Her Pretend Christmas Date
Nobody does holiday romance like Jackie Lau, and her fake dating, grumpy-loves-the-sunshine-one romance Her Pretend Christmas Date brings her talents for humor, warmth and wit to the fore.
Flighty waitress Julie Tam’s roommate Bridget is a born matchmaker, which is how she ends up on a date with the far-too-formal and stuffy Tom Yeung. Julie is chaotic and free-spirited; she cannot imagine things ever working out with Tom.
The feeling is mutual for pharmacist Tom, who is efficient, methodical and somewhat horrified by Julie’s sloppiness and love of reality television. After an awkward date, both believe they’ll never see each other again.
Enter Julie’s matchmaking mom, and the white lie Julie tells her to get out of further holiday-based matchmaking – that blind date Tom is now her boyfriend. She lies to her parents about how well their subsequent (non-existent) dates have gone, and the fiction spirals so far out of control that her parents invite them to come to Lake Huron for the holidays and a family get-together. Julie calls Tom in a panic and asks him to pretend do be her boyfriend. To her shock, Tom accepts – mostly because he was going to be alone for the holiday anyway, as his parents are out of the country visiting his sick uncle.
Together with Julie’s sister Charlotte and her boyfriend, Mike, Julie and Tom journey to Ashton Corners, near Lake Huron, where bed sharing, family gingerbread house (and candy!) competitions and long winter walks do their magic. But can Tom and Julie craft a true love story from their beautiful disaster of a Christmas weekend?
Jackie Lau knows what she’s doing when she gives you a holiday romance – the high pressure expectations, the warm fuzzy winter feelings, and the fun, spicy let’s-keep-it-quiet-so-my-folks-can’t-hear interludes. Lau’s sense of humor and the way her characters have fun with the tropes presented here are terrific.
Because yes, there is bed sharing, and matchmaking parents, and beautiful snowy nights. In one hundred pages, the author quickly establishes who her characters are and what they do. Julie is the right kind of believably quirky – she wears a koala hat, but she earnestly wants to make her parents see her as an adult and be proud of her, and Tom’s sense of organization begins to help her reach those goals. She can sometimes be harsh, especially at her most intense, and Tom actually likes it. Tom lives on a schedule and learns to accept a little variety in his life. They have spicy sex and spend time watching movies together.
In spite of themselves there is a great love there, and though we don’t follow them down the aisle there’s enough there to make us believe in forever.
Such are the depths of Lau’s talents, which are fathomless. She knows how to make a reader smile, and smile her audience will. That’s all Her Pretend Christmas Date requires of the reader, and I’m only marking it down a bit due to the fact that it lacks the punch of Pregnant by the Playboy, my favorite Lau of the year. But Her Pretend Christmas Date will make you will smile.