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Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie

A Novel

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About The Book

Jackie Lau, author of the “full of heart” (Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author) The Stand-Up Groomsman, returns with a charming rom-com about a young woman’s desperate attempts to fend off her meddling mother…only to find that maybe mother does know best.

Mark Chan this. Mark Chan that.

Writer and barista Emily Hung is tired of hearing about the great Mark Chan, the son of her parents’ friends. You’d think he single-handedly stopped climate change and ended child poverty from the way her mother raves about him. But in reality, he’s just a boring, sweater-vest-wearing engineer, and when they’re forced together at Emily’s sister’s wedding, it’s obvious he thinks he’s too good for her.

But now that Emily is her family’s last single daughter, her mother is fixated on getting her married and she has her sights on Mark. There’s only one solution, clearly: convince Mark to be in a fake relationship with her long enough to put an end to her mom’s meddling. He reluctantly agrees.

Unfortunately, lying isn’t enough. Family friends keep popping up at their supposed dates—including a bubble tea shop and cake-decorating class—so they’ll have to spend more time together to make their relationship look real. With each fake date, though, Emily realizes that Mark’s not quite what she assumed and maybe that argyle sweater isn’t so ugly after all…

Excerpt

Chapter 1 1
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in her thirties—especially one with four married sisters—must be in want of a wedding of her own, even if she claims otherwise. And her family should do everything in their power to secure a match for her.”

—My mother, probably

How old are you, Auntie Emily?” my little niece Scarlett demands.

I take a healthy swallow of my drink and crouch down in my bridesmaid dress to get closer to her. Cocktail hour is in full swing, and it’s a bit loud in this small room at the banquet hall. “I’m thirty-three.”

“Thirty-three? That’s so old!” She sounds positively horrified. I guess being over thirty is incomprehensible to her. “You’re not married, are you?”

“No.”

“You should get married so I can be a flower girl at your wedding.”

My littlest sister, Hannah, got married today, and Scarlett was a flower girl, a role she enjoyed very much.

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind,” I say.

I totally expected to get hassled about my marital status at Hannah’s wedding, seeing as I’m now the last single Hung sister; I just didn’t expect it to come from a five-year-old.

Not only am I the last single one in the family, but I’m also the second oldest, which makes it even worse in everyone’s eyes. I have three younger sisters who have now tied the knot. I’m way behind.

It’s fine with me. It really is. Not because I’m against marriage, but because I have different priorities in my life. Dreams that are finally coming to fruition.

It is not, however, fine with my mother.

Mom and Allison—Scarlett’s mother and my older sister—head toward us, glasses of wine in hand.

“Mommy,” Scarlett says, “Auntie Emily is thirty-three!”

Allison chuckles. “And do you know what? I’m thirty-five.”

Scarlett’s mouth falls open.

Allison seems amused by this whole interaction. My big sister is often annoyed with me for one reason or another, but not today.

Mom is less amused. She takes my arm and leads me away, probably to meet some eligible bachelor.

“Can’t you just enjoy the reception, rather than attempting more matchmaking?” I ask.

Mom clucks her tongue. “What would be the fun in that?”

Inwardly, I groan.

“A wedding is the perfect place to meet men,” she says, steering us with ease through the crowds of people at the reception. “Ah, I see Mark Chan.”

I stop walking. “Tell me you didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” Mom asks innocently.

“Invite Mark Chan to the wedding. It’s not like he even knows Hannah.”

“Why shouldn’t I have invited Mark?” Mom asks. “His parents are friends of ours and he’s an engineer who—”

“What does his profession have to do with why he should be at Hannah’s wedding?”

It’s a foolish question, of course. I know exactly what she’s doing: she’s extoling the virtues of the great Mark Chan because she wants me to date him and marry him and have his babies. He’s here only so she can introduce the two of us.

My mother’s matchmaking tendencies have hit a critical level since Hannah got engaged a year and a half ago. She’s tried to throw me at many men, but Mark—oh, Mark is her favorite. Though she met his parents only a few years ago, they now play mahjong together on a regular basis. I think she’s seen Mark once or twice, but from those brief encounters, she’s somehow decided he’s perfect for me.

I, on the other hand, am convinced that Mark is not perfect for me.

