Iris Kelly doesn't date

Ashley Herring Blake

Book - 2023

"Everyone around Iris Kelly is in love. Her best friends are all coupled up, her siblings have partners that are perfect for them, and her parents are still blissfully married. And she's happy for all of them, truly. Iris doesn't want any of that-dating, love, romance. She'll stick to her commitment-free hookups, thanks very much, except no one in her life will just let her be. Everyone wants to see her settled down, but she holds firmly to her no dating rule. There's only one problem-Iris is a romance author facing an imminent deadline for her second book, and she's completely out of ideas. Perfectly happy to ignore her problems as per usual, Iris goes to a bar in Portland and meets a sexy stranger, Stefania, ...and a night of dancing and making out turns into the worst one-night stand Iris has had in her life. To get her mind off everything, Iris tries out for the lead role in a local play, a queer retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, but comes face-to-face with Stefania, whose real name turns out to be Stevie. Desperate to save face in front of her friends, Stevie asks Iris to play along as her girlfriend. Iris is shocked, but when she realizes the arrangement might provide her with some much-needed romantic content for her book, she agrees. As the two women play the part of a happy couple, lines start to blur, and they're left wondering who will make the real first move..."--

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FICTION/Blake Ashley
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FICTION/Blake Ashley
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1st Floor FICTION/Blake Ashley Due May 28, 2024
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Romance fiction
New York : Berkley Romance 2023.
Main Author
Ashley Herring Blake (author)
First edition
Physical Description
pages cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

In this fun and frothy queer romance concluding the popular Bright Falls trilogy (Delilah Green Doesn't Care, 2022), romance writer Iris and struggling actor Stevie meet on a night out. They've each had a terrible day: Iris is feeling pressure from her family to settle down (but she doesn't think that she's cut out for a relationship), and Stevie has had an uncomfortable encounter with her ex. They each decide that a one-night stand is the perfect solution to their problems. They head home for what should be a sexy hook-up until Stevie's anxiety gets the better of her and the night ends disastrously. However, after a series of believable misunderstandings, and Iris trying out for the community play that Stevie is acting in, they decide to fake-date. Through this "relationship" they face down the very different barriers to dating they each have. Filled with steamy sex scenes while also tackling emotional issues, this book will delight fans of the previous books in the series and will appeal to other rom-com readers as well.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Blake's third and final Bright Falls romance (after Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail) sends the series out on a high note with more spicy sex and genuine emotion. Iris Kelly is a romance novelist who doesn't do relationships--but she does agree to an (awkward) one-night stand with eventual love interest Stevie Scott. With Iris struggling with writer's block and Stevie hoping to become less anxious around sex, the pair decide on a mutually beneficial fake-dating scheme made less typical by the extents to which they take the ruse, including rehearsed pet names and steamy practice dates. Though there's something a little after-school-special about the presentation of Stevie's anxiety--"Stevie's struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder were very real" comes four pages after the character is introduced--the anxiety itself is portrayed realistically, and the comfort Iris gives Stevie, as well as the balance Stevie gives to Iris, is appealingly sweet. Blake also does an admirable job of wrapping up the series, bringing all the past couples together one last time in a touching finale. This is a treat. Agent: Rebecca Podos, Rees Literary. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The latest in Blake's "Bright Falls" series, after Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail, returns readers to their favorite characters. This time, Iris is the star, and she is struggling while watching her friends live out their romantic fantasies. In previous titles, readers saw bisexual Iris dating men and women, but now Iris is alone and feels at a loss. In an attempt to make herself feel better, she goes out on the town in Portland one evening, ending with a disastrous one-night stand with a woman named Stefania. Iris, who is also a romance novelist, feels incredibly stuck in her writing due to her current romantic situation, so she decides to join a play in hopes of breaking through her writer's block as well as her love block. Whom she finds there is unexpected: Stefania, a.k.a. Stevie. When Stevie asks her to fake-date, Iris is immediately wary, but figures it will help her write her next book, although things won't be as simple as she expected. VERDICT Blake continues to write compelling and lovable characters with engaging and empathetic storylines. Readers will love this foray back into Bright Falls.--Tegan Beese

