A Big Surprise for Valentine's Day
Jackie Lau’s lighthearted romantic comedy series Holidays with the Wongs concludes with A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day. I’ve enjoyed all the titles in the series as each of the Wong siblings has found a partner and now it’s youngest sibling Amber’s turn.
Amber lives in Stratford where she works in marketing and is happily single having had a few relationships that didn’t work out. She even made a cross-stitch picture with the phrase ‘Queen of Bad Boyfriends’ to remind herself that her choices have been less than stellar. But she misses sex. Now that it’s the new year, she’s made a resolution to find some good sex without having to go through the effort of actual dating – in other words, she needs to find a hookup. In her quest to be prepared she heads to her local pharmacy to pick up some condoms, where she runs into Sebastian, a local doctor who recently moved back to the area and an old friend of her brother Zach (and whose parents are friends with her parents). And he’s picking up condoms too – magnum ones, to Amber’s disdain. No guy she’s ever been with has needed the extra large size, and massaging their ego had resulted in ill-fitting condoms and bad sexual experiences.
But Sebastian isn’t thrown off by her eye-rolling and assures her that they fit ‘snugly’. A little flirting, the realization that they are both single and interested in the same thing – sex with no commitment and definitely keeping their families unaware of what they’re up to – and they make plans to meet. One time leads to another, and another. But as they navigate their secret affair, it becomes less about the sex (which is really good, no mistake) and more about spending time together and sharing confidences. Is it going to end up being an actual relationship after all?
Trust Jackie Lau to make a first sex scene a memorable one! Sebastian, it turns out, does need the magnum sized condom and indeed in their first sexual encounter, they have some trouble with his actual penis size – because – IT DOESN’T FIT! Now, this is a recurring refrain in romance novels where a woman will see the size of a man’s penis and look with shock and awe at his immense size and declare that it won’t fit, and the man will smugly declare that of course it will – and it always does. Except that this time it doesn’t. This makes for an awkward and funny scene and indeed calls for the liberal use of lube (an excellent item to have on hand) and foreplay to make all their parts fit together nicely. Once they get over that hurdle, they both have an excellent time – so much so, that they’re definitely interested in doing it again.
Since sex is the thing that brings Amber and Sebastian together, they do it a lot, making this story heavier on the sex scenes than others in the series. But it’s Sebastian who starts to want more with Amber and for her to consider actually dating and bringing their affair out into the open. Amber is hesitant and Sebastian almost ruins it all by making plans she isn’t ready for. But her rejection of him doesn’t last long when she thinks back over the experiences they’ve had together and realizes he really is the perfect boyfriend for her, leading to a big grovel on her part (nice to see that it’s not always the male character in a m/f romance who needs to do the work to fix things!) and their quite satisfying happy ending.
In the mostly white town of Stratford, Amber has two best friends, Gloria who is also Chinese Canadian like her and is a costume designer, and Roxanne, a black woman who works at a dance studio. The three friends are honest with each other about all aspects of their lives, including their sexual adventures (or misadventures) and Gloria and Roxanne are fully supportive of Amber’s new hookup action. But they can also see that Sebastian is good for her and encourage her to consider more with him.
Like in the other books, the Wong parents and grandparents, especially Ah Ma (who steals every scene she’s in) give the reader lots of laughs but come across as affectionate and caring, if sometimes stubborn and interfering. Hence why Amber wants to keep Sebastian to herself, and it’s funny to watch her and Sebastian go through a lot of hoops to keep their parents from finding out about them. The best part about these stories is that they show a wonderfully close-knit family with all their quirks and flaws and characters who feel very real and likable. Amber and Sebastian’s romance is a successful finish to the Wong family series and all the books will definitely be on my re-read list.