While the first book in Jackie Lau’s Cider Bar Sisters series, Her Big City Neighbor grew on me as I read it, I fell immediately into the second book, His Grumpy Childhood Friend. Charlotte is at a baseball game with her boyfriend of 3 years when her actual nightmare happens, he proposes on the jumbotron. She runs away and goes on a five year dating moratorium. As one does.
When we rejoin Charlotte in the present (an alternate universe present with no COVID-19), she would like to have a boyfriend again, but is insecure about her rusty dating skills. Charlotte is very happy that her work at home job as a geophysicist consultant means she can go days without leaving the house or interacting with people. I know she’s smiling on the cover, but she’s the grumpy one. I love that she’s just grumpy. It isn’t because of childhood trauma or an unhappy family. She was a grumpy child too. I’m all in favor of women getting to be grumpy just because they are.
Mike, on the other hand, did have a traumatic childhood with verbally and emotionally abusive parents. As a front, he learned to be the super fun sunshine guy. When Charlotte and Mike run into each other at the cider bar, Charlotte sees an opportunity to get in some practice dates. She asks Mike to be her dating coach because surely he knows all about dating. Mike doesn’t tell her that he has mostly spent his adult years trying to repair the damage from his childhood and does not have vast dating experience. He is very happy for an excuse to spend time with Charlotte and maybe turn those dating lessons into real dating. Mike especially enjoys easing Charlotte out of her comfort zone, just a little bit and winning smiles from her.
Their transition from former friends reconnecting as adults who fake date for fun to a real couple with a strong chance of a long and successful relationship is lovely. The crisis that arises in their relationship is not big, but it is handled beautifully and with compassion. I can’t talk about the ending, of course, because of spoilers, but I think it may be my favorite resolution to any of Jackie Lau’s book.
His Grumpy Childhood Friend has all the great Toronto food and strong friendships you want from a Jackie Lau, with an addition of terrible geology puns. It’s out October 27th. I received this as an arc from the author in exchange for an honest review.