I received an ARC of this novella from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Her Pretend Christmas Date releases on December 8th, 2020.
I am a sucker for a holiday romance novella. I read and enjoyed Lau’s Holidays with the Wongs series (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentines Day) and after reading The Ultimate Pi Day Party earlier this year I signed up for Lau’s reviewer list – and Her Pretend Christmas Date is the first work I’ve received as part of that. I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed this quick, easy read. Lau has a way of writing books that feel like sitting down with a quick snack and a cup of tea, while also making them a little steamy. I’m all for it.
I also like the fake relationship trope, and as the title gives away this book definitely has that at its core. Her Pretend Christmas Date tells the story of Julie Tam and Tom Yeung. The pair are set up on a blind date in November which is lackluster at best, they are opposites in all the ways they initially care about (I do also love an opposites attract trope, see my current obsession with Roy Kent and Keeley Jones from Ted Lasso) and part ways amicably. It hadn’t worked on either side.
Fast forward a month and Julie has been telling her parents about the new guy she’s dating, a fictionalized version of Tom since he is exactly the kind of man they’d want her to end up with, solid profession, neat and orderly as opposed to her artistic nature and jobs as opposed to a career. When her mother insists she bring Tom home for Christmas Julie makes a call and asks if he’d be willing to pretend to be her boyfriend for three days at her parents’ he surprises her and agrees – he has no plans for the holiday as his parents have had to leave town for a family emergency and being with Julie and her family sounds better than being alone.
The premise might sound a little cold, but it is not. Once these characters (and Julie’s sister Charlotte and her boyfriend Mike who featured in book 2 of the series) get to the Tam family home at about a third of the way through it gets decidedly light hearted and these two opposites begin to see what they had initially written off to be things that actually make them quite fond of the other. It doesn’t hurt of course that they find each other physically attractive as well. (Lau also sneaks in a “there’s only one bed” and raises the stakes by making it a twin bed and I cackled even though I don’t much like that trope.) By the end I cared about these characters and was invested in them getting out of their own ways.
This novella is part of the larger Cider Bar Sisters series that Lau is currently writing but it absolutely stands on its own. I haven’t read the first two books in the series yet – furloughing at work has meant a drastic reduction in my discretionary funds – but I didn’t feel as though there was anything I was missing to be able to fully appreciate this 90 page read.