Five Debut Novels Infinitely Better Than My First Kiss: A Guest Blog by Veronica Jordan

I like to think of my life as a bit eclectic, just like the fiction I enjoy. I’ve traveled, lived abroad, and held jobs in industries ranging from waste management to military intelligence. And along the way, there have been many firsts. Some of them are worthy of the hype, like learning to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, and others, like my first kiss, are a bit lackluster and utterly (and thankfully!) forgettable.

Debut novels can often be characterized in much the same way, with most landing squarely in the “solid-effort-but-nothing-to-write-home-about” first kiss category. But every once in a while, one comes along that leaves me unabashedly wanting more.

Here are five debut novels that are, without a doubt, infinitely better than my first kiss.

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (Historical Fantasy)

In this vivid historical fantasy, the caliber of a vineyard’s wine is determined by the skill of the vine witch who tends to the grapes. Elena is one of the most talented vine witches the Chanceaux Valley has ever seen, but after a curse turns her into a frog for seven years, she returns to her beloved vineyard only to find it under new ownership – one that values science over magic. This debut novel by Luanne G. Smith is rich in detail and description and has elements of magic, revenge, love, betrayal, and forgiveness.

The Last Tribe by Brad Manuel (Post-Apocalyptic)

I love post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s my genre-of-choice for my own writing, and this debut novel by Brad Manuel checked all my favorite speculative, post-apocalyptic boxes. This story follows members of the Dixon family on their post-pandemic journey to reach Hanover, the small town where they grew up. Sans zombies or armed conflict, what I loved about this book is that it demonstrates how important family and community are in times of crisis. And that the smartest person in the room just happens to be a teenage girl.

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (Contemporary YA Fantasy)

I love a good witch story, but what made this debut novel by Rachel Griffin so good is its unique twist on a common trope. Clara is an Everwitch. She possesses a rare kind of magic that is strong all year long, not tied to the season like most others. But her special kind of magic comes with its own drawbacks and Clara is ready to give it all up in hopes of having a more normal life. Unfortunately, the world is on the brink of destruction, and Clara is one of the few who can save it. This book is about being brave enough to be your own hero while at the same time accepting that it’s okay to ask for help if you need it.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig (Magical Realism)

Already the author of several cookbooks, this is Judith Fertig’s debut fiction novel. This book combines two of my favorite things – magical realism and baked goods. Claire O’Neil has just moved back to Millcreek Valley and opened her own bakery. And while no one would deny her pastries are delicious, what most don’t know is that Claire can tell exactly what flavors you need to taste to overcome your problems. With a fun cast of characters and some pretty spectacular flavor combinations, this book made me laugh and brought me to tears.

Saving Toby by Suzanne Mckenna Link (Romance)

In this, her debut novel, Suzanne Mckenna Link introduces us to Toby and Claudia. He’s from the “wrong” side of town, and she’s the ambitious straight-A student bound for bigger and better things. When they first meet, it’s a little like oil and water, but as they get to know each other, the underlying attraction goes from smolder to flames. What I love the most about this book, and the two that follow it in the same series, is the author’s ability to create characters so real, you’d know them if you passed them on the street. I just couldn’t help but root for these two, and if you like romance with just a little bit of heat, I’m fairly certain you will too.

For more reviews across an eclectic range of fiction genres, literary-inspired recipes, and fun bookish giveaways, visit Veronica at Fiction Flock.


  • Saving Toby hooked me in to the series by Suzanne McKenna Link. Loved the characters. Great summer read. The next two in the series, Keeping Claudia and Finding Edward, were just as good. Can’t wait to read the next in her series!

    Suzanne Kelly
  • Wrote several of here down to check out. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Most of those recommendations sound interesting.The Nature of Witches was already on my to be read pile. A few of the others are now written down so I don’t forget the titles. Thank you Veronica!

  • Thanks to Veronica for sharing what sounds like a wonderful mix of new recommendations! I have heard The Last Tribe reviewed before so I may definitely need to give it a read. The Vine Witch sounds very interesting, too.

    Lynda A.

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