Review of The Ultimate Pi Day Party

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau. 2019.

Content Warnings for review: discussion of parental estrangement, consent negotiation. References to sex ed, abortion and menstrual cramps. 

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie LauThis was wonderful, in so many ways. Such a satisfying foodie romance, with a really lovely amount of food details. I really enjoy Lau’s style, the way she lays out character, the way she injects all these quiet moments that make me feel verklempt. I really enjoyed the integration of friendships and familial relationships into this romance, it felt full and whole, when sometimes romances can really feel like its two against the world. I especially liked the casual inclusion of the hero’s queer BFF. The setting was great, really well drawn, and I’m excited for more in the Baldwin Village series, which is setting based.

I waited to read this today, on Pi Day, of course, began with a piece of cherry pie as accompaniment, and I’m very glad to have pie on hand because wow did it make me hungry. Despite the somewhat light veneer on the surface, this book isn’t exactly what I’d call a light romance. I likely should not have been surprised, given that I’ve read a couple other books by this author, and that is pretty much what she does, but I was a bit caught off guard this time. Instead of a lighter romance, it felt like this book balanced some of the difficult themes with a lovely sweetness and humor, while still really holding the emotional resonance of the hard stuff. It ultimately felt quite hopeful, and I was definitely on board for the central couple, rooting for them, glad to see the happy ending.

The heroine has been shaped by being the only one in her family to leave their small town and make a place for herself in the city, and by the fact that her mother said she wasn’t going to succeed in her dream to have her own pie shop. She’s invested all of her time and energy into career success, and has avoided relationships, including friendships. She’s quite isolated at the beginning of the book, and her arc is around building new connections beyond the ones she has with her employees and the strained relationship she has with her family, and trusting that these new connections won’t detract from her ambitions for her pie shop. I really felt for her, in struggling to make friends, in her social awkwardness in general, and in trying to figure out how to date and still keep her focus. There were these small moments where it just felt so clear how isolated she has been, how little support she has had, and I just ached for her in that.

The hero is intensely estranged from his family and this is central to him as a character, to his own arc and to the romance arc and premise. His father has refused to speak to him for the last 17 years (spoiler, highlight to read) since he was a teen, in response to him getting his girlfriend pregnant, which his father saw as bringing shame to the family. This has put tremendous strain on his relationships with the rest of his family, and shaped his life in so many intense ways. He has invested so much of his life in attempting reconciliation, and the premise of the story is that he hires the heroine to help him throw a Pi Day party in a last ditch effort to win back a relationship with his math teacher father. I was struck by how much the book really held and honored the pain of this estrangement, drew attention to the fractures in the family, the way this experience was so fundamentally shaping that the hero could not see anything else. Because of that, the black moment in the romance arc really worked, the characterization of the hero unfolding the way it did made a lot of sense. I generally struggle in reading books with arcs around familial estrangement and attempted reconciliation; this one landed differently for me, and felt right for these characters in this story. 

I loved how consent worked in the story, how clear the hero was that she had the job either way, that stopping at any point in sexual activity was just fine, how he asked if what he wanted to do was okay. I really appreciated the message around the importance of teen sex ed, loved that abortion was framed as part of life and a decision that made sense for these people in that moment, and especially appreciated the representation of very painful menstrual cramps.

Overall, I found this book completely compelling; I could not put it down. It was full of all this wonderful tenderness between the MCs, and I especially appreciated the way they held each other’s vulnerabilities. It was a beautiful romance arc, and I fell so hard for both of the MCs, and really wished that I could taste all the food, especially the pie.

Representation

  • Chinese Canadian man MC.
  • Desi lesbian secondary character.
  • Chinese Canadian woman author.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Parental estrangement since the MC was a teen and threat of being kicked out of the house as a teen for getting his girlfriend pregnant, and “bringing shame to the family”. References to teen pregnancy due to lack of adequate sex ed. Reference to teen abortion. References to MCs mother having cancer, and being quite ill in the past; the cancer is now in remission. References to and detailed descriptions of painful menstrual cramps. Caterer/client relationship. Alcohol use. Sex on the page.

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: I bought this myself
  • I have had some contact with the author on Twitter.
  • All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.

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6 thoughts on “Review of The Ultimate Pi Day Party

    1. I’m excited for the next book, a lot. It’s out soon! In general, I’m really appreciating this author, and loving this new series. (The Christmas one was delightful as well, by the way.)

      Liked by 1 person

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