Sunday 3 July 2022
CBR14 Book 11: "Her Favourite Rebound" by Jackie Lau
Rating: 4 stars
This was an ARC given to me by the author. My views are my own.
Sierra Wu shares the name of a popular fictional monster slayer (think Buffy Summers), but she's not exactly slaying in her personal life. A complete disappointment to her family since she decided that engineering just wasn't for her, she now runs a moderately successful greeting card store in Toronto. She's also divorced.
However, now she finally has something that her mother finds impressive, a billionaire boyfriend. She's dating the Colton Sanders and if her mother had her way, she would be halfway down the isle already. Sierra doesn't really tell her family until they've been dating for nearly a year, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She can't shake the feeling that something is missing in her relationship, even before she's surprised on a date by one of Sanders' former business partners, who approaches her and claims she should break up with Sanders, as he isn't who he seems and absolutely doesn't deserve a stunning woman like Sierra.
Jake Tong didn't really believe in love at first sight until he first lays eyes on Sierra Wu, sitting alone at a table in a restaurant. That she turns out to be the girlfriend of Jake's asshole former boss was certainly not what Jake expected, and he does what he can to warn her that her rich boyfriend is a bad guy and she should dump him.
Sierra, naturally, does not dump Colton, but she starts to question what he does in the time they don't spend together a lot more. She starts to research online and it isn't too difficult to find a number of stories that suggest Colton hasn't exactly gained his tremendous wealth through altruism and charitable works. There's a number of articles about his explotation of his workers and other shady business practices. She also seems to keep running into Jake, although the man swears he's not stalking her. She likes Jake, possibly more than a woman in a relationship should, but still refuses to listen to his suggestions that she kick Colton to the curb. That is, until Sierra goes to see Colton unnanounced, and finds him cheating on her with not one, but two women at the same time. She dumps him then and there and runs straight to Jake, who can't believe his luck.
Writing a romance where one of the protagonists is in a relationship with someone else at the start of the novel is never an easy thing to pull off, but Jackie Lau was very clear even in her promotional material of this book that Colton Sanders, billionaire, certainly wasn't anyone's HEA, and despite her attraction to Jake, Sierra is never unfaithful, something that cannot be said for her ultra wealthy boyfriend. Sierra discovers that Colton usually slept with other women on every trip away from her during their entire relationship, so she's not exactly too heartbroken after their split, or even vaguely tempted to take him back, no matter what sort of insane grand gestures Sanders tries to pull.
It also helps that while Jake is smitten with Sierra, he never crosses the line into creepy or inappropriate, and while he does come to see Sierra at her shop a couple of times (she makes him spend a ridiculous amount of money on one visit), he also stays away from her once she asks for distance. Once Sierra discovers that Colton is, in fact, scum, Jake is very happy to comfort Sierra in any way she requires, and has no intention of becoming her rebound guy, no matter what Sierra might initially think.
Sierra has a lot of emotional baggage to work through before she can get to her happy ending with Jake. She also has to figure out how to deal with the weight of her family's expectations, something Jake also struggles with. Jake has a lot of guilt for the stuff he did while working for Sanders, not to mention the things he enabled Sanders to keep doing. Jake now works to try to make amends for these things, and to prove to his family that he really has changed.
I know from following her on Facebook that Ms. Lau struggled a bit more than usual to finish this book, and it's absolutely a more thorny and messy subject than she normally has in her frequently rather fluffy romances. I think she managed the emotional complexities really well, though, and while Sierra very much ends up being emotionally unfaithful to Colton, it's quite clear that he more than emotionally cheated on her, throughout their relationship. Making Sanders such an out and out bad guy possibly simplifies the emotional fallout for Sierra and Jake, but I didn't have a problem with it.
I think the final Cider Bar Sisters novel will be out next year some time. Ms. Lau has another couple of romances coming out later this year though, which I'm very much looking forward to reading.
Judging a book by its cover: I know that Jackie Lau uses stock photos to make her covers when she self-publishes, and while a lot of them turn out really well, I think this one is one of her lesser efforts. But hey, they can't all be winners.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.