From my Pride Reads list 2022, here’s Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake, #1 in the Bright Falls series! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kristen DiMercurio, which I very much enjoyed.
In this sapphic rom-com featuring a lesbian and a bi woman as MCs and a medium-sized cast of other queer characters as well as a few token straights who are on thin ice (shoutout to Grant for bein’ a solid dude), complicated family histories take centre stage as Delilah Green returns, unwillingly, to her hometown of Bright Falls. (This, by the way, delighted me as I’d only recently completed playing a video game expansion that connects Control to the Bright-Falls-set Alan Wake games. But thankfully there’s no intrusive, horrible Darkness to be found in this story — if you’re not counting bad memories.) Delilah carries a lot of baggage from her childhood — and it’s only now, at her step-sister’s wedding, that she realises she’s not the only one.
There’s a few things about the writing that drew me out of the immersion sometimes (I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kristen DiMercurio), but what Blake does really well especially in the steamy scenes is to make the switch from desire to vulnerability; Delilah and Claire have great chemistry.
Delilah is a cool cat but with wounds that won’t heal just by ignoring them. Claire is sweet and kind and a great mom who has put others first for so long it feels strange to give in to something she wants just because she wants it. I listened to the audiobook all in one go — nearly twelve hours! — and I had a great time.
The family history is complicated: Delilah’s an orphan, her father’s second wife raised her from when she was ten, but never welcomed her, much less loved her as her own. Young Delilah, grieving the loss of her father only years after her mom died, isolated herself and believed that no-one wanted her; including her step-sister, Astrid.
Claire is a single mom raising a young teen mostly by herself, thanks to ex-husband’s flakiness (who actually carves out a little redemption arc for himself, but not before being punched in the face, which I enjoy). Dating is… not really on the menu, until a friend (Iris) dares her to make a move — on literally anybody in that bar.
Story spoilers from here on out!
While this is a romcom through and through, with a few zany plotlines (especially where the sabotage of Astrid’s nuptials is concerned) and a few silly moments that delight in their own silliness, at the heart sits the complex relationship of two women who were pushed together as kids too young to know how to help each other. The revelation of Delilah’s memories as only one side of the equation, when truly everything she remembers points the needle so squarely at Astrid never giving a shit about her, truly hits home. (And this isn’t to both-sides emotional abuse; the blame for that lands squarely at the feet of Astrid’s mother.)
Turns out, both girls felt rejected by each other — bad timing being the real villain. They were just two lost girls who had no idea how to communicate how they felt, and whose step/mom did her level best to deny both of them the emotional tools to do so. Especially Astrid suffers from her mother’s understanding of strength being “no emotion, no weakness, ever.”
When Claire approaches Delilah at the bar, she doesn’t recognise her. Delilah, on the other hand, knows who she is immediately, and plays along. The jig is up very quickly, seeing as this is their hometown and Astrid walks in five minutes later, but the deception makes their initial attraction to each other fraught.
But that’s not the only problem: it’s that Claire, and Iris, are Astrid’s best friends, from when they were kids. And while Delilah’s grievances lie mainly with Astrid and her mother, she feels the friends did their part in ostracising her, too — how could she not, when they called her a ghoul. (Iris especially has some childish mean-spiritedness to account for, holy shit.)
So why is Delilah even in Bright Falls? She’s trying to establish herself as an artist in New York, working as an event photographer to pay the bills. The only way Astrid could see to at least try and reconcile with her sister was to hire her to take the wedding pictures — the wedding being a week-long affair. (This, at least, gives the unlikely alliance of Claire, Delilah, and Iris more time to talk Astrid out of marrying… I’ve already forgotten his name. Spencer?)
Delilah arrives, for intents and purposes, bent on sabotaging the wedding herself — to save Astrid from herself, strictly speaking. This includes a bet, involving Claire and getting her into bed before the week is out. The hurt doesn’t last long, but still Claire believes that Delilah leaving means she doesn’t return her feelings. It’s Josh, her ex-husband and Ruby’s dad, who asks the important question:
This is a big deal especially because he’s the one who gave Claire these massive trust issues to begin with.
Their reunion is a grand romantic gesture, but something that still fits the two of them. It’s a sweet ending 💜🍉🎶
This romance has everything: hotels with only one bed! Vulnerable pillow talk! Pining and denial, complete with a “fuckbuddy pact” — yeah, this is going to go great. Before Delilah knows it, she’s bonding with Claire’s delightful kid, Ruby, and all the while she tells herself she can’t let herself get hurt again. Knowing that Delilah has to return to New York for an exhibition (her chance at a big break) immediately after the hypothetical wedding reception, Claire tells herself the same. They also both tell themselves that this is just to blow off steam, a fling to enjoy. Uh-huh.
Also: it turns out that Astrid is about to have her very own bi/pan+ awakening in a sequel coming in November 2022 — Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail.
Genre Queer Romance
Narrative voice Third person, alternating POV
Content warnings Mentions of childhood emotional neglect
Maturity rating 17+