I’m Reading: Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake

Delilah Green doesn’t care. She’s built a whole life around it. Casual hookups, a soulless New York Apartment, and no contact with the small town of Bright Falls and the stepfamily that never cared about her. The only thing that matters is her photography career. When Delilah is critically behind on her rent and on the verge of stardom, her stepsister makes an offer she can’t refuse: come back to Bright Falls and photograph her society wedding. It would mean the kind of money Delilah hasn’t seen in years. Enough to get her through to her big break. But it also means returning to place where she grew up in painful isolation as a strange, forgotten ghost after her father died.

Delilah decides that while they can strongarm her into coming back to the town she loathes, she can do it on her own terms. That means wearing what she likes. It means moving through the pre-wedding events like a wrecking ball. It means seducing her stepsister’s best friend and bridesmaid, just to prove she can.

But the more time Delilah spends in Bright Falls, the more confusing things become. Her sister may need rescue more than torment, and the bridesmaid fling grows into a deeper connection. Delilah finds it harder and harder to not care. And ghosts from her past make her question for the first time, between her and her stepsister, just who stopped caring first.

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is one of those books that starts off simple, then starts peeling back layers of complexity as we go. It tackles hard topics like blended families, grief, expectations, and whether people are capable of change. But there is enough lightness to carry the weighty topics. I love the symmetry of each character fighting to throw off a different maladaptive coping mechanism. Despite coming from similar wounds, each character has a different journey toward healing. Some must learn to trust those that let them down. Others must trust themselves enough to set boundaries and say no.

The steam is delicious, and Delilah’s connection with Claire is unmistakably hot and powerful from the first moment they meet. The pacing of their emotional connection balances well with their sexual attraction. Claire’s kid and ex both serve as additional complexities in her relationship with Delilah. She must trust Delilah with her child’s heart, as well as her own. Delilah must trust Claire in return to not fall back into her ex’s arms. After all, Claire is one of her sister’s friends, and Delilah already knows what it’s like to be cast aside and forgotten by these women.

For this and other books, visit the author’s website at http://www.ashleyherringblake.com/. And don’t forget to request at your local public library!

Content notices for Delilah Green Doesn’t Care: Death of parent, childhood bullying and neglect, emotional abuse by parent and spouse, cheating exes.

I’m Reading: The Layover by Lacie Waldon

My local library has added some gems lately, and The Layover by Lacie Waldon is among them!

Ava Greene’s fiancé and love of her life is everything she wanted as a child. Settled. Scheduled. Predictable. Everything her irresponsible wandering nomad parents were not. She’s even willing to give up her career as a flight attendant to make this marriage work. Now her last trip has a coveted layover in Belize, and she’s taking the opportunity to celebrate the kickoff of her new life. Especially since her busy lawyer fiancé never has time to travel.

But this trip comes with a sour note in the form of Jack Stone, a former hotshot pilot and party to the most humiliating night of her life. She’s determined to enjoy this trip despite him, but mechanical issues mean delays, and the more time she spends around Stone, the harder it is to hate him. While she swore this was her last trip, it also reminds her of everything she loves about her job. Now Ava starts to wonder whether she can actually leave this life behind.

Her fiancé is adamant. He hates her unpredictable schedule, the unexpected delays, the inconvenience to his own tight schedule. He wants her home every night, a housewife and mother to his children. That’s what Ava told him she wanted. However, what she wished for as a child (stability, permanence) starts to feel more like a cage. Now she wonders whether she can put down roots without giving up the sky.

The Layover by Lacie Waldon is that sweet spot of romcom with profound personal revelation and growth. It talks about how we get to change and want new things, even as adults. It explores that moment when you have to let go of your maladaptive coping mechanisms when they no longer serve you. But all that is going on underneath the hood. At heart we have a light fun beachy romcom full of hijinks, delightful secondary characters, and the chaotic path to true love.

I love the subplots as much as the main, which always makes for a satisfying read. Ava’s unexpected friendships aboard her last flight and the quest to set up Gen and Pilot Paul adds to the hijinks and sweetness. The descriptions of Belize make me ache to trail my own hands through the bioluminescent pools. But mostly I want friends like Gen and Pilot Paul, and Ava and Jack, and the layover adventures they have together.

For The Layover and other work, visit the author at https://www.laciewaldon.com/. Don’t forget to request it at your local library!

