Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

I got this when the author put it up for free on Kindle during the last Pi Day. I don't normally like fluffy romances, but I really enjoyed reading GRUMPY FAKE BOYFRIEND, and that cover just screams awesome. A while ago, I watched a video on YouTube deconstructing toxic tropes in movies and TV shows, and it talked about how Asian men are often put in stereotypical roles for comic relief and are rarely portrayed as love interests (in fact, much of the time they are awkward and single). It's sad that it's only now, in the year 2020, that this is really starting to change, and I think it's something to be mindful about when consuming media that has people of color: just what roles exactly are they filling? Is the role a stereotype? Is it meant to be inclusive? Respectful?

Or is it just a cheap laugh?

Josh Yu is definitely a strong love interest in every sense of the word (those abs!). He's the CEO of a tech company and single. When he contracts an order of pies with the cute (white) owner of a local pie shop, it's attraction at first sight. They get together and their relationship is a wonderful whirlwind of tasty snacks, respectful sex, and witty banter. But this book is not saccharine sweet at all. Josh is estranged from his father and is really struggling with that. Sarah's business is expanding and she's experiencing the usual growing pains and is terrified of messing up.

Will their insecurities make them closer? Or pull them apart?

So there were a lot of things I really liked about this book. I liked how it went about interracial dating and relationships. I liked the little insights into Josh's culture (Chinese by way of Hong Kong). The fighting over the bill scenes actually made me laugh. I liked all the emphasis on family and how we got to see both Sarah and Josh with their families and see how those relationships shaped them for better or for worse. I loved the portrayal of Toronto, and especially Toronto's food scene, and how it was basically a love song to the city. Courtney Milan did that to Berkeley, CA with her book, HOLD ME, and it was one of the things I loved most about it. I also enjoyed the frank discussions about menstruation and periods, and how Josh went out to get her feminine hygiene products. Love.

Speaking of, I loved how this (gently) poked fun at Harlequin CEO romances while flipping the bird to toxic masculinity. It really pointed out how those CEOs are often toxic and abusive, whereas a good CEO should be warm and work to be inclusive, and Josh is all of those things and they translate into how he manages his personal relationships, too. I love bodice-rippers and some of those vintage Harlequin Presents books, even though the love interests are awful, but I think this book did a good job showing that they are just escapist fantasy and definitely should not be a reflection of one's reality.

I'm giving this three stars because it was, much like a slice of pie, just a little too sweet and not really as satisfying as something that is meatier and more complex. I really enjoyed the story but this is pure fluff, and it is very good at being fluff, but the story doesn't really linger in a way that feels memorable. It was exactly what I needed right now, though, and helped lift me out of a bad day.

3 out of 5 stars

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