Review: A Match Made in Lipa by Carla de Guzman (2022)

The Laneways, Book #2

Heat Factor: In the first chunk, there’s one chaste kiss and one toe-curling kiss

Character Chemistry: Butterflies

Plot: Toxic Family + Corporate Shenanigans + Astrology + Chocolate

Overall: I struggled through the first third before giving up

I know nothing about the Philippines, so when A Match Made in Lipa showed up in a Carina Press promo email, my interest was piqued. The first thing you should know, therefore, is that this book is very rooted in its location—not just in the Philippines, but in Lipa specifically. This is both good and bad. I loved the immersiveness of it. I could figure out what most of the unfamiliar terms were based on context clues (i.e. whether something is clothing, food, or a term of endearment). I suspect that someone more familiar with the culture would gain a more nuanced understanding of the characters, because they would know what the author was signaling when she talked about the hero wearing a banyan—or when he was wearing Uniqlo, for that matter. However, occasionally the author includes full lines of dialogue in (I think?) Tagalog. Take for example:

“Lakas mo mang-asar, ha,” she warned him, but there was no actual anger in her tone, just a playful glare that made Santi smile.

I get that it’s banter based on their larger conversation, but, uh, what exactly is she warning him? So my first big takeaway from this book is, if you’re not deeply familiar with Filipino culture, be prepared to miss some details.

To be clear, this would not be a dealbreaker in and of itself. However, the writing is generally clunky. Take, for example, this definition of roasting that opens one of the chapters:

Roasting: a step in the chocolate-making process that involves delicately roasting the beans to achieve a particular flavor.

Defining a word by using that same word is a particularly egregious misstep, but I frequently found myself caught by unusual turns of phrase or unclear referents or scenes that didn’t quite flow.

I could, perhaps, have overcome the writing style not working for me if the story was really engaging, but at the 30% point, I still wasn’t clear what the main conflict was. There are hints: Santi’s toxic grandfather wants Santi to buy out a mall owned by Kira’s family. (But Santi seems to have decided that he doesn’t want to do it, that getting back into the family fold in Manila is not his endgame after all.) Kira’s chocolate business needs to start showing a better ROI for her investors. (But right after she finds out about the upcoming audit, Santi asks her to be his supplier for his fancy boutique hotel, so problem solved?) Kira’s worried about putting herself out there and telling Santi she has a crush on him until she knows his feelings. (But Santi makes it pretty clear that he’s interested in business *and* pleasure.) Everything seemed to be wrapping up already, so there just wasn’t a point of conflict that looked like it could sustain another three hours of story.

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

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