Review: The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

Reviewed by Olive

The Ultimate Pi Day Party is the first book in Jackie Lau’s new Baldwin Village series, set in the eponymous foodie artistic neighbourhood of Toronto. The story follows Josh, a tech CEO with massive daddy issues, as he falls for Sarah, the owner of a local pie shop. After testing the delicious sweet and savoury concoctions dreamt up by Sarah, he concocts a scheme to throw the ultimate Pi Day party and win his way back into his father’s notice (Josh’s estranged dad is a retired math teacher). Turns out, Sarah is just as irresistible as her pie and romance ensues.

This book is a lot of fun and has great relationship development. Josh and Sarah are both commitment phobes with sparse relationship experiences and histories of one night stands. I loved that they both start from this awkward nervous place of starting slow and not knowing “what do I do if I actually like the person?”

Their reasons for their life choices are very different, though both center around their parents. Sarah is focused on her career and has found that anything more than one night stands inevitably leads to distraction – which she is terrified will equal failure. She’s getting her business off the ground and has Big Plans™️ so there’s no room in her life for more than casual. While Sarah’s anxieties are based in legitimate business concerns, they’re amplified by her memory of her mom lashing out at her and telling her she’d fail if she left her safe, small town life behind for the big scary city.

Josh got burned in a big way and this is set up as a big reveal in the story so I won’t go into what happened, other than to say that it burned his love life and his relationship with his father. He was 16 and his father basically cut him off from all attention. This is some peak dysfunctional family dynamics. Josh has been desperately trying to win his way back into his father’s life for 17 years and is constantly hurt by rejection.

Lau does a great job of developing the relationships, especially with the parents, through their phone interactions. Sarah’s mom shouts at her on the phone, afraid of being drowned out by all the big city noise. Josh’s dad answers every call but his promptly so the need to wait ring after ring for his mother to pick up his calls is excruciating. Sarah and Josh, modern folk that they are, interact almost exclusively via text message (and one spectacular email thread).

The romance is well done. Both characters are afraid of this being more than casual and both arrive at the realisation that they WANT that in their own time and in ways that fit with who they are as people. The flirting is awesome and commences almost immediately. There are epic fail moments and intentionally gratuitous shirtless moments and they’re all fantastic. The peripheral characters, Josh’s best friend and business partner Amrita and Sarah’s new friend Chloe, add excellent perspective and inject silliness in key moments.

The conflict and resolution portion didn’t work as well for me. I struggle a bit with Josh’s dad overall but I can absolutely see the conflict happening in the way it’s portrayed. The breakup fits with the rest of the story, however infuriating it is (I was SO MAD on Sarah’s behalf). The makeup … leaves a little something to be desired. Both characters talk things out with the parent in question and both are able to move past the thing holding them back.

On Sarah’s part, this felt genuine. For Josh, I really wanted to see something more. He’s got this long history of parental trauma and however much we all may want to just get over the baggage we carry from our parents, that’s rarely how it works and Josh’s situation is deeper than general family dysfunction. It makes the HEA a little less believable and more of a HFN, especially considering that Sarah’s already got some fears and trust issues of her own.

Still, overall great stuff here with the wonderful characterisations I’ve come to expect from Lau.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Ultimate Pi Day Party
by Jackie Lau
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Self published

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