First of all, there’s my previous experience with Mom’s matchmaking. A few years ago, when I turned thirty and had no prospects for marriage, as she put it, she tried to set me up with a man named Alvin. Let me tell you, that’s an experience I do not want to repeat. So, I’m more than a little suspicious of her judgment in this area.

Second, whenever Mom talks about Mark, her voice is full of excitement, but the words she says are another matter.

This is what I know about Mark Chan: he’s a thirty-two-year-old computer engineer. (He’s so smart, Emily, and he makes plenty of money!) He owns a condo. (Once you get pregnant, he can sell it and you can buy a house together!) He won an award for getting the highest mark in first-year calculus in university. (And you were always so good at calculus too!) He likes reading. (Isn’t that so perfect for you?) He went to an all-boys private school. He won a big chess tournament when he was twelve.

Okay, fine. None of those things is completely terrible, but I’m sick of hearing about him, and I can’t say he intrigues me at all.

And seeing him for the first time doesn’t change my opinion.

Mom points to a man standing at the edge of the crowd, drink in one hand. With his other hand, he’s reaching for a canapé. He looks utterly ordinary.

I suppose this is what I expected, even if my mother acts like he single-handedly stopped the polar ice caps from melting or ended child poverty in Canada. I…

OMG! Food!

It’s been a very long day, and I haven’t had enough to eat. By midnight—after the ten-course banquet and wedding cake—I’m sure I will have consumed eight thousand calories, give or take. But the banquet hasn’t started yet, and I’m more than a little hungry. I saw a waiter walking by with canapés ten minutes ago, but by the time I hurried over, my uncle had claimed the last one.

Fortunately, this platter is full. I scurry over, grab two shrimp something-or-others and a napkin, murmur my thanks to the server, and begin stuffing food into my mouth.

“Hi. Emily, is it?” Mark says.

Ugh, I hate when people talk to me when my mouth is full of food. I feel pressured to chew as fast as possible.

“Yes,” I say as soon as I swallow.

“You two seem to be getting along so well,” Mom says. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Before I can comment on the ridiculousness of her statement—I’ve said a grand total of one word to Mark—she disappears into the crowd, and I hear her accepting congratulations that yet another of her daughters is married. Mom had nothing to do with this match, though; Hannah met her now husband when she was away at university.

As I finish eating my food, I examine Mark Chan. He’s about five ten, and he has short black hair. Now that I see him up close, I concede he’s better-looking than I initially thought, much to my annoyance. Not that I, personally, find him attractive, but I can see why someone would, even if his smile is rather bland.

“Hi,” I say, since I haven’t actually said that yet.

I shove the next canapé in my mouth, and in my rush to placate my growling stomach, I swallow it before I’ve finished chewing. A too-large piece of food scrapes my esophagus. (Is that the right word? I’m not the medical professional in my family.)

My eyes water.

“You okay?” Mark asks.

“Yep,” I croak.

God, I can’t believe I’m being such an idiot in front of Mark fucking Chan. Not because I have any interest in dating someone my mother thinks is suitable, but just the principle of it. When you meet a new person, you don’t want to make a terrible impression, you know?

I gulp half my cocktail to wash down the food, but that proves to be a mistake. The drink is strong, and it makes me cough all the more. Tears blurring my vision, I manage to grab a glass of water from a server, and by some miracle, I don’t choke and require Mark to perform the Heimlich maneuver. If he saved me, I would definitely have to go out with him, and Mom would never stop talking about how he rescued me, a fate in which I have exactly zero interest.

I look around the room, at all the people in their suits and dresses, here to celebrate my baby sister, then turn my attention back to Mark.

“So, uh.” He scratches the back of his neck. “I hear you wrote a novel?”

Yes, I did. It’s called All Those Little Secrets, and you can buy it at Indigo. It’s my greatest accomplishment.

And I hate talking about it.

Not because I’m excessively humble, but for some reason, I find it weird to discuss, especially with people I don’t know, especially sweater-vest-wearing men my mother wants me to date.

Okay, fine, he’s not actually wearing a sweater-vest—he’s decked out in a dark suit, appropriate for a wedding—but I imagine he’d wear one on a regular Saturday.

“What’s it about?” he asks.

In theory, I know the answer to that question. I mean, I wrote the damn book. But in this moment, a succinct-yet-compelling answer escapes my mind.

