Tuesday 23 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 52: "Not Another Family Wedding" by Jackie Lau

Page count: 225 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: Summer Read

Official book description:
Natalie Chin-Williams might be a cranky professor of climatology who thinks the world is doomed, but she believes in lasting love…just not for herself. She has a long history of failed relationships, plus the men she dates inevitably want children and she doesn’t. 

Now thirty-six and single, Natalie expects endless comments about her love life when she attends her baby sister's wedding. Worse, weddings are always drama-filled disasters in her family. She needs emotional support to get through the weekend, so she enlists the help of her friend Connor Douglas, the dependable family doctor.

The wedding reception goes south when a drunk aunt announces a family secret that sends Natalie reeling and shakes her faith in love. Luckily, she has her long-time friend to lean on—a man she somehow ends up kissing. But there’s no way this could turn into anything lasting, is there? That’s impossible for her, especially now…

Fellow Cannonballer, kissing book enthusiast and long-time internet friend Emmalita has reviewed several Jackie Lau books this year, which is what made me really take note of the name. During the discussion of the very super depressing anti-abortion legislation being passed not that long ago, Jackie Lau put this book up for sale for $0.99, because of its pro-choice message. I bought it, and since it also fit into my Keyword Challenge this month, it didn't end up forgotten on my TBR list like so many other sale books do.

So yeah, minor spoiler, the heroine of this book has had an abortion. If that's a deal breaker for you, this is probably a book to avoid. In so much of romance, coupling with a man and having a baby seems to be the goal. The pregnancy epilogue is a popular trope for a reason (especially in historical romance). When I was struggling with fertility problems myself, even contemporary romance novels seemed to be bursting with insultingly fertile couples - women getting knocked up from one-night stands (while using protection and/or on contraception). When you've spent time, money and tremendous amounts on emotions on unsuccessful fertility attempts, that just seems extra hurtful.

We are constantly bombarded with proof that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and much faster than we previously believed or predicted. So many people are choosing not to have children, and now that I do have a child, I'm constantly wracked with guilt about bringing him into this world when we're clearly all going to die, and possibly before he sees adulthood. I'm so sorry, Gabriel. I know many women who don't want children (and who didn't want children even before it became clear that we live in a dystopian nightmare). So if reading romance is difficult for women with fertility issues, I can't imagine how rarely voluntarily childless women find themselves represented.

Natalie is one such woman. She's a climate scientist, so it's no wonder that she doesn't want to bring children into this world, but even before she started researching all the ways in which our planet seems to be doomed, she'd made up her mind. Her mother suffered post-partum depression after having her younger sister, and her father just didn't seem to care about the baby at all, so Natalie took responsibility and pretty much raised her sister for the first year. Even after her parents seemed to step in and do their job, Natalie always felt extra responsible for the girl, and while she likes children and doesn't in any way resent her friends who chose to have them, she never wanted any of her own. Which is why she had an abortion when she accidentally got pregnant, which also resulted in the relationship breaking up.

Now Natalie is worried that she'll never find someone to spend her life with. All the guys she's been dating seem to want kids and a family, that's a total deal breaker for her. She takes her best friend Connor (they've known each other for more than a decade) with her as a date to her sister's wedding, and keeps explaining to well-meaning friends and family that they're "just friends". But after a drunken aunt blurts out a big secret, Natalie is shocked and rattled, and finds comfort in Connor's arms. After a pretty steamy night together, their long friendship seems to be evolving into something more. But Natalie's convinced that Connor must want kids, and her faith in long term relationships having a chance have been further shattered by the drunken wedding revelations.

While I fully respect Natalie's wishes not to have children, and absolutely in no way judge her for having an abortion (you go, girl!), she still annoyed me with her judgemental attitude towards her sister, who clearly wanted different things from her, and her persistent beliefs that she was fundamentally unlovable and would never find (or deserve) lasting love. Even after it becomes clear that Connor can't father and doesn't want children of his own (relationship hurdle avoided), she keeps insisting they won't work out - and it just got on my nerves. I get that she had issues she needed to work though, but to me, it dragged out a bit too long.

There are a few more Jackie Lau books on my TBR list, after I've picked them up cheaply in e-book sales. One of them is the sequel to this one, with Natalie's cousin Iris as the heroine. I liked this book well enough, and keep trying to read more diversely, so will absolutely be checking out more from the author in the future.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't really have a lot to say about this cover. It's cute, it shows you that the heroine is of Asian descent (which, to be fair, might be an important selling point for some). While I'm not a fan of full on smooches on a romance cover, this pose is sweet, intimate and romantic without being too intrusive, I think.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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