Jackie Lau

Books: Romance

Baldwin Village: One Bed for Christmas (2018), The Ultimate Pi Day Party (2019), Ice Cream Lover (2019), Donut Fall in Love (2021)

Baldwin Village

One Bed for Christmas (2018)

One Bed for ChristmasWes Chang has been in love with Caitlin Ng since she almost knocked him unconscious with a door their freshman year in college.

But Caitlin is a successful CEO and Wes… Wes is now living a life that makes him happy, but he is a disappointment to his family and thus in no way good enough for Caitlin.

Even if he still loves her.

I figured I finally needed to make an effort to get over Caitlin, after more than twelve years of being pathetically in love with her. I want to stay friends, but I thought a little time apart would do me good.

What I really liked about this book was the T-Rex costume.

(F)our elderly men walk onto the make-shift stage and start singing "Silent Night" acappella.

Okay, I'm confused. What does Wes have to do with a barbershop quartet?

Laughter ripples through the room. The T-Rex is making his way onto the stage, wearing a poinsettia garland around his neck. He turns around, his back to the audience, and shakes his tail, and there's even more laughter, but all the singers keep a straight face.

None of this makes any sense whatsoever.

I haven't laughed so much in a long time.

That is such a delightful premise! How can you not adore a guy with a side hustle as a T-Rex for a barbershop quartet?

And I really adored the bits with the barbershop quartet.

This is followed by a five-minute conversation about erections and aging, which I can't say I needed, but I'm not cringing near as much as Bernie's son, who finally cuts Bernie off by shouting, "I don't need to learn about my father's sex life!"

"Okay, okay," Bernie says. "Between the five of us, we have over four hundred years of life experience."

What did not work for me was (of course) all the sex. I wanted more dinosaur costume and baking and Christmas decorations. And being me, I was kinda horrified by Wes thinking they could have sex and it wouldn't wreck him.

For once I didn't dislike the Big Misunderstanding, because it was quickly resolved, and it actually made sense for Wes to believe he wasn't good enough for Caitlin.

Publisher: Jackie Lau Books

August 2021 | Rating: 6/10

The Ultimate Pi Day Party (2019)

The Ultimate Pi Day PartyJosh Yu is a successful CEO and on the list of the "35 Most Eligible Bachelors Under 35 in Toronto.

But he doesn't have love. Of a partner or his father. Despite the fact that everything he has done is to try and live up to his father's expectations.

Sarah Winters' dream was to move to Toronto and open a bakery, and for the past year she has managed that. Sure, she wants to get bigger, but right now she is succeeding in her dream–even if she is a bit lonely.

"The butter tart guy wanted fifteen butter tarts, one letter on top of each tart to spell 'Will you marry me?' Then he contacted me the day of, wondering if he should have six more butter tarts to add 'please' to the question."

When Josh comes in looking for someone to provide pie for his "ultimate pi day party" she is hoping this might help her make it bigger–and is he maybe flirting with her?

"But why do you personally need to spend an hour on a Wednesday at a pie shop?" She looks at me suspiciously. "I bet the person you're meeting with is a very attractive woman, am I right?"

"Why would you say that?"

"No reason." She smirks.

What I loved about this story: the food. YUM. So much pie!

He snaps his fingers. "Nutella. I want you to make me some kind of Nutella pie, and something else with hazelnuts— whatever you think would work."

I don't even like hazelnuts or Nutella, but the pies and tarts still sounded amazing.

I also loved Josh's best friend.

"It's so nice to meet you," Amrita gushes. "I've heard so much about you. Josh talks about you all the time."

"Does he?" Sarah sounds slightly alarmed.

"Almost never, to be honest, which is why I decided I had to meet you."

What fell flat for me: Sarah's new friendships, and parts of conflict between Josh and his father–especially where things fell apart.

I loved that Sarah was trying to make friends (and was succeeding) but I never really quite believed she was making friends with Chloe and Valerie. Part of it was that this paralleled her relationships with Josh, and I had a very hard time believing she had the time to run her business, start a relationship and make new best friends. Especially since she was still putting 12+ hours days into her business.

I wanted her to be friends with Chloe and Valerie, I just never believed she was actually doing it.

And there was a ton of boinking. Which: boring. I mean, all those pages of sex could instead have been spent on baking and food.

But the biggest problem was the conflict with Josh and his father and why things fell back apart. Which lead to The Conflict. Both bits felt manufactured and ridiculous and irritated me.

So, despite the food, the story overall was a bit of a disappointment.