“It’s women’s fiction. About secrets in immigrant families and… stuff.”

Yep, I’m a writer. I’m great with words.

“Interesting,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to…”

Oh God. He’s going to tell me he’s always wanted to write a novel but never found the time, and would I like to hear his brilliant idea? Then he might generously offer to split the royalties if I write the book, i.e., do all the hard work.

“Look,” I say, “many people have told me—”

“Read more. I’ve always wanted to have time to read more fiction.”

Oh.

“What did you think I was going to say?” he asks.

I shrug, and we stand there awkwardly in silence.

Of course, it isn’t actually silent in this room. We’re surrounded by crowds of people imbibing alcohol, and there’s music in the background. But despite the noise, it’s still uncomfortable that Mark and I aren’t saying anything to each other.

See, Mom? Mark Chan and I have no chemistry.

I scramble to think of another topic, figuring I should make a few more minutes of polite conversation. Mom is probably watching us, and if I don’t spend enough time talking to Mark, she’ll come over and drag me back.

But Mark beats me to it. “I hear you like calculus?”

I don’t like it, but I vaguely remember being good at it once upon a time. I’ve forgotten most of what I learned, though.

And why are we talking about calculus at a wedding?

“I haven’t had to do calculus in years, thankfully,” I say. “It’s one of those things you learn in school, but who actually uses it in their work?”

“Well,” he says, “one example—”

“It was a rhetorical question, Mark.”

Of course I know some people use calculus at their jobs. Calculus teachers, for example. Just not baristas-slash-novelists. Though I do tutor a few hours a week, and I suppose it would be useful if I wanted to tutor more advanced math students, but I just do grades nine and ten now.

“I believe my parents said you have a degree in mathematics?” he says.

Did he really have to bring that up? It sounds like he’s judging me for not putting my degree to good use, for no longer being a woman in STEM.

When I graduated, I worked for a software company for five years, and I’m certainly not getting into that whole story with him.

“Yes,” I say shortly, in a tone suggesting the conversation should end here.

“What made you want to be a novelist instead?”

Ugh, what’s with all the questions and that judgmental look on his face?

When I don’t immediately provide an answer, he moves on to a more benign topic.

“It was a lovely ceremony,” he says.

“Yes, it was.”

Another awkward gap in the conversation.

I wonder if I’ve spent enough time with Mark to satisfy my mother, then shake my head at that foolish thought. Mom is never satisfied with me, and she won’t be even a little satisfied with this situation until Mark has put a ring on my finger, which isn’t happening.

I glance around the room to see if she’s watching, but to my surprise, she’s not—she’s in conversation with Auntie Janie, who’s probably relaying some juicy gossip.

Excellent. Time to make my escape.

“It was great to meet you,” I lie, “after hearing so much about you.” I try not to sound too sarcastic, even though this man has managed to hit on the worst conversational topics and is the opposite of my type.

“I’ve heard a lot about you too,” he says.

Huh. I wonder whether his parents have made me sound amazing or merely desperate. I’m not sure I want to know the answer. I figure there’s at least a 63.2 percent chance of it being the latter.

I give him a nod and a smile. “I see someone over there that I’ve got to, um, talk to. Later!”

Ugh, that sounded weird. Oh well.

As soon as I take a step back, he pulls out his phone. I bet he was eager for me to leave.

Turning away from Mark, I scan the room. My cousin is standing by a server holding more canapés. Perfect. I head in her direction, but before I can get there, Uncle Wayne and Auntie Sharon—old friends of my parents’—appear in front of me.

Oh no. I know exactly where this conversation is heading.

“Emily!” Uncle Wayne says. “So great to see Hannah married. Are you next?”

“Uh…”

“You didn’t bring a date today, did you?” He makes a show of looking around.

“Nope, it’s just me,” I say with a smile, followed by a gulp of my drink.

“Been on any dates lately? You know, time only moves in one direction. You’re not going to get younger.” He chuckles as though he’s said something funny. “There are so many ways to meet people that didn’t exist in my day. Apps, is that what they’re called?”

The thing about Uncle Wayne is that he can carry on a conversation by himself with minimal response from anyone else.

Auntie Sharon puts a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t rub it in,” she says quietly to her husband. “It’s probably tough for her.” She shoots me a sympathetic look.

