Jackie Lau has started a new series set in Toronto, the Cider Bar Sisters. The Cider Bar Sisters are a group of friends. Most of them met at the engineering program in college. I’m very excited about this series. I received an arc of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Her Big City Neighbor introduces Amy to the Sisters. Amy inherits a house in Toronto and takes it as an opportunity to put some distance between herself and her small town family who take for granted. She quickly acquires Sierra Wu, one of the Cider Bar Sisters, as a housemate and lays eyes on her hot neighbor, Victor Choi, mowing his lawn shirtless. She is not shy about ogling, and Victor is not above flirting with yard work.
The next day, Victor cut the grass.
Strictly speaking, he probably didn’t need to cut the grass…When he turned off the lawn mower, he glanced next door, and he couldn’t help the pleasure that swelled in him when he saw Amy staring at him, her lips parted.
Victor starts off irritated by her laugh and her perkiness, but admires her cleavage. Amy is determined to make him her friend, and she does. Through persistence, he comes to like her, and not just lustfully. It took me a minute to get to like Amy too. Initially she did seem overly perky, but she grew on me. She does look for rainbows and unicorns, but she accepts the raccoons in trash cans too. I liked that Amy is honest and upfront about what she wants from her new life in Toronto and from Victor.
I don’t really care if characters meet through sex, or let it build until almost the end of the book, or anything in between. I care that it works for the characters and the story. Amy and Victor work their way from flirting, to making out, to sex and it works for both the characters and the story. The very best moments in Her Big City Neighbor are when Amy and Victor are together, whether she is horrifying him with her sunshine, or they are being tender with one another. Almost all of their interactions simmer with desire and affection. Lau has a real gift for writing lustful patience – you know they want each other badly, but they are willing to wait until they are comfortable with taking the next step. I do enjoy a couple that is so openly horny for one another.
There is a 3rd act breakup, and you know it’s going to happen, because you know Victor’s fears will get in the way of his happiness. Lau often explores grief and fear of vulnerability in her books, both in her male and female characters. In Her Big City Neighbor, Victor and his family are still grieving the sudden death of his younger brother. Having experienced the loss of his brother, he is afraid to make himself vulnerable to emotions. His emotional drama runs into Amy’s standards. While the bar for men may be on the floor, Amy is unwilling to be in a relationship with a man who isn’t as invested as she is. For all her surface lightness, she has a spine of steel. She sets out to create a space for herself, to make friends, to have adventures, and she does.
I always want to describe Lau’s books as fluffy and low angst, because I find them tremendously comforting. The truth is, her characters always have some pathos to work through before they can be part of a healthy couple. Victor has some heavy emotional weight, as does Amy, for all that she is rainbows and ladybugs.