Published February 14, 2024

You deserve a little treat. In addition to the candy, flowers, and candles you might be gifting or receiving this Valentine’s Day, consider adding… books!

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake and In Charm’s Way by Lana Harper are two queer romcoms that will be featured in the Festival panel Better Halves, moderated by MK England on Friday, March 22nd. With a little over a month to go before the Festival, you should have just enough time to read (or listen) to both!

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date is the third book in Blake’s Bright Falls series. Bright Falls is a small town in the Pacific Northwest drawn with loving detail and full of homey coffee shops, inns, dive bars, and bakeries. With Bright Falls as their backdrop, a trio of friends–Astrid, Claire, and Iris–meet their matches, test their friendships, and come into their own.

In this novel, free spirit Iris is feeling like the odd one out–all of her friends are coupled up, she has writer’s block, she’s stuck in a rut–until she meets Stevie, an actress grappling with anxiety, and fake dating ensues! This is a great, steamy series that also features deep friendships and thoughtful explorations of queer identity.

While Thistle Grove and Bright Falls are set in very different realms–one magical, one contemporary– these series also have a great deal in common. 

In Charm’s Way is the fourth book in Harper’s Witches of Thistle Grove series. Thistle Grove is a charmed town whose four founding families have long histories and rivalries with each other. Each book in the series focuses on different characters from the town, gradually deepening its mythology and expanding its universe.

In Charm’s Way highlights Deliliah, a member of one of the families, who becomes a monster magnet after a spell goes awry. She makes an unlikely alliance with monster hunter Catriona who’s determined to protect her–but may also have ulterior motives. This enchanting series (also very steamy!!) builds a lovely, magical world full of lore while also considering how to balance familial expectations with our own desires.

While Thistle Grove and Bright Falls are set in very different realms–one magical, one contemporary– these series also have a great deal in common. Both grapple with the idea of a hometown and the sometimes complicated relationships we have with where we grew up. Both feature tight-knit friend groups and families that simultaneously sustain and challenge the relationships of their heroines. I’d argue, too, that both series show the emotional depth and entertainment that modern romcoms are capable of.

Join us at the Omni on March 22nd for Better Halves to hear more from these bestselling authors!

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With generous support from Michelle and David Baldacci

Cornell NEH Virginia Public Media - NPR & PBS Charlottesville Albemarle UVA CHO