Recommended Read, Review

Review: Her Pretend Christmas Date by Jackie Lau (2020)

Cider Bar Sisters, Book 2.5

Review of Cider Bar Sisters Book 1, Book 2

Heat Factor: There’s only one (twin) bed!

Character Chemistry: I, like Julie, would very much like to be the one person who gets to see the uptight man with his tie off and his top button unbuttoned. Oh la la!

Plot: Younger sister with irregular job feels like a disappointment to her parents and lies to them about a man with whom she had a terrible date but whom they would love. So she ends up inviting him to Christmas, of course!

Overall: Well now I want to have a romantic ice skating date and a baking competition

Hear me out. It’s adorable.

I’ve only read a couple of Jackie Lau books now, but I find that she’s very good at consistent characterization and keeping things tight. And now I’m also a little turned on by a guy wearing a sweater and tie, which is not outrageous for me, but also not something I’d have expected to make me think, “Yum!”


Julie, younger sister of the heroine of book 2 in this series, has an inferior younger sibling complex, and this manifests in a couple of ways. 

  1. She doesn’t like being judged for her life and her choices, so she jumps on judging other people first real quick.
  2. She feels like her parents never think she’s good enough and she wants to be good enough for them.

This is definitely not the first book I’ve read (like, this month) in which the heroine makes snap judgements about another person, including thinking she knows that person’s feelings and opinions and thoughts, and acts like a real jerk to, IDK, go on the offensive? Like if I do the rejecting first then it doesn’t feel as bad? Except in this case Julie is still upset when Tom says that they’re not going to see each other again, even though she’s been having her own terrible evening and thinking the same thing about him, because at that point she feels like he thinks she’s not good enough for him. 

This behavior is not something I identify with, since I would rather go in and puzzle out what the deal is than get defensively snappy. But I know that this is an experience that other people do have, so when I read this kind of characterization I have to constantly remind myself of that and let it be what it is. Take note, if you’re like me. 

Moving on. 

To please her mother, Julie tells one little white lie and changes the date from terrible to good and makes Tom her boyfriend. This might not be the worst thing, except it snowballs for weeks. Then for months. And then her mom is pressuring Julie to bring her perfect boyfriend home for Christmas. And Julie feels pressured to do this because she’s 30 and tending bar and making jewelry and doesn’t have really any other life plans. So there’s nothing wrong with her choices, but so many, many people would absolutely judge her for making them, and it’s not surprising this makes her defensive.  

Okay, so, Tom. At first I was thinking “This guy, getting all Julie’s salt. He’s probably just having a rough day and he’s a picky eater and so on.” But Tom is actually pretty uptight. Super duper uptight. (But of course, that’s what makes him taking off his tie so sexy! Doesn’t even have to show skin!) He’s really the opposite of Julie, in that he has made all of his life choices based on logical decision-making that would optimize his, IDK, financial health and stuff and also please his family. He’s a good boy. 

And he doesn’t want to be alone for Christmas, so he agrees to be Julie’s fake boyfriend. And he’s SO thoughtful and SO sincere and SO sweet, I totally identified with Julie when she thought maybe she’d like to jump his bones and see if she could get under that shell of his. Seeing if you can muss an uptight man’s hair is one of my favorite things.

Julie does a great job. And has a fun time doing it, too. 

In terms of transition from antagonism to adoration, I liked that Julie recognized that Tom was doing her a favor, so she didn’t think things would be great but she also mostly stopped snapping at Tom for every little thing and started appreciating certain of his quirks. And also Tom, knowing that she thought he was too starchy, intentionally teased her with it, wearing ties when he mightn’t have normally. So once they’re forced to spend real time together in Julie’s childhood home, they begin to really see each other, and it’s totally charming. 

And obviously a creative genius and a relentlessly organized person would combine to make the winningest gingerbread house. Because good chemistry is what baking needs!

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Fake relationships!

Opposites attract!

Forced proximity!

(We’re working on our “only one bed” tag guys. We’ve got some database updating to do.)

5 thoughts on “Review: Her Pretend Christmas Date by Jackie Lau (2020)”

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