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A bisexual romance author burned by love and an anxious actress fake-date in hope of keeping their meddling friends at bay. Iris Kelly is happily single, though her friends and family in Portland, Oregon, would have her believe otherwise. While she'd be perfectly fine entertaining one-night-stands at Lush, her favorite queer bar, those closest to her can't seem to stop intervening in her love life. Iris is the middle child of an Irish Catholic family, squished between picture-perfect married siblings and a mother who constantly sets her up with both men and women. After her latest relationship ended with her girlfriend's wife showing up, Iris is no longer in a happily-ever-after mood…to the detriment of her second romance novel, which has a deadline coming up. Stevie Scott is in a similar predicament; her best friend/ex-girlfriend Adri is now dating her other best friend, and they're all working together on the same gender-bent production of Much Ado About Nothing at a local theater. Stevie, who battles anxiety, fears she will never get back in the dating game--not that her friends ever let her forget it. Feigning confidence, Stevie tries her hand at Lush and meets free-wheeling Iris, though the date doesn't quite end in fireworks. But when Iris unknowingly shows up to audition for Stevie's play, they realize they can teach each other a few things about romance and sex while appeasing their nosy friends for a couple of months. As they coach each other through the ins and outs of casual dating and wooing, Iris and Stevie begin to find it difficult to keep their ruse strictly educational. The third and final installment of Blake's Bright Falls series features an eclectic and diverse, albeit overbearing, cast of friends. Iris and Stevie's attraction to each other is palpable, and Blake masterfully weaves a tale of growth where friendship, confidence, and passion ensue. A treat for fake-dating fans and happily-ever-after lovers alike. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chapter One Iris Kelly was desperate. She paused on her parents' front porch steps, the June sun feathering evening light over the blue-painted wood, and took her phone out of her pocket. Tegan McKee was desperate. She typed the words into her Notes app, staring at the blinking cursor. "Desperate for what, you little minx?" she asked out loud, waiting for something-anything that didn't feel overdone and trite-to spill into her brain, but nothing did. Her mind was a terrifying blank slate, nothing but white noise. She deleted everything except the name. Because that was all she had for her book. A name. A name she loved. A name that felt right. A name that Tegan's best friends shortened to Tea, because of course they did, but a solitary name nonetheless. Which meant, in terms of her second full-length romance novel-the very one her literary agent was already up her ass about, that her publisher had already bought and paid for, that her editor was expecting to land into her inbox in two months' time-Iris had nothing. Which meant Iris Kelly was the one who was desperate. She glanced up at her parents' front door, dread clouding into her belly and replacing the creative panic. Inside that house, she knew what awaited her, and it wasn't pretty. Her mother's dentist, perhaps? No, no, her gynecologist more likely. Or, maybe, if Iris was really lucky, some poor sap who wanted to be there even less than Iris-because Maeve Kelly was nearly impossible to resist once she set her mind on something-and Iris and the aforementioned sap could commiserate over the absurdity of their situation. Hell, maybe Iris could get some content out of it. Tegan McKee was on a date. She hadn't planned the date, nor did she recall being asked out. Iris froze with one foot on the step and opened up her Notes app again. That actually wasn't too bad . . . "Honey?" Iris dragged her eyes from that infernal blinking cursor-Why the hell don't you want to go on a date, Tegan?-and smiled at her mother and father, now standing in the open doorway, arms around each other, marital bliss causing their faces to glow in the summer light. "Hey," she said, tucking her phone away. "Happy birthday, Mom." "Thanks, sweetheart," Maeve said, red and gray-streaked curls bouncing into her face. She was a round woman, with soft arms and hips, and a hefty bosom Iris herself had inherited. "More gorgeous every year, she is," Iris's dad said, kissing his wife on the cheek. Liam was tall and lithe, pale red hair ringing the shiny bald spot on top of his head. Maeve giggled, and then Iris watched as her parents started full-on making out, which included a flash of Liam's tongue and the definite, not-so-surreptitious slide of his hand down Maeve's ass. "Jesus, you two," Iris said, stomping up the stairs and averting her eyes. "Can you give it a rest at least until I get in the house?" They pulled away from each other but kept the obnoxious grins. "What can I say, love?" Liam said, his Irish accent still fully in place even after forty years in the States. "I can't keep my hands off the woman!" More kissing noises commenced, but Iris was already past them and heading into the house. Her younger sister, Emma, appeared with her four-month-old, Christopher, hidden under a nursing wrap, which Iris assumed meant the baby was attached to one of Emma's boobs. "God, are they at it again?" Emma