Tuesday, 27 October 2020

#CBR12 Books 76: "Her Big City Neighbor" by Jackie Lau

Page count: 213 pages
Rating: 4 stars

I was given a free copy of this by the author. It has not in any way influenced my review.

Amy Sharpe always wanted to go to graduate school, but when her grandmother got sick, she gave up on those plans and stayed in her small home town to take care of her. After both her grandmother and great aunt has passed away, she has now inherited her great aunt's house in Toronto, and despite the fact that her entire family seems to disapprove of the idea, she is determined to move there and go back to school.

Since the house is more than big enough for two people, Amy gets herself a roommate, Sierra Wu, and in short order makes friends with Sierra's engineering friends from college, who all meet at a local cider bar (hence the title of the series, The Cider Bar Sisters). Amy is a very positive and upbeat person and she clearly delights in all of the treats that a big city like Toronto can offer. As well as trying to sample as much of the food and drink that Toronto's many fine dining establishments can offer, Amy becomes determined to befriend her introverted and surly neighbour Victor Choi, who keeps cutting the grass shirtless. 

Victor was never the most outgoing of people, but after his brother died, he became a bit of a recluse. He goes to work, but rarely sees the need to talk to others. To begin with, he finds Amy and her perkiness incredibly annoying, but just as she openly ogles him when he takes his shirt off, he appreciates the sight of her in her adorable sundresses, as she insists on trying to make friends with him by standing by their shared garden fence and telling him about her adventures around the city. 

While the two neighbours seemingly couldn't be more different, it doesn't take too long before they give into their mutual attraction and start making out in the garden and proceed to an even more intimate relationship. Amy is still getting over her previous relationship, where her boyfriend took her for granted and never treated her the way that she deserved. She doesn't want to get into another relationship unless she can be certain she doesn't have to do all the work, both physical and emotional. Victor isn't ready to admit how much he still hurts from losing his brother, and how afraid he is to open himself up to strong emotions once more. Can these two get over their differences and find a happy ending?

A "complaint" I have made about previous Jackie Lau books is just how hungry I get when I read most of her novels. Food plays such an important part in her stories, and in this novel, I think she's outdone herself. There is such a thing as food porn, and the description of all the amazing things that Amy, from a small town and absolutely thrilled with all the culinary delights that a big city like Toronto has to offer, keeps eating and drinking the most delectable things. As Liz Lemon would say: "I want to go to there". 

As well as giving the readers a very entertaining opposites attract romance, where Victor comes to appreciate Amy's bubbly and cheerful personality, while Amy slowly draws Victor out of his curmudgeonly shell little by little, this book has the added bonus of the female friendships found in the group that makes out the Cider Bar Sisters. Amy is seamlessly included in their already established group speech and it seems pretty certain that each of the five women will get her own book down the line. Smart, ambitious, diverse and kick-ass women being there for one another and supporting the other members of the group is always going to draw me in, whether they are overlooked wallflowers in a Regency historical or engineering graduates in modern Canada, like here.

I really enjoyed this book and devoured it in less than 24 hours. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a nice reprieve from the constant awfulness that 2020 keeps throwing at us, but you may want to make sure you're not reading it on an empty stomach because I assure you, you'll get hungry.

Judging a book by its cover: I like how the cover model meant to portray Victor appears to be holding a sign with the cover of the book. I'm going to be entirely honest and say that considering a big plot point in the early stages of the book is about how attractive Victor is with his shirt off, it feels like a missed opportunity to have the cover model wearing a shirt on the cover, even if his sleeves are rolled up and you can see his attractive, tattooed forearms. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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