by Kate Clayborn
Over the course of my time as a romance reader and writer, I’ve loved diving in to books that are set in the biggest of cities and the smallest of towns. But sometimes, I get in the sort of mood—a sort of cozy, delicate, heartachy mood—where only a small town romance will do. When I wrote Georgie, All Along, I wanted to pay tribute to that same feeling with a small town romance of my own, where the people and places feel familiar even if you’ve never set foot in a small town in your life.
I’ve pulled together some of my favorite small-town recs for you today…with one little twist at the end!
Small Town Newcomers: One of my favorite small town tropes is when someone new comes to town…especially if that newbie is a real fish out of water. I love the dynamic of their adjustment to the community, and love the way they usually (pleasantly!) upend the small town native’s routine. Here are some of my faves:
- Jeannie Chin, The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane (Blue Cedar Falls #1): I got this rec from The Best of 2022 episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Fated Mates. This hit all the sweet spots for me: a struggling innkeeper, her new neighbor with a competing business interest, and a freaking pumpkin festival! Chin managed to take some of the reliable micro-tropes of small town romance and make them feel brand new.
- M.M. Crane, Reckless Fortune and Bold Fortune (The Fortunes of Lost Lake, #1 & 2): Crane writes as Megan Crane, Caitlin Crews, and half of the writing duo Hazel Beck, and she excels at the small town, fish-out-of-water vibe. In the tiny, remote community of Lost Lake, Alaska, Quinn and Bowie Fortune (brothers, of course) each meet their match when two newcomers arrive on their shores and challenge all their beliefs about themselves. I love the world-building in this small town—these books had me googling abandoned Alaskan mines and how they might be converted into community centers!
Small Town Homecoming: For a lot of us, the thought of going back to the town where we were once awkward teenagers might send a shiver (and not the good kind!) up our spines. But romances that handle the small town homecoming with care and cleverness are some of my favorites. And since Georgie, All Along features just such a homecoming, I know how tricky it can be to make this work! Here are some recent faves:
- Kate Canterbary, In A Jam: In case you have missed the entire internet this year, you may have missed this release, which is one of my top reads of 2022. Shay Zucconi inherits her grandmother’s tulip farm (!!!) at a turning point in her life, and there’s no better person to help her get it into shape than her teenage best friend, Noah Barden (who is also guardian to a delightfully foul-mouthed five-year old). I honestly am in awe of how many things Canterbary does well in this book—fake relationship, slow burn, high heat, and gorgeous, romantic declarations. I loved it.
- Angelina M. Lopez, After Hours on Milagro Street: Alejandra “Alex” Torres comes back to her hometown of Freedom, Kansas in hopes of reviving her grandmother Loretta’s bar—and once she does, she plans to leave again and get back to big city life. But that’s the plan before she meets Jeremiah Post—a local history professor who has all kinds of opinions about what really should be done with Loretta’s bar. I was enthralled by this book—the mystery, the history, the absolutely crackling chemistry between Alex and Jeremiah. Prepare to be stunned by this one—it’s great.
Big City Setting, Small Town Feel: I don’t know how to describe it, but some authors excel at setting their stories in a big city while managing the same tight, close-quarters vibe of small-town romances. That’s probably no surprise to people who live in some of the biggest cities of the world, which can have neighborhoods that feel closer-knit than even the tiniest of towns. Two of my favorites:
- Mia Hopkins, The Eastside Brewery Series: Whew, these books are on fire—and they are also so sensitive, so attuned to struggle and disappointment and frustration. Every book in this series takes place in LA, but the interconnectedness between them—especially via the titular brewery—makes the city sprawl feel contained. The three books here, each following a Rosas brother, are all exquisitely crafted and incredibly thoughtful about what it means to find home.
- Ruby Lang, The Uptown Collection: Is it a Kate Clayborn listicle if I haven’t talked about Ruby Lang? Probably not! Ruby’s Uptown Collection is set in one of my favorite cities in the world, New York, and she captures the community spirit that defines so many of that city’s boroughs. I loved that this city explicitly deals with the notion of housing (real estate is a major feature here, folks) while asking big questions about how we make homes…especially with people we love.
Happy, cozy reading, y’all!
With writing Jasmine Guillory has described as “emotional and real,” the acclaimed author of Love Lettering and Love at First weaves stories both transporting and relatable – modern love stories that readers immediately identify with and take to heart. Wise and witty, threaded through with a complex, emotionally fulfilling romance, Kate Clayborn’s unforgettable new novel echoes with timely questions about love, career, reconciling with the past, and finding your way.
“Magnetic, witty, and expansive. The world is going to fall hard for this deliciously whimsical and captivating story, and I cannot wait to see it!” —Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis
“Outright perfection!”—Christina Lauren, Kate Clayborn Fanclub Co-Presidents and Authors of The Soulmate Equation
“A sweet novel that reminds you going back is sometimes the best path forward . . . and that planning is never as rewarding as doing.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author
Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.
But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.
Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.
Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .