Continuing with the Genre Challenge:
Read a Multi-Cultural Romance
For this category, I read two books which will wrap up the genre part of my reading challenge. The first was Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You, published in 2017. This book is the first of a trilogy (I think) and involves a long relationship between two families who were interconnected by friendship as well as business.
When we begin the story, we learn that the heroine, Livvy, has been traveling the country and hasn’t seen much of her family for almost a decade. Our hero, Nicholas, has stayed at home in Rockville, New York. Livvy and Nicholas’ grandfathers used to be partners in an expanding grocery store business. Livvy’s family is Japanese American and Nicholas’ comes from a European American background. They were not only business partners but friends. Unfortunately the friendship/partnership didn’t carry over as well to the next generation, and because of a scandal that led to tragedy involving members of both families, Nicholas’ father bought out the business from Livvy’s mother at what appeared to be unfavorable terms. As a result, resentments spilled over to the third generation which badly affected a burgeoning love affair between Livvy and Nicholas. Under pressure from his father, Nicholas broke up with Livvy which ultimately led to her leaving home, pursuing a career as a tattoo artist while Nicholas became an executive in the grocery chain. In the ten years since Livvy left, Nicholas and she would meet once a year for a night of no strings attached passion, but now she’s back in town to try and reconnect with her family which promises to upset the precarious truce the two families have lived under.
This story has a lot of personal inter-relationships and history to introduce and have us care about, so at first, I found myself having to go back and reread in order to refresh my memory on the details. Interspersed with all of that are a number of passionate encounters between our hero and heroine, which I found to be one too many. I understand that the couple was wildly attracted and couldn’t keep their hands off each other, but I kind of got bored with the sex and wanted more of the family dynamics, especially since there are two additional books in which other members of the family will be the focus. This is the first book of Rai’s I’ve read and I believe her earlier work was more on the erotic side. So, I get that that’s a big part of her style. But, this book – and perhaps the others in this series – would be better served by less eroticism and more storytelling. In any event, I’m hoping that’s the case since the second book of the series is the next one we’re reading for the romance book group I’m in. I have to add, though. I appreciated that the heroine is from a non-white family and also that other characters are also diverse, like Livvy’s sister-in-law who has Pakistani roots. But, the author didn’t do a lot with that. I guess I would give this book a B-.
The second multi-cultural romance I read was a novella titled The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho, published in 2012. Available as an E-read, it’s about 90 pages long.
This story is set in London during the early 1920’s. Our heroine, Jade Yeo, is ethnic Chinese but her immediate family lives in Malaysia, and her extended family – aunt, uncle, and cousins – live in England. If I’m recalling correctly, Jade comes to England to attend school, and ends up staying to pursue a writing career. Although her parents would love her to return and marry a Chinese gentleman they have picked out, Jade is interested in being a modern, independent, career woman. As such, she’s making a modest living submitting articles to journals and magazines, most notably on ladies’ fashion and style. On occasion, she also submits reviews of recently published books, especially to her good friend, Ravi, who is the editor of the Oriental Literary Review and is from India. As a result of the latest book review she’s had published, Jade earns the questionable attention of the celebrated author who invites her to a party he is throwing. Jade is, of course, interested in going to such an exciting event but her review was scathing and so she expects to be raked over the coals. On the contrary, the author is fascinated by Jade and, before you know it, he’s making advances that she knows she should reject….
This story is written in diary form. Jade is amusing, snarky, and definitely has a unique view of the world that sometimes appears fearless and at other times foolish. I wouldn’t exactly call this story a romance since it focuses so much on Jade’s “misadventures.” But, things do work out well for her in spite of her almost naïve, cavalier outlook on life. In fact, she’s damn lucky that it does. (It’s just too bad we don’t get to see much of the relationship in which she ends up.) Unlike the previous book I read, however, Cho’s characters feel like they are rooted in another culture – possibly because they are, even if they are trying to assimilate to the West. Jade might be “modern” – in some ways – but she also retains awareness of the sensibilities of her family and culture, which leads to some of her quirkiest observations. I have to admit I loved the opening line of the story: “I had tea with the intolerable aunt today. Aunt Iris, the one who is so rich she has a new fur every year, and so mean she has installed a tip box by the door of every WC in her house, so you have to pay a charge every time you need to go.” Ha! I’d give this little story a B+.
The Cocktail Challenge – 10 down – complete
Alphabet Challenge – 10 down (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, P, & Q) – complete
Genre Challenge – 10 down – complete