His Convenient New York Bride
Sometimes I’m shallow when I pick out my books. I’ll admit that I ordered His Convenient New York Bride based 100% on the cover. When I got to this month’s prompt and saw that it was “dressed for success”, current me was thanking January 2020 me for getting a book that would actually fit the prompt. Sadly, while the book fit the prompt, it was a fairly ‘meh’ read for me.
Forced marriage and its near cousin, fake marriage, can be tough sells in a contemporary. However, Jin Zhang has a compelling reason for letting himself be prodded into marriage. Zhang has always loved LilyZ, the fashion line developed by his grandfather. The line survives despite his father’s mismanagement and generally dissolute ways, and Zhang inherits the business outright – if he marries.
Zhang’s parents’ bitter divorce and Jin’s own recent divorce haven’t exactly recommended the married state to him. However, he has an idea. His best friend’s younger sister, Mimi Stewart, is a talented young designer. If Jin marries her, he can bring her in as new head designer for LIlyZ. For Mimi, whose career has floundered in the wake of a whisper campaign by her ex-boyfriend, this would be the chance of a lifetime. And then there’s the fact that she has had a huge crush on Jin Zhang since they were teenagers together.
Jin draws clear boundary lines at the beginning, but as is the case in these types of stories, the lines blur. Each is attracted to the other and cannot help getting closer and closer. Friendship starts turning into something more.
On the one hand, I liked the chemistry between Jin and Mimi. They have great energy working together as designers and their romantic chemistry is flirty and fun as well. However, both of them are coming from a place of having been very deeply hurt. This comes up from time to time in the story, but I felt like it didn’t get dealt with in a very satisfying fashion. The two just go from hurt to wild about each other. If there had been more exploration of the emotions there, I think the story would have captured me more
This book also me think about the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, the author made some plot choices that felt uncomfortably on the wrong side of that divide for me. On the one hand, Mimi clearly has a history with her husband’s family and that has long included sharing Chinese New Year and other holiday traditions with them, at their invitation. The story takes place partly during the New Year, and that is woven pretty naturally into the story.
However, there are other instances where Mimi(who is white) goes to an event wearing a cheongsam or when she plans (apparently without much input from Zhang) an event for LilyZ that is almost stereotypically Chinese, with tea, lanterns, a lion dancer and other similar touches. And then there was the moment when Mimi realizes her feelings for Jin and that is described as, “A gong echoed through her.” Reading it made me uncomfortable, and I wondered how a reader who is Chinese would view it. The author does not appear to be an own voices author, so that may have played into my reaction to these scenes as well.
I liked the cover of His Convenient New York Bride, and the premise definitely caught my eye. However, the blah romance and some of the ways in which the author showed the heroine basically appropriating the hero’s culture just did not work for me. The fashion details in this story are pretty cool, but it’s not a romance I can recommend.