Publisher: Jackie Lau Books

August 2021 | Rating: 6/10

Ice Cream Lover (2019)

Ice Cream LoverDrew Lum has sworn off dating. His fiancee left him standing at the alter, and then wrote a book about "your inner ice cream sandwich" that accuses Drew (under a pseudonym) of stifling her, being a terrible boyfriend, and someone who would make a terrible father.

Chloe Jenkin's mother died four years ago, and it upended her life. Instead of becoming a dentist as everyone expected, she dropped out of college and just opened her own ice cream shop–a shop focusing on Asian flavors.

So Drew is a grump–everyone says so (including him)–but he doesn't especially come off as that grumpy in the story.

Of course, I could try to change who I am as a person, but the two days I spent attempting to be cheerful and charming last fall were a disaster. Everyone looked at me funny, probably thinking I was on drugs, and it felt so forced and uncomfortable.

But to be honest, he doesn't come across as grumpy in the story. Much of the early story, when he isn't think about the book his ex wrote about him, he's with his niece, and he is very much not a grump around her.

"I ordered the lemon-lime tart, pecan pie, and strawberry-rhubarb pie for you."

"Yes, because what I need is three slices of pie."

"You're lots bigger than me, so you need lots more dessert."

"Let me guess," I say. "You were planning on trying all of these desserts?"

She nods vigorously. "But just a little bite."

Chloe is a little more complicated.

In addition to being the only non-white person in my dad's family, I'm also the only one— to my knowledge— who isn't straight.

She's also relentlessly chipper and outgoing.

I really wanted to like this story. It had so much going for it, from lots of descriptions of food, to own-voices characters.

But a some of it just plain didn't work for me (ie, the casual sex) and some of it felt off to me (ie, Drew being a known grump). And I had issues with the Big Misunderstanding and it's resolution. Primarily that Drew would have caused the Big Misunderstanding after Chloe came to him a mess after a fight with her father (the way that worked out just felt mean) and then Chole's willingness to forgive and forget with almost no effort on Drew's part.

Mind you, this wasn't a bad book, it just was not a book for me.

Publisher: Jackie Lau Books

September 2020 | Rating: 6.5/10

Donut Fall in Love (2021)

Donut Fall in LoveRyan Kwok is worried that his latest movie is a flop.

This movie could be a major setback. Movies about guys like him weren't allowed to flop. People would point at this single movie as proof that no more like it should be made.

He's also dealing with the unexpected loss of his mother–and the difficult relationship he has with his father.

And that was a nice memory . . . but nice memories were painful now. Because they couldn't make any more.

So he decided he needed a break before he said something he'd regret.

Someone had asked him a question about diversity, and he'd almost lost it. He was usually pretty good at giving smooth and sufficiently thoughtful answers, but he'd wanted to scream about how white people didn't get asked these questions every damn time they did an interview.

But when an opportunity to do a brief stint on a baking show comes up, he decides to take it–although he is definitely going to take baking lessons.

Lindsay McLeod is delighted the bakery she runs with her best friend is a success. Maybe it's been years since she's dated–or made new friends–but that's ok because the bakery is going great!

She felt like she couldn't connect with anyone she hadn't known for a long time, and she also couldn't stand to form close relationships with people who hadn't known her before, who only knew the after.

There are a surprising number of serious subjects going on in this book.

"Oh, I forgot to mention something about Harold."

Please don't tell me how good a kisser he is. Please.

"He's Chinese." That was actually quite surprising.

Lindsay's mother was a bit of an Asian-hating Asian. It had taken a while for Lindsay to comprehend the extent of her mom's internalized racism, but eventually it had become obvious.

I'd actually seen this one coming pretty early on, and it is one of the reasons I kept reading once the romance kicked up into a lot of boinking.

"She has an appointment with her doctor this afternoon because we think she has postpartum depression, so if you could make sure she gets to that, it would be great. I . . ." He trailed off.

I was happy that the boinking was very easy to skip–and I don't feel like I missed any important discussions that happened during the sex scenes, so that was a plus. Yeah, there was a fair bit to skip, but it was easy to see the starts and ends to those bits.

And the baking was lovely!

"Why are there weights next to the volume measurements?" he asked.

"We measure by weight— it's more accurate— but home bakers often don't do that."

It's a pleasure to see baking stories told by people who actually love to bake (or at the very least know what they're doing).

As noted, there are a lot of serious subjects here, but they were extremely well dealt with, and the overall mood leaned into the HEA. However, the romance was the weakest part of the story for me here, possibly because a a good deal of it leaned on the sexual attraction between the two, and that is almost never going to work forme. But everything else was really well done.

Publisher: Berkley

September 2023 | Rating: 7.5/10