asked, chin-nodding toward the front door, where Maeve and Liam whispered sweet nothings in each other's ears. "Are they ever not?" Iris said, hanging her bag on the hook in the foyer. "But at least it's distracting Mom from-" "Oh, Iris!" Maeve called, pulling her husband into the house by the hand. "I have someone I want you to meet." "Fuck my life," Iris said, and Emma grinned. "Language," Maeve said, then hooked her arm through Iris's. "Isn't there a dirty diaper in need of changing?" Iris asked as her mother dragged her toward the back door. "A filthy toilet I could scour? Oh, wait, I just remembered I'm late for a pap smear-" "Stop that," Maeve said, still tugging. "Zach is perfectly nice." "Well, if he's nice," Iris said. "He's my spin class instructor." "Oh, fuckity fuck." "Iris Erin!" Maeve shoved her onto the back deck, which was how she found herself sitting next to Zach, who, thirty minutes later, was busy extolling the virtues of CrossFit training. "You never really know how far your body can go, what it can do, until you push it to the edge," he was saying. "Mm," was all Iris had to say back. She sipped a Diet Coke, cursing her mother's habit of saving the wine for the meal, and looked around for a savior. Liam was silent at the grill, a stalwart of That's none of my business, so he'd be absolutely no help. She loved her father, but the man was complete trash for his wife, bending heaven and earth for the woman whenever possible. Which meant Maeve sprung these "dates" on Iris nearly every time the family got together, and Liam would simply smile, kiss Maeve on the cheek-or make out for ten minutes as the case may be-and ask what she wanted him to grill for said blissful occasion. Emma was currently sitting across from Iris at the redwood patio table, her red hair cut into a sensible, advertising executive bob, smirking at the whole situation. Emma thought her mother's setups were hilarious, and she also knew Iris would never, in a million years, go for someone Maeve dragged home. Mostly because Iris hadn't gone for anyone at all in over a year. "Have you ever done HIIT?" Zach asked now. "Feels like you're going to die while you're in the throes, but whew, what a rush!" Emma snorted a laugh, then covered it by patting her newborn on the back. Iris scratched her cheek with her middle finger. Meanwhile, Aiden, Iris's brother and the eldest of the three Kelly siblings, was running around in the backyard growling like a bear, chasing his twin seven-year-old daughters, Ava and Ainsley, through the dusky golden light. Iris seriously considered joining them-a good game of tag seemed like a better way to spend an evening than this tenth circle of hell. Of course, Iris had expected this. Just last month, at a gathering to celebrate Aiden's move from San Francisco to Portland, Iris had found herself seated next to her mother's hairstylist at dinner, a lovely lavender-haired woman named Hilda who led off the conversation by asking if Iris was a fan of guinea pigs. Iris then spent the next week wasting at least five thousand words on her novel as Tegan wandered around looking for a meet-cute in a PetSmart. She'd ended up scrapping the whole thing, then promptly blamed her mother for the horrible inspiration. "You know that stuff will kill you," Zach said, nodding toward her soda and smiling wryly, showing all of his perfect teeth. He was a white guy-blond hair, blue eyes-but he was also vaguely . . . orange. Iris had to bite back a reply about tanning beds and skin cancer. "Oh, see if you can get her to drink more water, Zach," Maeve said as she came outside with a tray of homemade veggie burgers for the grill. "Water is really the only thing I drink," he said, leaning his elbows on his knees, admittedly impressive biceps flexing. "That and the occasional cup of green tea." "Jesus Christ," Iris said, chugging back some more soda. "What was that?" Zach said, leaning closer to her. His salty-piney cologne washed over her-a tsunami rather than a gentle wave-and she coughed a little. "I said cheese and crackers," she said, slapping the table and standing up. She tugged at her cropped green sweater, which just barely covered her midriff. "I think we need some." "Cheese and crackers, cheese and crackers!" Ava and Ainsley both chanted in between giggles and squeals from the yard, where Aiden had them both hoisted over his broad shoulders. Their long auburn hair nearly brushed the grass. Aiden deposited the girls on the top porch step, and Iris immediately pounced, grabbing their tiny hands with her own. She moved so fast, she imagined she looked like a vulture descending from the sky, but honestly, she didn't care. She would one hundred percent use her adorable nieces to get her out of this situation. "I can get it, honey," her mother said, depositing the platter of burgers into her husband's hands and moving back toward the door. "No!" Iris yelled. She slapped on a smile and softened her voice. "I can do it, Mom, you take a load off." And with that, she pulled Ava and Ainsley into the house, walking so fast their gangly legs nearly tangled with hers. She managed to get all three of them inside without ending up in a heap on the floor and bustled the two little girls into the kitchen through some carefully curated tickles. Aromas of baking bread and sugar greeted them. Emma's husband, Charlie, was mashing potatoes in a giant blue ceramic bowl, forearms flexing, while Aiden's