Spotlight & Giveaway: THE ROM-COMMERS by by Katherine Center

Posted June 11th, 2024 by in Blog, Spotlight / 27 comments

Today, HJ is pleased to share with you KATHERINE CENTER’s new release: THE ROM-COMMERS




She’s rewriting his love story. But can she rewrite her own?

Emma Wheeler desperately longs to be a screenwriter. She’s spent her life studying, obsessing over, and writing romantic comedies—good ones! That win contests! But she’s also been the sole caretaker for her kind-hearted dad, who needs full-time care. Now, when she gets a chance to re-write a script for famous screenwriter Charlie Yates—The Charlie Yates! Her personal writing god!—it’s a break too big to pass up.

Emma’s younger sister steps in for caretaking duties, and Emma moves to L.A. for six weeks for the writing gig of a lifetime. But what is it they say? Don’t meet your heroes? Charlie Yates doesn’t want to write with anyone—much less “a failed, nobody screenwriter.” Worse, the romantic comedy he’s written is so terrible it might actually bring on the apocalypse. Plus! He doesn’t even care about the script—it’s just a means to get a different one green-lit. Oh, and he thinks love is an emotional Ponzi scheme.

But Emma’s not going down without a fight. She will stand up for herself, and for rom-coms, and for love itself. She will convince him that love stories matter—even if she has to kiss him senseless to do it. But . . . what if that kiss is accidentally amazing? What if real life turns out to be so much . . . more real than fiction? What if the love story they’re writing breaks all Emma’s rules—and comes true?


Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from THE ROM-COMMERS 

In this scene from THE ROM-COMMERS, Emma Wheeler and Charlie Yates head to a bar to do some line-dancing research for the romantic comedy screenplay they’re writing together. Enjoy! 🙂

