Review: The Stand-Up Groomsman – Jackie Lau

Review: The Stand-Up Groomsman – Jackie LauThe Stand-Up Groomsman
by Jackie Lau
Series: Donut Fall in Love #2
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: October 25, 2022
Genres: Romance
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley 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

A bridesmaid and groomsman put their differences aside to get their friends down the aisle in this opposites-attract steamy romantic comedy.

They say to never meet your heroes, but when Vivian Liao's roommate gets engaged to her favorite actor's costar, she has no choice but to come face-to-face with Melvin Lee again. He's just as funny and handsome as he is on-screen...but thinks she is a snob and a sellout. It's none of his business how she chooses to live her life, no matter how charismatic he is.

Mel is used to charming audiences as an actor and stand-up comedian but can't connect to Vivian. She's a smart, talented artist--which is why he thinks she's wasting her life as a corporate finance drone. The only thing uniting them is their goal for the wedding to go off without a hitch.

As they collaborate on wedding cake and karaoke parties, Mel realizes he might have seriously misjudged this bridesmaid, while Vivian discovers the best man might just be as dazzling off-screen as he is on. With the wedding underway, maybe more than one happily ever after is in the future.

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4 stars icon canada contemporary icon m/f romance icon

I’ve been a Jackie Lau fan for a very long time and I am so overjoyed to see her books get the star treatment they deserve! She always delivers with quirky but real characters who often have mental health issues, deep family relationships (either good or bad) and delicious food. This book is a delightful opposites-attract enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance!

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, and Vivian found that out the hard way. Mel was her favorite actor on a popular TV comedy, and when her roommate becomes involved with one of his costars she’s eager to finally meet him in person. He’s a complete jerk, denigrating her choice of career and basically ruining the night for her. After that meet-disaster, they want nothing to do with each other, except they’re forced together because their best friends are getting married. What starts out with mutual dislike and a desire to remain polite slowly turns into a friendship, despite Vivian living in Toronto and Mel in NYC. Giving in to the spark of attraction between them might be fun for a one-night-stand, because surely two such different people couldn’t make a relationship work. Right?

“You might think a grown man who barked like an angry, racist chihuahua onstage would feel normal sometimes, but you’d be wrong.”

It’s hard to imagine two more different people than Vivian and Mel. Mel thrives on attention and his signature style is brightly colored floral shirts. Vivian’s favorite color is gray and she prefers pantsuits. Mel’s career depends on him being a goofball in public while Vivian prefers to be composed and out of the spotlight. Mel, somewhat admiringly, calls Vivian an ice queen and on the surface she fits that stereotype. But it’s more that she has a certain way she wants to live her life due to family circumstances. Vivian basically raised her younger siblings while her parents worked constantly. So besides having no desire to have kids, she truly enjoys being on her own and being able to do whatever she wants.

With all their differences, they both have similar anxieties. Mel feels the need to perform for most people. After all, if he wasn’t funny all the time, would anyone still like him? For Vivian, her experience is that love is conditional on her being useful. If she’s not taking care of things for the other person, then why would they want her around? And after her last ex sneered at her when she started questioning her sexuality, she has no desire to be in a relationship – even with someone who’s publicly bisexual, someone who was a bit of an icon for her in fact.

“Maybe I tease you extra,” he said, “because I really like you. I wanna do things to you.”
Things. Such as forcing me to admit that chocolate cake is the best?”

It should be no surprise then that Mel and Vivian’s relationship is very slow-burn, but it’s also very authentic. After that disastrous first meeting, they don’t have much contact with each other until the wedding forces them to. They start texting to arrange details of the bachelor/bacherlorette parties, which eventually turns into them texting more frequently. They miscommunicate, they figure it out, they learn and move on. I loved that Mel was the first to fall in love and he fell hard. It’s clear he pays attention and understands her, that he’s not trying to change her, but that’s practically incomprehensible for Vivian. Plus, there’s the issue that they live in separate countries.

“A hedgehog reminds you of me?”
“It’s spiky, with a soft underbelly and nice smile,” he said, “The one with the purple ribbon will be my representative in your home. You can snuggle him when you miss me.”
“You got us matching stuffed hedgehogs.”
“Why yes, I did.”

It’s not just all angst, though. While a lot of Mel’s on-stage jokes didn’t personally work for me, I loved his Po-po and his deadpan insect-loving sister. And Mel himself is such a ball of silly kindness. At one point, he buys matching hedgehog plushies for them and it was so adorable I practically turned into a heart-eye emoji. The way he brings a bit of whimsy to Vivian’s life while still respecting her boundaries made me melt.

Overall, easily 4.5 stars. Jackie Lau hits this one out of the park with her trademark humor, deft touch with mental illness and representation, and wonderful realistic characters.

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