That’s even worse than Wayne’s questions. I don’t need pity just because I’m a single woman in my thirties whose sisters are all married. I’ve got a decent life, and it’s better to be single than have a crappy husband. It’s the twenty-first century; it’s not like I need a man to take care of me.

“Did you talk to that guy your mother wanted you to meet?” Uncle Wayne asks. “Mark Chan, I think?”

“I did.” I try not to sound frustrated that I’m hearing about the great Mark Chan yet again. I’ve now met the man; he doesn’t live up to his reputation.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I manage to escape. I head toward my father, who’s eating a canapé. I grab some food for myself, and this time, I don’t swallow wrong and choke, which I consider an improvement.

Seriously, I feel like I need to go back to toddler day care and learn how to eat properly.

“You doing okay?” he asks. “You look a little…” He gestures with his wineglass.

“I’m happy for Hannah.” That isn’t a lie. “And I’m hungry. I thought those pictures would never end.” It was like they had to take photos with every combination of people in the family.

“Me too.”

I’ve always been able to relax more around my father than around my mother. He doesn’t comment on my single status or drag me off to meet eligible bachelors. Dealing with my mom just requires so much energy.

“Auntie Emily! Auntie Emily!” Scarlett runs over to me.

“What’s up?” I crouch down to talk to her, hoping for some conversation about the food, rather than about my age.

“I found you a husband.”

Oh God. My niece has already started matchmaking? She’s only in kindergarten! Couldn’t she at least wait until, I don’t know, high school?

“Yeah?” I say. “Who?”

“That man over there.”

It takes me a moment to figure out who she’s pointing at. It’s a man with gray hair who, if I remember correctly, is Hannah’s father-in-law’s older brother.

“Uh, he’s too old for me.”

Scarlett frowns. “But you’re old, Auntie Emily. You’re thirty-three.”

And the man in question is, oh, I don’t know, maybe sixty-three.

“I’ll consider it,” I say, hoping to put an end to this train of thought, and then we can talk about picture books or PAW Patrol or… something like that.

“Can you burp the alphabet?” she asks me earnestly. “This boy in my class, he can burp the alphabet.”

Well, I suppose that’s one way to change the conversation.

Scarlett scurries toward her father, and I head over to check the seating chart, seeing as we’ll be heading to the dining area any minute now.

Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

About The Author

Photograph by Emily Ding

Jackie Lau studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to her first love of writing. She is now the author of over twenty romantic comedies including Donut Fall in Love and The Stand-Up Groomsman. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gelato, gourmet donuts, cooking, hiking, and reading. She lives in Toronto with her husband. Find out more at JackieLauBooks.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 7, 2024)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668030769

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Raves and Reviews

"Heartfelt and hilarious . . . Lau brings the goods."

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"LOVE, LIES, AND CHERRY PIE is the perfect fake dating romance! Full of banter and sexual tension, Jackie Lau's richly drawn characters completely captivated me. LOVE, LIES, AND CHERRY PIE delivers everything I want from a fake dating romance, plus enough family drama to keep the story both realistic and relatable. I ate this one up!"

– Falon Ballard, author of RIGHT ON CUE

"What if Lizzy Bennet asked Mr. Darcy to get into a fake relationship, despite their rocky first impressions? Mark and Emily are fun, funny, and nuanced, and the book is a showcase for opposites attracting in the perfect way."

– Cathy Yardley, author of ROLE PLAYING

"Feel-good fiction at its finest: as sweet, rich, and layered as its name would suggest, LOVE, LIES, AND CHERRY PIE brought the sunshine—I absolutely devoured it."

– Kayla Olson, author of THE REUNION

"Captivating."

– Library Journal

*Praise for Jackie Lau's previous novels*

"A quintessential comfort read, full of good, well-intentioned people attempting to navigate complicated family relationships, careers, friendships, and grief."

– Olivia Dade, nationally bestselling author of SHIPWRECKED 

"Lau’s books have some of the best effort-to-emotional-payoff ratios in romance."

– The New York Times Book Review

"The best of opposites-attract romcoms . . . Complex, steamy, and uniquely charming, with plenty of both hilarious scenes and insightful commentary. Jackie Lau’s latest effort is masterful, inspiring, and full of heart!"

– Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of LOVE ON THE BRAIN

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