I started reading this series from the middle. I had recently signed up for Jackie Lau’s reviewer list (which has benefitted me with many books) and the first novella in the Cider Bar Sister series, Her Pretend Christmas Date was released for reviews. I had a great time with that novella and have read the rest as they come (my review of the final in the series, Her Unexpected Roommate, is forthcoming). But I hadn’t gotten around to reading the first two books, a very long transatlantic flight later and that was rectified.
Lau chose a good couple to anchor to lead off this larger series. We have bubbly, genuinely happy Amy newly relocated to Toronto (which as usual Lau describes through its sights, smells, and eats) afforded a bit of a re-start thanks to her great aunt leaving her house to Amy. It has allowed her to leave her small hometown for the larger city, and the financial security to go back to grad school. But perhaps most importantly it has given her license to discover who she is, what she likes, what she wants her life to look like outside of the expectations and overstepping of her family and ex-boyfriend. Amy is also the perfect envoy into the existing friend group who meet regularly at the local cider bar when Sierra Wu becomes her roommate (our lovely lead in Her Favorite Rebound).
Amy’s new neighbor is Victor, a largely solitary man who is unaccustomed to someone like Amy working so hard to make him her friend. Which she slowly does, but Amy’s commitment to making a friend with her very attractive neighbor evolves into some friendly making out which eventually turns into dating. Victor comes to the relationship with his own set of emotional baggage (specifically around grief), but he is drawn to Amy’s warmth and pursues her despite his fears.
I liked my time with these characters, and I felt the work around healthy boundaries and grief to be strong, but the story itself felt uneven to me, and I wanted more from these characters as they fall in love. It felt at times, a bit surface.
Bingo Square: Series (first in a five novel and two novella series, which uniformly provides good to great romance featuring all sorts of representation – specifically mental health.)