is.

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center, (List Price: 29, St Martin’s, 9781250283788, July 2023)

Reviewed by Mandy Harris, Angel Wings Bookstore in Stem, North Carolina

The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren

You’ve heard of book boyfriends, but have you heard of book best friends? Let me introduce you to Fizzy Chen – wickedly smart, unabashedly sex positive, and a bit lost in life. I absolutely adored Fizzy. She is wit and feminism and courage – all with an extra sparkle. She may not have had the best luck in relationships lately, but all that’s about to change…I think I made more noises reading this book than any other – laughing out loud, snorting from laughing so hard, squealing at the cuteness, yelling "WHAT!", and telling my husband approximately 1500 times how amazing this book is! I laughed, I cried, and I laughed while crying.

The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren is the spicy, hopeful, romance that will leave you bursting with joy. Beyond being super cute, funny, and swoon worthy, The True Love Experiment had it’s serious moments that I really appreciated as well. The deep and honest conversations between characters, not just about romantic relationships, but about co-parenting, friendship, and careers added another layer of richness to the story. And the commentary on how the romance genre is so often pigeonholed, misunderstood, and minimized was much needed!

The True Love Experiment is a 5-star read! It’s everything the romance genre should be and more – vulnerable, heartfelt, funny, and full of joy. The romantic and sexual chemistry will have you holding your breath and frantically reading, wanting more. Nobody writes love quite like Christina Lauren. Do yourself a favor and go pre-order The True Love Experiment – you won’t be sorry.

The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren, (List Price: $27.99, Gallery Books, 9781982173432, May 2023)

Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

Is there such a thing as a meet-ugly? Out of an utterly disastrous first "meeting" (they didn’t actually even meet, just started jumping to wrong conclusions) grew a ten-tissue romance for the ages. I also was delighted that the town of Wakan, the actual seemingly "inanimate" objects in the vaguely magical town, such a huge silent character in Part of Your World, got a bit role in Yours Truly. No one does foreshadowing like Abby Jimenez.

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez, (List Price: 16.99, Forever, 9781538704394, April 2023)

Reviewed by Lisa Yee Swope, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Things We Hide from the Light by Lucy Score

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)

Reviewed by Hannah Kerbs, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Spotlight on: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn


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.


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

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