He's Not My Boyfriend
After her cousin’s wedding, dedicated singleton Iris Chin becomes the target of family matchmaking. She prefers one-night stands, like the incredibly hot one she had with Alex Kwong. But when Iris’s engineering job lands her on a site where Alex is the construction supervisor, love ‘em and leave ‘em isn’t possible. Despite an oversimplified heroine, I enjoyed He’s Not My Boyfriend for its nice, supportive hero and secondary characters (Alex’s grieving father, Iris’s adventurous grandmother), who shine.
Iris has decided that she needs to remain single because loving a man means losing her identity. This conviction is based on her parents’ union (it’s not possible for her talkative, former free-spirit mother to be happy with her staid dad!) and her grandmother Ngin Ngin’s marriage. This frustrated me so much, because both of her references are so patently flawed. And of course, both of these women had conversations with Iris at critical junctures, which readers knew they would, and the big barrier to her being with Alex went *poof.*
So I didn’t really like the plot arc. There were, however, things I really liked along the way. Alex is a great example of a hero who is hero material because of who he is, not the trappings the author staples to him. He has no college degree, he’s described as only 5’8 (although Iris is much shorter), and Iris, who has “seen many dicks in her time”, describes him as “average length… but a little thicker than average.” Okay, he has abs for days, but guess what? Readers don’t need a man to be a six-foot-four billionaire packing the Horn of Gondor if you make him, gosh, a good listener, an eager cunnilinguist, a patient partner, and a thoughtful son. I loved that after his inappropriate first worksite interaction with Iris, he apologized, and then completely stopped any form of sexual banter at the workplace until Iris explicitly asked him to resume it. His grief for his mother and his and his father’s struggle to relate in her absence felt so authentic. I also loved his dad, whose awkward gifts of food are finally explained in a scene that makes you just want to give that man a hug.
There is a tendency towards cutesy character traits instead of truthful characters in the women, as, for instance, engineer Iris notoriously can’t cook. Iris’s grandmother first reads like a type, the sassy old lady who talks bluntly about sex and embarrasses her granddaughter with her matchmaking. However, both Ngin Ngin and Iris’s mother become more complex and developed towards the end of the book. Ngin Ngin has some moments of true pathos, as when she grieves that her advanced age (ninety-three) means she will never know what her great-grandchild will look like as an adult. The truths behind her marriage and that of Iris’s mother are interesting and strong, but of course the fact that Iris knows nothing about them and never asked makes her seem even more immature and flat as a character.
Most of my problems with this book revolve around Iris, but even those aren’t enough to have kept me from finding the book a solid read. I will definitely be trying Jackie Lau again – especially since her other books will have different heroines!