Sunday 8 August 2021

#CBR13 Book 28: "The Professor Next Door" by Jackie Lau

Page count: 236 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Pandemic

This book was granted to me as an ARC from the author in return for an honest review. I had already pre-ordered the book, as Jackie Lau is now an auto-buy for me.

While this is technically the third entry in the Cider Bar Sisters series, each of the books in the series works perfectly well as a stand-alone. The first book in the series, Her Big City Neighbor is currently available free, however (as of me writing this), so if you're curious to try the series, that's probably the best place to start.

Nicole Louie-Edwards is very happy to be single and having casual sex with a number of eligible men. She has absolutely no wish to be saddled with a relationship and the one romantic relationship in her past (to a much older man) did not end well. She's getting a bit sick of her hook-ups letting her down gently once they've found someone they'd like to commit to, though, although she tells herself that's because it means she has to find a new bed partner. 

On her birthday, she gets trapped in the lift with her new neighbour, who she discovers is a geology professor. While the quiet, nerdy-looking man isn't Nicole's type at all, she's touched when he shows up on her doorstep with birthday cake, and they gradually develop a friendship while meeting up for weekly dinner, either at his or hers.

David Cho used to be married but divorced his wife once it became clear she was never going to take his side against her racist family. He didn't realise how thin some of the walls in the apartment building he recently moved into were until he started hearing his neighbour have sex through them, something she seems to do frequently, and with enthusiasm. While it embarrasses him, David can't deny getting turned on by the sounds and he starts fantasizing about his neighbour and what he'd do if he got to be the one to produce her passionate responses. When they get trapped in the elevator together and later develop a friendship he does his very best to hide this dirty secret, but eventually he feels he has to tell the truth. Rather than be shocked or put off, Nicole seems amused by the revelation. She correctly surmises that David would actually like to listen in while she has sex, and gives him explicit permission not just to do so, but to take matters into his own hands while doing so, so to speak.

It doesn't take long before Nicole's curiosity makes her invite David into her bedroom and is delighted to discover that while he's rather shy, respectful, and nerdy during their friendly dinners together, he's quite dominant and very creative in the bedroom. The sex is much hotter than anything either of them has had for ages, and their one-time hook-up soon becomes a regular thing. 

As most of Nicole's friends seem to be finding someone to settle down with, she becomes more restless about her own single status. She can't imagine that David would ever want an actual relationship with someone like her (despite all evidence to the contrary, with him plying her with amazing take-out and dessert every chance he gets and putting up with her meddling family without complaint). He even takes part in Tik-Tok videos with her eccentric grandmother. It's not until she cooks him home-cooked food when he's ill that she begins to wonder if her pants feelings for him have turned into something more all-encompassing.

A common denominator in Jackie Lau's romances tends to be strong friendships and familial ties, even if some of those families are more of the found than the biological variety. There will be amazing descriptions of all manner of delicious food (thanks to her books, I now really want to go to Toronto and just EAT. ALL. THE. THINGS!) and desserts. Her books are very sex-positive, and in this book, there are quite a lot more of the smexy times than in some of her others. There is, refreshingly, absolutely no slut-shaming of Nicole, from any of her partners, friends, or family members, although her family seems to be very eager for her to get a steady boyfriend. 

I'm really enjoying the continued exploration of the friend group who meets up at the Cider Bar and share their lives with one another. There is clearly something being set up with Nicole's friend Sierra and her super-rich boyfriend, but I assume that is set up for a future book. This is another book that managed to hold my attention and get me out of my ongoing reading slump for a little while. I finished it in less than 24 hours, a rarity for me these days. I highly recommend it. 

Judging a book by its cover: I'm always fond of a nerdy romance hero, especially one who proves to be a force to be reckoned with in the bedroom. Who doesn't love a bespectacled man reading a book? It's not exactly something you see too often on a romance novel, however, so well done, Jackie Lau.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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