I’m Reading: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

I picked up Dial A for Aunties from my local library this month, and couldn’t wait to talk about it!

Meddy is the good daughter. She stuck around and gave up the love of her life to go into the wedding business with her ma and aunties. All her cousins moved away as far and as fast as they could, but Meddy can’t bear to let her family down. Even when they try to control every part of her life.

But then Ma sets her up on a blind date with a creep and Meddy accidentally kills him in self-defense. She turns to the women who raised her for help, her Ma and Aunties. But tomorrow there’s a billionaire island wedding that will skyrocket their business to fame. They need to be on a boat in a few short hours, ready to organize the wedding of the century. That’s hardly time to dispose of a body properly. But it’s okay, because the Aunties have a plan. What could possibly go wrong?

This book is a must-read for writers because it breaks all the rules we stress over. It’s completely implausible, packed with coincidence and chaos, and has plot holes big enough to hide a body. It’s messy and chaotic.

And it’s FABULOUS. 

Dial A for Aunties is a romp, a heist, and a romance all rolled up in a pork dumpling. It’s Weekend at Bernie’s meets Crazy Rich Asians. Each new plot twist evokes a “What!?” of disbelief. Every hijink had me laughing out loud and face-palming (which is tricky while wearing reading glasses). Every new dilemma had me turning the page, until I finished the book with bleary-eyed satisfaction after 1am.

Meddy’s arc of finding her own identity and boundaries in the face of a loving but overwhelming family is well-developed and relatable. We root for her to find her balance, and it looks much different from her cousins’ solutions of fleeing to the far side of the country. The immersive cultural details are accessible and beautifully portrayed. Don’t be fooled by the hijinks, this book has depth and heartbreak under the laughter. You just have to let go of your preconceived notions and critical eye, pop some popcorn, and throw your whole heart into this wacky, cinematic, and thoroughly enjoyable story.

For links to this and other books, visit the author’s website at https://www.jesseqsutanto.com/ . Don’t forget to request it at your public library!

I’m Reading: So Not My Thing by Melanie Jacobson

Elle Jones has learned the hard way that the Internet is forever. After a humiliating teenage rejection by her pop star crush went viral, it threatened to follow her forever. But she regrouped and rebuilt. She’s now on track to a wildly successful career in New Orleans real estate…until the man who wrecked her life walks through the door. Miles Crowe doesn’t recognize her when he asks her to help him find the perfect spot for his new jazz club. She plans to make him fire her as quickly as possible, before he learns the truth and makes her re-live her teenage humiliation all over again.

I’ll admit to being a sucker for enemies to lovers. There’s something about this classic romance trope that gets to me. Maybe it’s the idea of people actually growing and changing, or maybe it’s the best example of love conquering all. Or, you know, it could just be that the witty competitive banter is usually so dang sexy.

At any rate, Melanie Jacobson does it just right. So Not My Thing is smart romance. The conflict is real, as is the past hurt. The characters are deliciously competent at what they do. Both have actual, nuanced flaws, and have to do the work on themselves and grow as people to get what they want. The stakes are highly personal, which for me are the best kind of stakes. The world won’t end if they fail, but they’ll be better people if they succeed.

The city of New Orleans is itself a richly developed secondary character in the book, and one we fall in love with. Reading this makes me crave the place, but not just to visit. I want to belong to the place like Elle does, have her deep roots and connection to the community. It’s woven into both main characters’ identities as part of the story itself, not just a backdrop. You couldn’t transplant these people and conflicts to any other place and have it make sense. It has to be New Orleans.

If I have one complaint, it’s that I would have liked an epilogue. I know they’re not everybody’s jam, but I like to spend a little time with the characters after an emotionally tense ending, to wind down and transition back to real life. It’s like pillow talk for the soul. I particularly miss that transition when I’m invested in the people and their happiness.

But I am invested, which is why I can recommend this book. The people, the music, the lives and relationships all come together in a place I’m hungry to spend more time in. My preference for romance usually runs high-steam, but this author packs more sensual tension into a kiss than others do in entire on-page sex scenes. All that adds up to a place in my re-reads for this book. I suspect the same will be true for the rest of the author’s catalog.

For more information on So Not My Thing and Melanie Jacobson’s other works, visit the author’s website at https://www.melaniejacobson.net/