Thursday 13 October 2022
CBR14 Book 26: "Her Unexpected Roommate" by Jackie Lau
Rating: 4 stars
CBR14 Bingo: Elephant (the elephant in the room very much being Rose's depression)
CW: mental illness, death of a parent from suicide (in the past)
Disclaimer! This was an ARC from the author. My opinions are my own.
Rose has treatment-resistant depression but nevertheless manages her job as an electrical engineer with the support of her therapist, her friends, and her collection of plush animals. Having watched all of her friends couple up, she's feeling rather lonely and sad, but rather than stay home and wallow, she gets dressed up and goes out. Her impulsive move pays off, and to her surprise, she meets charming and sexy Cal. They end up at his, spending a hot night together. Cal doesn't even seem freaked out when Rose wakes in the middle of the night and confesses that she needs a plushie to hug to sleep. They exchange numbers, and Cal promises to text her, and then never does. Rose, who thought they'd had a real connection and had gotten her hopes up, spirals further into depression as a result of her heartbreak.
Skip to a few months later, when Rose's roommate Sierra is moving out (to live with her boyfriend). Because of Rose's depression, Sierra and Amy (their friend and landlord) deal with all the hassle of finding a new housemate for Rose. So imagine Rose's surprise when the nice, friendly, and easy-going candidate they picked out turns out to be Cal. He claims he was going to text her and even excitedly told his friends about her, but then his phone got run over by a truck. He understands that Rose might find it awkward to live with him, so offers to move, but asks for a grace period of a few weeks to find a new place. Rose reluctantly agrees and hopes she can keep her heartbreak from showing.
Cal is determined to show Rose that he can be trusted but isn't going to try any romantic overtures if she's uninterested in him. He does his best to be the ideal housemate, doing chores, and cooking meals he knows Rose will enjoy when she comes home late from work. Not only does he not seem freaked out or put off by Rose's fondness for plush animals or her Instagram account for her big plush alpaca, he even joins in by buying plushie himself and making an account for it, "friending" Rose's alpaca. Rose becomes comfortable enough with his presence to agree to let him stay, but despite trying her best to tamp down on her inconvenient attraction, it only seems to grow. However, if she agrees to date him and things go wrong, she won't just be risking heartbreak again, she'll be losing a really great roommate in the bargain.
A lot of Jackie Lau's romances are very light-hearted and fun and focus on friendships, great chemistry between the lead, and lot and lots of descriptions of delicious food. This book has a darker subject matter, with Rose's really serious depression, and her fears that she might never find the kind of lasting relationships that her friends have because her illness makes her impossible to be with long-term. There is no suggestion that falling for Cal, who is understanding, supportive and sweet, is in any way going to cure Rose. She lives in the shadow of her mother's suicide, worried that if things get really bad, she might be tempted to make a similar choice.
This is the final book in the Cider Bar Sisters and it was nice to see all of the ladies get their happy endings over the course of the series. The supportive friendships of the women throughout the books is one of my favourite things about them (I don't drink alcohol and even when I did, cider wasn't really my thing, but it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy reading about good friends meeting for drinks). Having read a lot of her books over the last few years, I think Ms. Lau's writing keeps getting better and I can't wait to see what she's going to write, now that this series is completed.
Judging a book by its cover: I know Ms. Lau uses stock photos for the covers of her self-published novels and I wonder if she finds a suitable image BEFORE she starts describing the character in question. Because the guy on this cover looks so exactly like the hero in the novel that it would be almost uncanny if she wrote the book, then found the cover.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.