Actor Ryan Kwok is back in Toronto after the promotional tour for his latest film, a rom-com that is getting less-than-stellar reviews. After years of constant work and the sudden death of his mother, Ryan is taking some much-needed time off. But as he tries to be supportive to his family, he struggles with his loss and doesn't know how to talk to his dad—who now trolls him on Twitter instead of meeting him for dim sum.
Innovative baker Lindsay McLeod meets Ryan when he knocks over two dozen specialty donuts at her bakery. Their relationship is off to a messy start, but there’s no denying their immediate attraction. When Ryan signs up for a celebrity episode of Baking Fail, he asks Lindsay to teach him how to bake and she agrees.
As Lindsay and Ryan spend time together, bonding over grief and bubble tea, it starts to feel like they’re cooking up something sweeter than cupcakes in the kitchen.
AAR's Caroline Russomanno and Lisa Fernandes read Jackie Lau's latest romance and are here to share their thoughts.
Lisa: I have a deep fondness for the way Jackie Lau combines family situations with romance, and this book was no exception. How did you feel about the Kwok family?
Caroline: Ryan’s family was my favorite part of the book. I’m always grateful when authors take a more realistic approach to life with newborns, and I empathized with his sister’s post-partum shell shock. I understood why the Kwok men didn’t know how to step up, but oh, Lord, I wanted to shake them. Here is my universal PSA for helping new parents: Bring food, offer to hold the baby while they nap, do the dishes, and leave before they have to ask.
Lisa: Gosh, yes - I loved them and thought they were realistically self-absorbed, but I still wanted to shake them!
Caroline: Ryan’s dad, who struggles to show emotion, is a scene-stealing and well-developed secondary character. His twitter account, where he snarks about his famous son, is funny, but you can understand why it bothers Ryan that his dad nas never communicated with him in person as much as he does with strangers online. I liked that this relationship was complicated and its resolution wasn’t oversimplified.
Lisa: Jackie Lau is so well-known for her secondary characters, so I’m not shocked Ryan’s dad worked so well for you. I like the way the author writes about parent characters, and this worked for me in general.
Caroline: What about the subplot with Ryan’s friend and fellow actor, who behaved pretty appallingly on a group date with Lindsay’s roommate? For me, that was weirdly out of tone with the rest of the book.
Lisa: THAT was kind of out of the blue, and seemed used as a way to set up Ryan’s as a‘better’ alternative to the nasty behaviour of his friend. I liked Lindsay and Ryan a lot. What did you think about them?
Caroline: My least favorite aspect of this book was Lindsay’s sense that a reasonably successful actor is elevated in a way that makes him practically a separate species. I have so many of these quotes highlighted - “He was a good guy, but she wasn’t part of his world,” “She wasn’t in his echelon,” “You’re… not like me.” I’ve seen this faux-obstacle a lot, and I’m kinda over it. Did it bug you?
Lisa: Maybe it’s because I watched True Story just a little bit before reading the book, but I found that to be a mostly realistic point of view on what it's like to date a celebrity - the person stands outside the normal world and there you are dealing with their fallout. I agree it comes up a lot in celebrity/normal folks romances, though, and might have been better done away with.
Caroline: Yeah, it’s not that it’s unrealistic, it’s that it’s unsatisfying for the reader. It always accompanies a willful lack of communication about insecurities that feels immature and contrived. We know very early on we are either headed for “I have to break up with him first” or “Oh, wait, I’m going to move on from this enormous insecurity through a magical revelation.” It’s going to be a lifelong issue for these couples and as a romance reader, I don’t know if that works for me.
Lisa: That makes sense to me; she needed to get back on the same level as him on a personal level, and it never happened.
Caroline: How about the bakery setting? Lau never fails to get me drooling with her food descriptions (this isn’t her first baker heroine - I DIK’d The Ultimate Pi Day Party with another baking lead), and I thought she developed the techniques and the setting of a commercial kitchen well.
Lisa: Jackie Lau has written so many delightful foodie romances and this is absolutely no exception to the rule. She does well here, and every single little detail related to that made me hungry, which is the highest compliment I can pay the book!
Caroline: It was especially funny to me when the author deliberately had them not have sex in the kitchen for sanitation reasons.
Lisa: The kind of detail work I totally expect from Jackie Lau, hah!
Caroline: Overall this gets a B. It’s a perfectly serviceable romance, but not one I need to reread or one I think will stay strongly with me.
Lisa: Going a little higher than you with a B+ because I really liked Ryan and Lindsay and their families!
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