ARC Review: Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

  • Title: Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee
  • Author: Sher Lee
  • Publisher: Underlined
  • Release Date: 5/16/23
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians in this heartfelt, joyful paperback original rom-com that follows an aspiring chef who discovers the recipe for love is more complicated than it seems when he starts fake-dating a handsome new customer. Dylan Tang wants to win a Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake-making competition for teen chefs—in memory of his mom, and to bring much-needed publicity to his aunt’s struggling Chinese takeout in Brooklyn. Enter Theo Somers: charming, wealthy, with a smile that makes Dylan’s stomach do backflips. AKA a distraction. Their worlds are sun-and-moon apart, but Theo keeps showing up. He even convinces Dylan to be his fake date at a family wedding in the Hamptons. In Theo’s glittering world of pomp, privilege, and crazy rich drama, their romance is supposed to be just pretend . . . but Dylan finds himself falling for Theo. For real. Then Theo’s relatives reveal their true colors—but with the mooncake contest looming, Dylan can’t risk being sidetracked by rich-people problems. Can Dylan save his family’s business and follow his heart—or will he fail to do both?

If you’re reading this, you probably know that I love romances centered around food. I was immediately intrigued by the title of Fake Dates and Mooncakes. I wanted to like this book, but it fell flat for me.

The publisher’s summary compares Fake Dates and Mooncakes to Heartstopper and Crazy Rich Asians, and I do understand where those comparisons come from. However, the book doesn’t have the charm of the Heartstopper series or the compelling storyline of the Crazy Rich Asian series.

The story as a whole felt rushed to me. Theo and Dylan went from fake dating to real dating too quickly. I didn’t feel the build up of their relationship that I expected. It is too obvious from the beginning that they like each other, that the “fake dating” feels a little silly. Their romance falls apart and comes back together too quickly as well. Without spoiling too much, I will say that their break up and reunion while hasty, involved so much drama that the moments lost me as well.

Dylan and Theo are both likable characters, but I had trouble investing myself in their relationship. It is clear that they care about one another. I appreciate that Theo wants to help Dylan save his aunt’s restaurant and encourages Dylan to find a way to balance his dreams while honoring his mother’s legacy. Dylan also helps Theo connect with his Asian heritage and helps him navigate difficult family situations. There is just a spark missing from their relationship that kept me from connecting to their story.

I loved the dynamics of Dylan’s family. Dylan lost his mom, but it is clear that he would do anything for his aunt. Of course, he helps out in her restaurant and even does deliveries, but he is even willing to lose his relationship with Theo if it would harm his aunt. I liked the characters of his cousins too, but I wish we got just a little bit more of them.

I enjoyed learning about mooncake making as well. Fake Dates and Mooncakes describes the intricate process in detail, including how they use a butterfly pea plant to turn the mooncake skin blue. The book also features all different kinds of mooncakes made using different flavors and different techniques. I also learned (as does Theo) how restaurants get soup into xiao long bao. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was interesting to learn about the cooking techniques Dylan and his family use. I’ve said for a long time that I want to learn how to make bao, and I feel more inpsired than ever to do that now.

Fake Dates and Mooncakes is a quick and enjoyable enough read, but it doesn’t have the spark I was hoping for.

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

  1. i totally agree with you! there was a lot that i wanted to like about this but it fell flat for me. i thought dylan’s family dynamic was the best part of the book and was definitely interesting in them as well as all the descriptions of food. but dylan and theo’s romance was really lackluster for me

    Liked by 1 person

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