Book Review: The Stand-Up Groomsman by Jackie Lau

Title: The Stand-Up Groomsman
Author: Jackie Lau
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: October 25, 2022
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

In this follow-up to Donut Fall In Love, a self-contained finance professional falls for a loud, outrageous stand-up comedian, and sparks fly — despite the fact that on the surface, at least, they’re complete opposites, and what’s worse, had an awful first meeting.

When Vivian meets Mel, she’s thrilled to be meeting the star of one of her favorite sitcoms. I mean, she’s done fan art about him! But he makes the mistake of assuming she’s like he used to be — someone pursuing a corporate paycheck rather than taking a chance and following their muse. Vivian is furious and would be happy to never see him again. Unfortunately for her, they’re going to be forced together over the coming year, as her roommate Lindsay has just become engaged to his best friend Ryan, and they’re both going to be in the wedding party.

As the wedding events seem designed to throw Vivian and Mel together, they form a tentative sort of connection, realizing that their outward differences mask some life experiences and personality quirks that make them more alike than they realized. Of course, the more time they spend together, they more their chemistry heats up, and it’s only for so long that they can deny that they’re better off as lovers than as enemies (or even frenemies).

The Stand-Up Groomsman is lots of fun, with tons of cute flirting, silly gift-giving, and shedding of inhibitions and defense mechanisms. I was impressed with the author’s ability to peel back the outer layers of the characters to show us how they’ve ended up where they are. Vivian confused me for much of the story — why was she so closed off? Why did she seem so unable to make connections or get involved with other people? But eventually, we learn more about her childhood and her parents’ expectations of her, and it finally all clicks and makes sense.

Melvin himself is all sorts of adorable. He and Vivian are both bisexual, and their frank conversations about sexuality are very refreshing — I haven’t come across all that many contemporary romance tales with such positive bi representation. (Mel’s bi identity is one of the many pieces of himself that becomes fodder for his stand-up routines, and it’s both sweet and funny to see how he works it into his set).

As the title indicates, Mel is a stand-up comedian as well as being a comedic actor. We see his stand-up shows throughout the book, and while some bits are quite funny, this is actually one part of the novel that perhaps didn’t work all that well for me. Reading a stand-up routine as part of a book’s narrative is just not the same as seeing a stand-up performance — and without the personality and physical presence, I just didn’t feel like the comedy translated all that well to the printed page.

That’s really just a minor quibble. Overall, The Stand-Up Groomsman is silly, sweet, and romantic, with some sexytimes in the mix too. (In terms of just how sexy, I’d rank this one as somewhere between steamy and graphic on my non-scientific, inexact ratings scale — it’s detailed and shows everything, but doesn’t cross into downright overly anatomical descriptions, if that makes any sense.)

On Goodreads, The Stand-Up Groomsman is listed as Donut Fall In Love, #2 — and yes, it is a sequel, but if you’re interested in this book, no need to get too hung up on reading the first book first. The couple from the first book are the wedding couple in this one, but really, you can read The Stand-Up Groomsman as a stand-alone and it’ll work just fine. (That said, Donut Fall In Love is super enjoyable, so why not read both?)

I’d definitely recommend The Stand-Up Groomsman for anyone looking for a light, contemporary romance with unusual characters and a sense of whimsy. Really a fun read!