The instructor turned out to be a six-foot cowboy.
When Charlie saw him on the tiny stage at the back of the bar—in Wranglers and boots with an actual straw Stetson hat—I heard him say, out loud, “Oh, god. He’s a hillbilly.”
“I don’t think he’s a hillbilly,” I said. “I got propositioned by a hillbilly at a wedding once, and he had a very different vibe.”
Charlie eyed me. “Did you?”
“A groomsman,” I confirmed, with a nod. “Want to know what he said?”
Charlie squinted. “Do I?”
“He invited me to his hotel room and said, ‘Red in the head—fire in the bed.’”
“Please tell me that didn’t work.”
I gave Charlie a look like Come on. “I politely said, ‘No, thank you.’ And then he shrugged like it was my loss and said, ‘You’re missin’ out on the ride of your life.’”
“I bet you really were,” Charlie said.
“Not in a good way.”
“You’ve got to admire his optimism, though,” Charlie said.
“He also passed out in the women’s restroom that night,” I added. “And got into a fistfight at a bowling alley. And propositioned the bride’s mother.”
“You do have experience with hillbillies,” Charlie said.
After we signed in at the bar, got informed of the two-drink minimum, and knocked back two shots called Silver Bullets, we made our way to the crowded dance floor.
The instructor was getting ready to start, messing with the sound system and wearing his Wranglers like they were shrink-wrapped.
If this guy was a hillbilly—I looked around the room—at least we could all agree he was a hot hillbilly. Possibly an out-of-work-actor hillbilly just waiting for his big line-dancing break. Which I suddenly realized might actually be me and Charlie.
I elbowed Charlie. “We should cast this guy in the line-dancing scenes.”
Charlie, whose face was busy personifying misery, said, “Writers don’t cast actors in movies. That’s what casting agents are for.”
“I bet you could, though,” I said, “if you wanted to.”
“This guy’s not an actor,” Charlie said. “He’s somebody’s inbred cousin.”
“Chalk one up for inbreeding, then,” I said, letting my eyes float back in the instructor’s direction.
“Are you ogling him?” Charlie asked.
Yes. Yes, I was.
“Unbelievable,” Charlie said. “Didn’t we just agree no cowboys?”
“Look,” I said. “I didn’t request a . . .” I glanced back to the instructor for reference and then got stuck. “A six-foot-three backwoodsman with a butt like a quarterback wearing a longhorn belt buckle and ostrich boots. But it happened. What am I supposed to do?”
“My opinion of you is plummeting,” Charlie said. “This is your type?”
“I have lots of types, thank you. Sexy cowboys. Sexy lumberjacks. Sexy werewolves with tragic pasts. Sexy ghosts.”
“Sexy ghosts?”
“That’s the only kind of ghost I like.”
“What about sexy hicks?” Charlie said, tilting his head at the instructor. “Or sexy corncob-pipe smokers? Or sexy mouth-breathers?”
“That man can breathe all he wants,” I said.
But this was really bothering Charlie. “This guy,” he said, “is not sexy. He drove to LA on a riding lawnmower eating fried butter and squirrel nuggets.”
“I don’t think you can knock his food choices, pastrami man.”
“Have some respect for yourself,” Charlie said.
I glanced back at those Wranglers. “I think I’m respecting myself just fine.”
That’s when our instructor, ready at last, adjusted his headset mic and turned to face the audience. And then he started speaking. And it turned out he wasn’t a hillbilly at all.
He was Italian.
“Ciao a tutti,” the instructor said.
Charlie and I looked at each other, like What!
Then we both peered over at the easel with the class poster. It had the instructor’s picture. His name was Lorenzo Ferrari. And he was from Venezia, Italy.
“Did he just get handsomer?” I asked, looking around at all the women in the room who were asking themselves the same question.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Charlie said.
But this really was a game-changer. Our instructor wasn’t a hillbilly. He was a gorgeous Italian dreamboat cosplaying as a hillbilly.
“Welcome,” Lorenzo said next, in a perfectly delicious accent.
And then, even as he launched into explaining the class, and how we’d learn three simple dances tonight—he’d do a “teach” first, and then he’d turn on the music and we’d do it for real—I couldn’t concentrate. His voice was like a deep-tissue massage.
Had I brought Charlie all the way here to prove to him that line dancing wasn’t sexy?
Can’t win for losing, I guess.
I blame Italy.
“Try to focus,” Charlie said, punching my shoulder to break my trance.
But I’ll tell ya: Line dancing is not as easy as it looks.
I’d always kind of harbored a suspicion that I might be a secret dancing savant. Not line dancing, per se, but just—from all the boogying I’d done in the kitchen while cooking over the years . . . I’d nursed a secret fantasy that maybe, if I ever really tried to dance, I’d astonish us all.
Ten minutes into that chance, I stood corrected.
I was not secretly awesome.
I was terrible.
We’d need a more humiliating word for terrible.
As Lorenzo led us through the steps of the first dance, I could follow pretty well as long as I could see him—but as soon as we all turned to face the next wall, which happens a lot in line dancing, I forgot everything. My mind went blank. I’d wind up craning my neck over my shoulder to try to keep him in my sights.
Which didn’t work too well.
I’d get all pretzeled up, and then I’d step on my own feet, and then I’d slam into Charlie. Sometimes hard enough to get him coughing again.
“Don’t keep looking backward,” Charlie said.
“I’m a visual learner.”
“Just watch me. I’m right here.”
“But he’s the instructor,” I said. “And he’s Italian.”
We were learning a dance called the Canadian Stomp, which started out easy—a heel touch, a toe touch, and then a very satisfying stomp—but then devolved into lots of fluttery grapevine-ing that flummoxed me. And also forced me to confront that I’d never fully mastered my left from my right.
