Title: Donut Fall in Love
Author: Jackie Lau
Publication date: October 26, 2021
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
A baker provides the sweetest escape for an actor in this charming romantic comedy.
Actor Ryan Kwok is back in Toronto after the promotional tour for his latest film, a rom-com that is getting less-than-stellar reviews. After the sudden death of his mother and years of constant work, Ryan is taking some much-needed time off. But as he tries to be supportive to his family, he struggles with his loss and doesn’t know how to talk to his dad—who now trolls him on Twitter instead of meeting him for dim sum.
Innovative baker Lindsay McLeod meets Ryan when he knocks over two dozen specialty donuts at her bakery. Their relationship is off to a messy start, but there’s no denying their immediate attraction. When Ryan signs up for a celebrity episode of Baking Fail, he asks Lindsay to teach him how to bake and she agrees.
As Lindsay and Ryan spend time together, bonding over grief and bubble tea, it starts to feel like they’re cooking up something sweeter than cupcakes in the kitchen.
Donut Fall In Love is a sweet (because BAKING), light romance that follows the celebrity love interest trope. It’s fairly formulaic plot-wise, but the character specifics, the setting, and the families make this book stand out as something special.
Lindsay runs a donut shop with her best friend Noreen, where they specialize in high-end, super-fancy treats, like matcha tiramisu and chocolate espresso donuts. Their baked goods are not just delicious, they’re works of art.
Ryan has returned to Toronto to spend more time with his family, anxiously watching reviews of his latest film to see what it will mean for his career. And as he notes, as an Asian actor, the movie industry seems to see the success or failure of his rom-com as a litmus test for whether an actor of Asian descent can pull off a romantic lead role. He feels the weight of representation on his shoulders, and worries not just about his own career, but whether his so-so box office results will spell doom for other Asian actors.
When Ryan is asked to appear as a celebrity contestant on a popular TV baking show (Baking Fail), he instantly thinks of the cute bakery owner he (literally) ran into the previous week, and asks Lindsay for baking lessons so that he doesn’t completely humiliate himself on national TV.
Lindsay, while also of Asian descent, was raised by a mother whose family emphasized assimilation, so she grew up without speaking the language that her grandparents grew up with. While Lindsay and Ryan’s backgrounds have many differences, they share a sense of otherness from growing up in largely white communities, and soon learn that they have much more in common than ethnic background and experiences with tokenism and racism.
Their weekly baking lessons become a highlight for both of them, as they laugh, flirt, and bake together, and they each realize that their enjoyment of each other’s company might be more than just friendship. Plus, their chemistry is undeniable, and while Ryan is the one who’s famous for being a sex symbol, the attraction is clearly, strongly mutual.
As is typical in celebrity-in-love-with-a-regular-person romances, Lindsay deals with self-doubt. Ryan is super hot, as is obvious from the popular hashtag #StarringRyanKwoksAbs. How can such a gorgeous man with a stunningly perfect body possibly be interesting in an ordinary, not-perfect person like her?
Ryan and Lindsay are very cute together, and soon find themselves intimately involved. But as they learn, sex might be easy, but true intimacy, trust, and emotional connection are much harder.
I liked a lot of aspects of Donut Fall In Love. Both Ryan and Lindsay are dealing with grief over the death of a parent, and the author portrays the lasting impact of these losses very thoughtfully and sensitively. I also appreciated the depiction of the impact of the casual racism disguised as humor that Ryan and other Asian actors must deal with, as well as the off-handed cruelty that internet commenters seem to have no problem throwing around, as if the people on the receiving end aren’t actually real people at all.
The characters’ family relationships are also well depicted, although I did feel that Ryan’s difficult relationship with his father was fixed rather suddenly and without a whole lot of processing.
I feel like I should have a steaminess index for when I review romances, but haven’t come up with a scale yet! In any case, this book has a mostly light and flirty tone, but when sex happens, it’s explicit, so be forewarned if that’s not your style when it comes to romance reading.
Overall, I really liked Donut Fall In Love. Yes, the plot is somewhat predictable and by the book, but the unique personalities and donut-filled settings make the story a tasty treat.
My main complaint? I feel like this book should come with a gift card to a bakery. It made me crave sweets on every page! Gimme donuts. Gimme donuts now.
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