It is no secret that I have become a fan of Jackie Lau in the past year. I reviewed 8 of her books last year and am looking forward to reading and reviewing more in the future. I received A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day as an arc from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve enjoyed the entire Holidays with the Wong series. Lau set out to write a series that ticked a lot of boxes – small town romance, holiday romance, racially diverse romance, low stakes and playing with tropes. I think she makes it all work. Amber Wong and Sebastian Lam may be my favorite of her pairings since Chloe and Drew in Ice Cream Lover.
In the first book of the series, the Wong matriarchs, Rosemary and Ah Ma, decide the Wong siblings aren’t doing enough to find significant others. Utilizing romance novel tropes they arrange blind dates for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner: Opposites Attract, Second Chance at Love, Friend’s Younger Sister, and a fourth one that I can’t remember. None of the original pairings were successful, because families shouldn’t interfere in each other’s lives uninvited. The series continues to play with tropes. In A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day, we get Older Brother’s Friend and Booty Call to True Love. Though the original act of mass match-making sets the stage for each of the Wong siblings to find their true loves, the act itself breaks some of the trust in the family. The family is close, but each of the kids makes sure that they aren’t too close and maintain healthy boundaries. I liked that part of the resolution of the series was an effort to rebuild trust and honor boundaries.
Amber is the baby of the Wong family and the only girl. She has a reputation in her family and in Mosquito Bay, the tiny town in which she grew up, as being a bit wild. She doesn’t think she was any more wild than her older brother Zach. She stopped dating about a year ago because she kept dating the worst boyfriends. She even made herself a cross-stitch sampler that says “Queen of the Bad Boyfriends.”One of Zach’s good friends was Sebastian Lam. Sebastian was a good boy who got good grades and went to medical school. He and his long time girlfriend broke up when he decided to move back to Ontario. Amber and Sebastian meet in the grocery store buying condoms. They flirt and Sebastian puts some condoms and lube in Amber’s basket and gives her his phone number. They agree to be no strings attached sex buddies, but of course they develop feelings for each other.
Right now Lau is really cornering the low conflict + smoking hot sex corner of the romance market. Sebastian is, as Amber says, “thoughtful and considerate in the bedroom…in a totally ungentlemanly way.” In classic Lau fashion, Amber and Sebastian are kind to one another, go out of their way to share things they enjoy, appreciate each other for who they are. Another hallmark of a Lau romance is good food well described. If your lover isn’t garnishing your morning after breakfast with strawberries, consider getting a new lover.
A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day is out February 4. The whole series is lovely, but if you can only read one, this is the one.