Was I the worst person in the room?
By a mile.
I was like a bumper car gone rogue, colliding into everybody—especially Charlie.
Every time I slammed into him, he said, “Oof.”
“Sorry,” I’d say, and pat him at the place of impact.
I was bad enough that Lorenzo himself eventually came down from the stage to help me. But having that face and those shoulders and that belt buckle in close proximity only made me worse.
“It’s a scuff with a quarter turn into the jazz box,” Lorenzo said pleasantly, like he was clearing things up.
I’d have to google “jazz box.” “My legs keep getting tangled,” I said.
At that, Lorenzo—good god!—looked down at my legs.
I held very still.
Then he said, “You should tie your shoelaces,” in a voice that made me feel pretty certain I’d never think about shoelaces in the same way again.
For a half-second, I wondered if Lorenzo Ferrari, line-dancing Adonis, might actually kneel down and tie them for me.
But that’s when I looked down to realize Charlie was already there.
Charlie Yates. Was down on one knee. In front of me. On the floor of a honky-tonk. Tying my sneaker laces in double knots with gruff but unmistakable affection.
Not gonna lie. As much as our instructor was objectively, legitimately, inescapably sexy, and as much as I’d enjoyed teasing Charlie about it . . . No amount of ogling Lorenzo Ferrari did even a fraction of the things to me that the sight of Charlie Yates tying my shoes did.
Right there, for a second, it felt like the music disappeared, and Lorenzo disappeared, and all the other dancers did, too, as Charlie held my gaze and I held his right back, and something happened in my chest that was the opposite of all the thumping and thrashing my heart had been doing lately.
Something, instead, that was like . . . a sigh.
Like my heart itself might be letting out a five-point-five-second breath.
Something that was absolutely, undeniably romantic.
When Charlie felt me watching him and looked up, I said, “What are you doing?”
I expected some brush-off response, like, “Tying your shoes, dummy.” But instead, Charlie held my gaze and said, “I’m apologizing.”
“For what?”
He tilted his head back in the direction of his house. “For being a dick before.”
“You’re apologizing? In a honky-tonk bar?”
This was the moment we’d come here to find. This was the real moment that would bring the fictional one to life. This was the difference between imaginary things and real ones.
Case closed: we’d have to put this in the screenplay.
Just as soon as I could figure out how to explain that to Charlie without completely confessing what he’d just done to me.
As Lorenzo moved on to the next waiting female who wanted help, Charlie stood back up, shook his head at me, and said, “Double knots—not just bunny ears.” As if he gave me shoe-tying tips all the time—but I never listened.
He bent at the waist and pulled up his pant legs to show me his own laces, with their own double knots, as examples to strive for.
I peered down, and that’s when I realized we were both wearing the same shoes. Black Converse low-tops. “We match!” I said.
“You’re not very observant,” Charlie said. “We’ve been matching this whole time.”
“Have we?” I asked, feeling absurdly charmed by that fact—like it was some kind of fate.
That was when a woman in a fringe pearl-snap blouse leaned in and pointed at our feet. “You can’t spin in those,” she said.
We both looked up.
“The rubber soles,” she explained. “It’ll twist your knees.”
“Do we need different shoes?” I asked her, strangely dismayed at the prospect of no longer matching.
But the woman shook her head. “Just cut up some old socks,” she said, “and stretch them over the balls of your feet like leg warmers.”
I turned to Charlie, like Brilliant. “Shoe leg warmers!” I said, holding up my hand for a high-five.
But no high-five from Charlie. He just shook his head.
“I’ll do this research,” he said then, “and I’ll let you slam into me a hundred times, and I’ll watch you ogle that Italian guy, and I’ll double-knot your laces all night long . . .”
Just then, someone behind jostled us into each other, and Charlie’s eyes roamed my face for a minute, adjusting to the closer distance, before he finished: “But I will never”—he paused for emphasis—“ever put leg warmers on my sneakers.”

Excerpt. ©KATHERINE CENTER. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Thanks so much for having me!


Giveaway: 1 signed copy of THE ROM-COMMERS to one US entrant


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Meet the Author:

KATHERINE CENTER is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Bodyguard, Hello Stranger, Things You Save in a Fire, and her summer 2024 book, The Rom-Commers. Katherine writes deep, nuanced rom-coms that brim with hope and healing. The movie adaptation of her novel Happiness for Beginners became a Netflix movie in 2023 and hit the Global Top Ten in 81 countries, and the movie of her novel The Lost Husband hit #1 on Netflix in 2020. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her husband, two almost-grown kids, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog. Join her mailing list at!

27 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: THE ROM-COMMERS by by Katherine Center”

  1. Dianne Casey

    I really enjoyed the excerpt and I’m looking forward to reading the book. Katherine Center is a great writer.

  2. erahime

    I’d enjoyed reading this excerpt, HJ. The author has a writing style I’d enjoyed before and this latest one looks like another entertaining read.

  3. Patricia B.

    This was an insightful excerpt. It shows their teasing relationship and when and how it morphs into something more. I like the tone and content of the excerpt.

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