About the Book

Title: Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Sweet Potato Queen
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Easy Breezy Beautiful, Covergirl. Y’all.
Bonus Factors: Pageants, Kickass Gram
Relationship Status: The First Date That Ended Just When It Was Getting Good

Cover Story: Sweet Potato Queen

The cover of this book reminds me of those Sweet Potato Queen books, which for years I thought were written by a drag queen but, upon Googling just now, that turns out not to be the case. Maybe I just thought that because of the lady’s hair and also because those books come universally recommended to me by every funny Southern gay man I have ever had the privilege to know, and after we talk about them, we go to a karaoke bar and bring the house down with either “Fancy” or that “I’m looking for something in white” song, which for years reminded me of that movie The Lady in White, which is the most terrifying movie I’ve ever watched and it gave me horrible nightmares at age 8, even though I suspect from discussions with other people that it’s not actually a scary movie. And also it maybe stars Mona from Who’s The Boss? I think? I can’t remember but I’m sure as shit not Googling it, because I don’t want to have nightmares tonight.

That was a super-long sentence up above. I’m like the William Faulkner of FYA. Anyway. Sweet Potato Queens. Let’s move on.

I like this cover for what it is. It’s cute, it’s whimsical, and it doesn’t actually scream “THIS IS YA!” so much as “THIS IS A BEACH READ!” And somehow Beach Reads still have more legitimacy than YA books.

The Deal

Jane Fontaine Ventouras has returned to tiny Bienville, Alabama after being kicked out of a succession of boarding schools. Jane hasn’t been back to Bienville since she was a tween, as her father, a Greek shipping magnate, couldn’t bear to stay in town after the death of his wife, Jane’s mother. Jane’s now living with her grandmother, who expects Jane to comply with certain rules and wishes, the worst of which is to try out for the Magnolia Maid Pageant.

See, Jane’s mom was a Magnolia Maid as well, and it’s always been a tradition for the Bienville upper crust to be in the pageant. Magnolia Maids are the ambassadors to the city (which comes with its own version of diplomatic immunity) and they go around town in their antebellum costumes, greeting guests, shaking hands and keeping their mouths shut so as not to interrupt the important menfolk.


Jane makes it to the Magnolia Maids Court, which is shocker enough, but when trailer-living Brandi Lyn, plump, bookish Carolyn and gasp black Zara make it to the Court as well, the whole town’s in an uproar. Can these unlikely Magnolia Maids learn to get along with their “typical” pagaent counterparts, Ashley and Mallory? And can this unusual Court band together to get some real shit done?

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

I liked Jane. She can be flippant and bitchy, but she’s been abandoned by her father and shuffled around boarding schools, so she has some trust issues. And once she finds a stepladder, climbs it, and gets the hell over herself, she’s great at getting the other Maids to band together.

If we were best friends, I feel like Jane and I would spend a lot of time snarking on stupid Southern traditions before ducking out to wolf down some sweet potato pie and fried chicken. And even though we’d roll our eyes at a lot of what went down in our town, we’d stand together to protect it from any outsider mockery.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

The swoon comes in the form of Luke, Jane’s childhood best friend and not-infrequent star of her sexytimes dreams. Ultimately, this book isn’t really about romance as it is about girl-bonding and sisterhood, but there’s just enough does-he-still-like-me to keep fans of kissing books happy.

Talky Talk: Easy Breezy Beautiful, Covergirl. Y’all.

Jane’s voice is breezy and authentic, and never gets trapped in that web of sounding too old or too mature. She sounds like a smart, snarky teenager – in other words, she sounds a lot like I imagine our FYA readers sounded as teens.

For fans of the Southern dialect, this book is dripping with it, and barring a few headscratching phrases, it all flows pretty authentically.

Bonus Factor: Pageants

Screenshot from Drop Dead Gorgeous, with teenage girls in the middle of a dance routine during a pageant

Here is a list of Unlikely Things That Erin Loves:

  • Southern Living magazine
  • wedding blogs
  • cheerleading competitions on ESPN
  • high school football games
  • stupid romantic comedies
  • bad movies
  • Nora Roberts’ books. Every single one of them.
  • pageants

Actually, I realize that this list doesn’t seem all that unlikely at all, because I talk about these things ALL THE TIME here. But it seems to surprise people who know me from, like, work or whatever.

Anyway, point being, y’all know I love me some pageants. Spangles! Vaseline smiles! And such as!

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gram

Emily Gilmore from Gilmore Girls looking unimpressed

Y’all, I love Old Southern Women Who Tell It Like It Is, ergo, I loved Jane’s grandmother. She’s got that quality that only grandparents can have – removed just enough from the child that they aren’t terrified of turning the kid into a serial killer, but still full of love (and sweets!) for their progeny’s progeny.

Relationship Status: The First Date That Ended Just When It Was Getting Good

When this book first picked me up for our date, I thought we were going to really hit it off! After all, apart from our tax brackets, we’re totally alike! So imagine my surprise when our date sort of fizzled a bit in the beginning. Oh, sure, we had a few laughs over appetizers and I was impressed that this book could really handle its drink, but there was no real spark!

But then, some time between dessert and dropping me off, this date got pretty good! And I started to think that, you know, maybe I’d invite it in for a nightcap, as the old folks call it. But just when I was ready to make my move, this book gave me a perfunctory kiss on the cheek and said good night. I was totally bummed, too, because things were really starting to look up.

I don’t know if this book will call me for a second date, since it ended things so quickly, but if it does, I’m pretty sure I’ll say yes. After all, it did leave me longing for more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received this book from Egmont Publishing. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Never Sit Down In A Hoopskirt is available in stores now.

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.