REVIEW: Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie by Jackie Lau

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Mark Chan this. Mark Chan that.

Writer and barista Emily Hung is tired of hearing about the great Mark Chan, the son of her parents’ friends. You’d think he single-handedly stopped climate change and ended child poverty from the way her mother raves about him. But in reality, he’s just a boring, sweater-vest-wearing engineer, and when they’re forced together at Emily’s sister’s wedding, it’s obvious he thinks he’s too good for her.

But now that Emily is her family’s last single daughter, her mother is fixated on getting her married and she has her sights on Mark. There’s only one solution, clearly: convince Mark to be in a fake relationship with her long enough to put an end to her mom’s meddling. He reluctantly agrees.

Unfortunately, lying isn’t enough. Family friends keep popping up at their supposed dates—including a bubble tea shop and cake-decorating class—so they’ll have to spend more time together to make their relationship look real. With each fake date, though, Emily realizes that Mark’s not quite what she assumed and maybe that argyle sweater isn’t so ugly after all…

Dear Ms. Lau, 

Despite the fact that generally I’m not a fake-dating fan, I loved this book. I think this is a standalone novel but honestly I enjoyed it so much that I was a little sad that the sisters of the MCs are already married. Ms. Margaret Muffins, who often looks unimpressed with the world, is an unexpected treat and I adore that the hero talks to her as I do to my cats. Yes, they understand me, why do you ask? The heroine’s horror at the realization that she might actually be “getting old” (per her niece), was amusing to me as I look (way) back on the age Emily is now.  

Emily Hung’s last single sister is married and even Emily’s five year old niece (and I adored Scarlett and her sister Khloe) is questioning why Emily is single and tells her that she’s old. But all of that is in a loving five year old way. As Emily sees her mother bee-lining towards her, she knows that something is up. Mark Chan isn’t exactly thrilled with the forced meeting at this wedding but Mrs.Hung convinces him that Emily wants to see him again. Well, that isn’t true but Emily’s out-of-the-blue suggestion to fake-date takes him by surprise until he decides, why not. Can they keep it up long enough to get Emily’s mom off her back while also convincing half of Toronto that it’s a real relationship? And what will happen once all the secrets start coming out?

The book brings to life the story of immigrant’s hopes and expectations for their Canadian children, how those children feel about what their parents want, lots of family drama and dynamics, some scrumptious sounding restaurants, good friendships, the outrageous prices for Toronto real estate, living your own life and dreams, and a cat. Even though Emily (and to a degree her sisters) moan about their feeling at being pushed to choose a prestigious career, it is obvious across the whole of the book that their parents love them and just want the best for them. Emily often thinks about how much her parents gave up in order to immigrate to Canada with hopes for their future children. There is a truly lovely revelation at the end that is both heartwarming as well as bittersweet when Emily learns something her mother has never told her. 

Emily is a hard worker who has dared to leave a career that her degree in mathematics got her in order to do what she loves – writing. She’s got one book published but as she (eventually) explains to Mark, the fucked up publishing world gives no guarantees of future success based on past performances. Emily is that increasing rara avis – the midlist author – and she’s worried that after she’s finished this three book contract, she won’t ever get another. I liked seeing so much of her writing job as well as the fact that in order to afford half of a two bedroom Toronto apartment, she has to do two other part time jobs. Roommate Paige is delightful as well and the two definitely have each other’s backs. 

Ashley frowns. “So what happened?”

“The kiss … we were sitting on a bench, and then I saw my auntie.”

“Oh my God,” Paige says, “Your auntie saw you tonguing your fake boyfriend?”  

“We were not tonguing.” I paused. “Okay, maybe there was a little tongue.”

Mark initially didn’t make a good impression on Emily but after they open up and discuss the wedding, Emily realizes why he was texting so much and what his facial expression meant when she mentioned her roommate. Emily, to her credit, immediately apologizes for her misunderstandings. I had thought that the book would be totally shown from Emily’s first person POV so the switch up at halftime to both character’s POV was a nice surprise. As Mark says, he wishes he could know what Emily is thinking because he’s thinking he likes her. A lot. 

Mark: Margaret will stay home. She doesn’t like car rides. I’ll ask my neighbor to check on her once a day.

Me: You’re on a first name basis with your cat now?

Mark: No, she calls me Mr. Chan, alas.

Their romance slowly plays out as things become clear to both of them and the shift from fake dates, to real fake dates (it makes sense in the book) to real dates feels real. I never felt that things were moving either too quickly or too slowly and totally believed in their changed feelings. I felt that Mark was a bit more thoughtful at times than Emily who let herself get overwhelmed by the whole fake-dating circus but her final act confession of her true feelings was heartfelt. Maybe with the two of them together, Ms. Margaret Muffins’s social media presence will increase to what she deserves. B+         


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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