Review: The Unmatchmakers – Jackie Lau
by Jackie Lau
Publisher: Kobo Originals
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Reading Challenges: 2022 Ripped Bodice Summer Romance Bingo
Source: Valentine PR
I received an advance review copy of this book from Valentine PR. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From the author of DONUT FALL IN LOVE comes a perfect summer love story set in the forested paradise of Canadian cottage country that asks the question: can love beat the odds when the odds are two mothers dead-set against it?
You’d think my mother would be trying to set me up with architect Neil Choy, the unmarried son of her best friend. But you’d be wrong.
My single mother has always been fiercely independent. Since I was a small child, she’s always told me not to believe in fairy tales and that I don’t need a man. So she’s failed to mention that Neil is a total hottie in glasses. When I see him for the first time in a decade, on a multi-family cottage vacation, I’m in for quite a shock. (In fact, I nearly fall in the lake, but let’s keep that a secret.)
He sure can grill a mean steak and mix a killer cocktail, plus he’s pretty impressive in a kayak. Yes, he’s a little stern and grumpy, but that just makes him more fun to tease—and makes it more satisfying when he quirks his lips in my direction.
Even though my mind is spinning romantic fantasies, I’m not entirely sure how he feels. And I’m afraid that if anything happens between us, it’ll screw up the friendship between our staunchly anti-relationship mothers. Especially since they’ve been acting increasingly weird since we arrived—I will never forgive them for the S’mores Incident. In fact, I think they’re trying to sabotage my love life, and I’m starting to worry that I won’t make it through this bizarre summer vacation…
Perfect for fans of Helen Hoang’s THE BRIDE TEST and THE DONUT TRAP by Julie Tieu, THE UNMATCHMAKERS is a forced-proximity, friends-to-lovers romantic comedy that explores finding the balance of meeting expectations and being true to yourself, and how even the best of intentions can sometimes backfire.
I’ve been a fan of Jackie Lau for what seems like forever. She has an amazing way of showing the complicated realities of families, especially Chinese-Canadian ones, and always includes delicious food! And this grumpy/sunshine, childhood-friends-to-lovers vacation book lives up to that as well!
Leora is a born romantic, despite all her mother’s best efforts. After being abandoned by Leora’s cheating father, her mother Hen put her all into her career and raising Leora, along with finding a likeminded group of single Chinese-Canadian moms. Now years later, her mother and her friends have purchased a lake cabin and have invited all of their children to spend a week with them. Imagine her surprise to realize that Neil, the studious uptight boy she once teased by adding a flamingo to his super hero drawing, is hot. Like, ridiculously hot. Even better, it seems like, beneath his stern exterior, he might just be interested in her as well. But both of their parents believe that romance can only ever lead to heartache, so strange coincidences keep happening to keep the two apart. But is Leora’s attraction to Neil enough to possible break up her mother’s longest friendships?
“Love was a lie, and I could only count on myself. I was supposed to be strong and independent, in the way she defined those things.”
Unlike many of the author’s previous books, it’s told solely from Leora’s point of view. Leora loves pink frilly shirts and romance novels, much to her mother’s chagrin. To her mother, nothing is more important than being self-sufficient, and Leora’s romantic dreams are a surefire way of being disappointed. That’s a sentiment that’s also shared by Tanya, Neil’s mother, though the third woman, Dee, is now happily remarried. A good chunk of the book is Leora’s frustration with her mother’s expectations and how they differ from traditional matchmaking Asian mothers (get married! have grandkids!). After struggling as single mothers after their own romances crashed and burned, they want to protect their kids, but they can’t see how forcing them into their own molds is just as harmful. It’s a complicated and serious issue, enough that I personally wouldn’t label this as a rom-com, but true to her other work, the author handles it with a deft touch.
“You make me feel like a s’more inside.”
As for the romance, it’s pretty much love at first sight for Leora. That’s not my favorite trope, but Leora is rather self-aware of how overly romantic she’s being (it’s gotten her into bad relationships before), and, frankly, it’s kinda cute. Neil is the strong, silent type, though very nurturing. He’s the sort to offer to cook omelets or bake butter tarts (yum) because he thinks Leora might be hungry. Leora, on the other hand, is a pure sunshine and frills social butterfly, the sort to playfully tease Neil in the hopes of getting a little smile-twitch at the corner of his mouth. The time they spend together on page is absolutely adorable, which sold the relationship for me.
As for cons, this is a very short book, especially given the subject matter. I would’ve liked more time spent on recovering the mother/daughter relationship and more time with Leora and Neil actually dating. While it all wraps up nicely, it felt a bit too neat.
Overall, a lovely summer read, perfect for reading in an adirondack chair near the lakeshore, though I’d recommend having some s’mores handy!
Content notes: View Spoiler »dysfunctional families, parental abandonment, heart attack (side character is alright), alcohol « Hide Spoiler
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: