Review: Her Pretend Christmas Date – Jackie Lau

Review: Her Pretend Christmas Date – Jackie LauHer Pretend Christmas Date
by Jackie Lau
Series: Cider Bar Sisters #2.5
Also in this series: Her Big City Neighbor, His Grumpy Childhood Friend, The Professor Next Door
Publisher: Jackie Lau Books
Publication Date: December 8, 2020
Genres: Romance
Pages: 104
Source: Publisher

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

She's home for the holidays with her starchy fake boyfriend...

Although she's the fun and outgoing one, Julie Tam has always lived in the shadow of her older sister, Charlotte. Now Charlotte has a good career and a great boyfriend whom their parents love, and Julie has neither of those things.

Her blind date with Tom Yeung is disastrous; however, he's exactly the sort of guy her parents would like--a methodical, strait-laced pharmacist who even folds his underwear and wears paisley ties. So, she pretends they're a couple to impress Mom and Dad in their phone conversations. When her mother insists that Julie bring Tom to her hometown for Christmas, Tom, who has no plans for the holidays, agrees.

But Julie doesn't know how she'll tolerate a whole weekend in his company, especially when they have to share a bed and participate in a gingerbread house competition together. The man is irritatingly proper and set in his ways.

Except after hours of baking and skating and opening presents, she's starting to find Tom annoyingly attractive and even endearing. And now, she doesn't want this holiday weekend to end...

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4 stars icon canada contemporary icon holiday m/f romance icon

I love Jackie Lau’s books, especially her Christmas ones. And it’d be hard to beat this one, with its hilarious first-date-gone-wrong, opposites attract, fake dating, just-one-bed tropes – plus a dash of zany family antics, including a surprise gingerbread house competition. I had a big smile on my face the whole time reading this.

“And now you’re faking a relationship and inviting him home for Christmas.” Bridget giggled. “It’s perfect. You’re so going to fall in love.”
“The man wears paisley ties to first dates at taco restaurants, Bridget. Paisley ties.”

In the last Cider Bar Sisters book, Charlotte got her second chance romance with her childhood friend, and for this novella, we switch to her sister Julie. Now that her sister’s happily paired off, Julie feels even more like the misfit of the family. Her parents don’t approve of her job, but Julie loves waitressing at the cider bar and making jewelry in her spare time. Fed up with her parents’ criticism and comparisons to her sister, she makes up a boyfriend, and just happens to base it on her last disastrous date. Tom’s a pharmacist and the kind of guy who wears ties to a taco restaurant. In other words, exactly the kind of guy her parents would like, and a complete mismatch with Julie. But when her parents insist on Julie bringing her new boyfriend home for Christmas, she’s forced to come clean to Tom, and to her surprise, he agrees to pretend to be her date. But can two people who barely got along on one dinner date hold up the charade for a whole Christmas of family fun?

“They were two puzzle pieces that hadn’t fit together at first, but if you rotated them…
Ugh. Did that metaphor make any sense? Sometimes her brain didn’t function properly when she was touching him, but that was okay.”

I have a thing for meet-disasters, especially ones with bad first impressions (but seriously, Julie, mayo on corn?). Tom’s responsible and serious, while Julie’s, well, not. But Julie’s happy with her life and who she is, and she certainly doesn’t need to be judged by yet another person in her life. But as the trip – and its forced proximity just-one-bed-ness – progresses, Julie realizes that there’s more to Tom than his stern exterior and paisley ties, and Tom realizes that, quirky food choices aside, there’s place for a little creativity and loosening up in his life. It certainly helps that even during their disastrous first date they had sizzling chemistry! I liked that even after they started falling for each other, it wasn’t an immediate thing; it took time for them to understand the potential for a relationship between them.

“She and Tom were making the best damn gingerbread house that two people who’d never made a gingerbread house before could construct.”

The Tams are hilarious, and the gingerbread competition (inspired by Julie’s mom binging on too many cooking competition episodes) was the highlight of the book for me. It was the perfect way to show both Julie and Tom how well they worked together. I also liked seeing Charlotte and Mike again, especially once they had to compete against Julie and Tom. As for cons, the only thing is that I didn’t quite buy Tom’s reasons for going along with Julie’s charade (he loves Christmas and didn’t want to spend it by himself).

Overall, this is another great Christmas novella by Jackie Lau, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

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