Review: Her Big City Neighbor – Jackie Lau
by Jackie Lau
Series: Cider Bar Sisters #1
Also in this series: His Grumpy Childhood Friend, Her Pretend Christmas Date, The Professor Next Door
Publisher: Jackie Lau Books
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When small-town engineer Amy Sharpe inherits a house in Toronto, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity to start over and go back to school. Away from the family that takes her for granted, away from the ex who expected so much and gave little in return.
The new Amy enjoys wandering around the city and frequenting bubble tea shops, German beer halls, dim sum restaurants, and coffee bars serving Japanese pastries. She has a roommate with the same name as her favorite fictional character, and a group of friends who meet at a cider bar every couple of weeks.
The new Amy is also in lust with her brooding, tattooed next-door neighbor, Victor Choi, who is far from friendly but looks really hot cutting the grass without a shirt. Too bad the grass doesn’t grow faster.
As she starts telling him about her daily adventures—and as a little kissing in the garden becomes a regular activity—Amy begins to feel more than lust. But she fears she’s falling into her old patterns in relationships and refuses to let herself be underappreciated again.
Is Victor really more than a hot fling? And what’s he hiding behind that grumpy exterior?
Content warnings: View Spoiler »MC’s brother died in a bicycling accident (off-page, before book starts), grief, MC’s relative believes they’re entitled to MC’s inheritance « Hide Spoiler
I love Jackie Lau’s books and this one has my favorite things – tons of delicious food, plus the “grumpy one falls for the sunshine one” trope. With all that, it’s a pretty good start to a new series.
Amy is basically the epitome of the sunshine trope – she’s so excited to explore and essentially eat her way through Toronto. She wears polka dot dresses, has a ladybug umbrella (because more polka dots) and has a collection of cutesy mugs. She’s also a bit of a doormat, something her family took advantage of shamelessly for last minute babysitting or other favors when she lived back in her hometown. Not to mention her boyfriend who expected her to do all the work in the relationship… Moving to the house she inherited from her great-aunt sounds like the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf, not to mention time to finally get her master’s degree. Amy is almost comically sunshiney. She’s optimistic, excited over the littlest things, and a bone-deep people pleaser. That has its flaws, of course, like how she can’t accept that her (extremely hot) new neighbor doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with her.
“Your tattoos are hardly the mark of a well-behaved man.”
“Tattoos are common. Besides, look at all the foliage on my arm. Vines? Flowers? It’s practically cross-stitching. I’m like a grandmother.”
Victor has always been an introvert, but it was only after a tragedy that his world narrowed to his house and work. His new neighbor is completely over the top and annoying, but he can’t deny how attracted he is to her. Against his better judgement, he slowly finds himself opening up to her, becoming friends, and doing crazy things like… eating gelato. Their relationship moved a bit quickly for me, though, though it was certainly very steamy. I wished they had more conversations about themselves and their relationship between when it started and the inevitable bleak moment.
I had a similar issue with Amy’s friends. I liked Amy’s new friend group – the Cider Bar sisters – that she meets through her roommate Sierra. They’re the ones who convince her that it’s OK to just hook up with Victor (as opposed to going the whole hog relationship route). I wish there would’ve been more of them. Each character’s families also play parts, from Amy’s family who love her but can’t seem to understand that she’s not just there to help them out whenever they need her. Her nieces were super cute! On the other hand, Victor’s family, especially his mom, can’t stop worrying about him – and for good reason, I’d say.
“Whatever,” Nicole said. “Who cares about being nice?”
“I’m just…nice,” Amy said. “People say that about me. I do what they ask. I’m the one who’s always there to cheerfully help, no matter what.”
Charlotte looked horrified. “That sounds like a nightmare.”
There’s so much food! German beer halls, our favorite Baldwin Village ice cream and pie shops, bubble tea, dim sum, fancy coffee shops… For various reasons, I associate food strongly with Jackie Lau’s books and this one is an absolute bonanza of deliciousness. And it’s so much fun experiencing these things through Amy’s excited eyes! It almost feels like the food is its own character in this book, honestly, and it left less room for Amy and Victor’s relationship to develop.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, and I’d give it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.