Jackie Lau has become my comfort author since I started reading her a year ago. I’m on her list for advance reader copies. When I get an email that a new arc is available, I do a happy dance. I am giving an honest review. If Lau ever writes a book I hate or find problematic, I’ll let you know. I honestly really enjoyed it, but I can’t say I’m objective.
There’s a story about my bff trying to tell me she was pregnant after agreeing with her husband not to tell anyone until she was in her second trimester, and probably something about telling their families first. I’m not sure her husband understands how bff’s work. Anyway, we met for a fancy brunch at an Indian restaurant. In the weeks prior to brunch, we talked about trying the exciting alcoholic cocktails. On the day of brunch she says, very pointedly, “I’ll have a mango lassi.” I’m not sure what I thought she was trying to communicate, but I ordered a mango lassi too, while being disappointed that I wasn’t getting the mango martini. Weeeeeeks later, she called and said, “I’m pregnant! How could you not have guessed when I got the lassie instead of the cocktail?” In my defense, she really does like mango lassi and I am super oblivious to pregnancy. This memory is relevant to a scene in the book in which someone is far less oblivious than I.
Jackie Lau may or may not have stated this explicitly somewhere, but it’s clear to me that she is making her mark on tropes that have often been the provenance of white writers and characters and or otherwise problematic (basically most of the romance genre). Vince Fong is the youngest of the Toronto Fongs, a prominent Chinese Canadian family. Vince started a tech company in Silicon Valley, burnt himself out working long hours, sold it for a lot of money and has lived a playboy lifestyle since. The getting surprise pregnant after a meaningless fling with a rich man has traditionally had all kinds of problematic issues. In Pregnant by the Playboy Lau turns a problematic trope into a platform for thinking about reproductive choices and consciously building a family. Marissa is not a naive young woman. She has a good, secure job and is comfortable enough to raise her child alone if Vince doesn’t want to be a father. But, she would like her child to have an active and present father and a larger extended family. Vince can bring wealth to the arrangement, but she is more interested in his non-financial assets. I couldn’t help but think about how aspects of Marissa’s decision making would have been much more difficult in the United States where health care is more expensive and maternity leave is bare bones at best.
Marissa steps out of her usual routine, has a weekend fling with Vince Fong, and finds herself pregnant. At this point, Marissa is at a point in her life where she feels ready to take on motherhood. Marissa’s father died when she was young, so she would like Vince to have a presence as a father. Vince is delighted! He has been drifting and the only things he really enjoys are the time he spends with his brother’s baby daughter, irritating his brother and spending time with his best friend, Brian. Finding out he is going to become a father reinvigorates Vince and he focuses all that energy on being a supportive partner for Marissa. Vince’s enthusiasm is both endearing and a little too much for Marissa. Marissa is dealing with more complicated emotions – she is happy she’s having a baby, but she is less certain about how much room she wants to give Vince in her heart. Reading about them making adjustments in their life to the unexpected pregnancy, and to each other was lovely.
One of the things I can usually count on after reading a Jackie Lau book is an intense desire to eat my way through Toronto. I think a lot about how much I wish I lived in Toronto instead of Texas. One of these days I’ll break down and make myself a double fromage cheesecake. Bless the internet and all it’s recipes and how to videos.