wife, Addison-resplendent in a belted shirt dress and ruffly apron-laid strips of pastry over what looked like a rhubarb and strawberry pie. It was like a fucking Norman Rockwell painting in here. Iris waved at her siblings-in-law, then quickly located the charcuterie platter on the butcher block island her mother had already prepared. She immediately stuffed a rectangle of cheddar in her mouth, then spread a smear of brie onto a sesame seed cracker before dipping the whole thing into a tiny stainless steel cup full of locally sourced honey. "Easy," Addison said as the twins reached for their own snacks. "Don't ruin your appetites." Iris stuffed another delectable, meal-ruining square of bliss into her mouth. Addison was nice, and she and Iris had always gotten along okay, but the woman still dressed the twins in matching outfits, braided their hair in the same styles, and ran a mommy blog about how to balance style with efficiency in the home. She also had a tiny long-haired chihuahua named Apple, cementing their only A-names allowed household. Not that there was anything wrong with any of that, but Iris, whose apartment was an amalgam of mismatched furniture and housed a drawerful of various sex toys in both of her nightstands, was never quite sure how to bond with her sister-in-law. Especially when Addison said shit like Don't ruin your appetites to kids eating tiny cubes of cheese. Iris made a point to slather the honey extra thick onto her next cracker. Conveniently, this also meant her mouth was practically glued shut when her mother bustled into the kitchen, eyes aglow and fixed on Iris. "So?" Maeve said. "What do you think?" Behind her, both Aiden and Emma, along with baby Christopher, spilled into the room. "Yeah, Iris, what do you think?" Aiden said with a smirk, popping a square of pepper jack into his mouth. Iris glared at him. Growing up, she and Aiden had been pretty close. He was only two years older than she was, and he worked as a designer at Google. He and Iris were both creative, both prone to dreaming, but ever since he married Addison and became a dad, they hardly ever talked except at family events like this one. Not that Iris didn't understand-he was busy. He had a family, kids to feed and mold into responsible human beings, a spouse. He was needed, while Iris spent most of her time lately staring up at her dust-covered ceiling fan wondering why the hell she ever thought writing was the correct career choice after she closed her paper shop last summer. "What do I think about what?" Iris said, playing ignorant. "I think he's cute," Emma said, swaying while Christopher dozed in her arms. He squirmed a little, wrinkled eyes closed, mouth a tiny adorable rosebud. "You would," Iris said to Emma. Emma was . . . well, she had her shit together. Always had. Three years younger than Iris, she'd married the perfect man at twenty-four, already worked her way to junior executive at a lucrative advertising agency in Portland by twenty-six, and popped out a kid at twenty-seven. Incidentally, this timetable had always been her plan, from age sixteen when she skipped her sophomore year and made a perfect 1600 on her SATs. "There's nothing wrong with being health conscious," Emma said. "I think someone like that would be good for you." "I can feed myself, Em," Iris said. "Barely," she said. "What did you have for dinner last night? Potato chips? A Lean Cuisine?" Needless to say, Emma and Addison were BFFs and co-chairs of the Perfect-Women-Who-Have-It-All club. Iris imagined it as an elite group that probably met in an opulent, password-guarded penthouse apartment, where all the members brushed each other's gleaming hair and called one another names like Bunny and Miffy and Bitsy. "Actually," Iris said, popping a green olive into her mouth, "I fed on the repressed tears of uptight women who need to get laid, thanks very much." She eyed Charlie. "No offense." He just laughed, cutting cubes of butter into the potatoes, while Emma's mouth puckered up in distaste. Iris felt a twinge of guilt. Unlike Aiden, she and Emma had never been close at all. As a kid, Iris had relished the idea of being a big sister, and there were myriad pictures of the precious Emma-the youngest, the surprise blessing, the completing jewel in the Kelly family crown-cuddled in Iris's arms. As the years passed, their roles shifted, the line between older and younger sister blurring, as Emma always seemed to know the answer, the right behavior, the correct choice, a split second before Iris did. If Iris figured it out at all. "Iris, really," her mother said, taking Christopher from Emma and patting his back. "Your father and I worry about you," Maeve went on. "All alone in your apartment, no roommate, no steady job, no boyfriend-" "Partner." Her mother winced. Maeve and Liam Kelly, both survivors of Irish Catholic upbringings, had always accepted Iris's bisexuality with open arms and hearts-even going so far as to set her up with Maeve's queer, guinea pig-loving hairstylist-but they still got trapped in heteronormative language sometimes, particularly when all of Iris's siblings were straight as fucking arrows. "Sorry, honey," Maeve said. "Partner." "And I have a job," Iris said. "Writing those SEAs or whatever you call them that you don't even experience?" Maeve said. Excerpted from Iris Kelly Doesn't Date by Ashley Herring Blake All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.