~ Book Review: Fake Dates and Mooncakes (ARC) ~

Expected publication May 16, 2023

Author: Sher Lee

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?

Fake Dates and Mooncakes immediately appeals to me as the cover is amazing. Not only does it have the main couple on the front, but the dog is adorable, and the colors are enticing. There is grief and economic uncertainty as examples of trigger warnings for this story. They were expected, but I don’t think there was enough exploration into them. There is some telling rather than showing for this story where elements, like grief, do not have the full emotion conveyed to the reader.

This story follows Dylan Tang who wants to help his aunt’s takeout restaurant in Brooklyn.  He meets Theo Somers, and they eventually agree to be a fake couple to a family wedding in the Hamptons. Throughout the story, Dylan’s motivations were clear, but I had a little more trouble finding Theo’s purpose aside from being Dylan’s love interest. As the two come from different economic backgrounds with Theo being richer, there is some exploration of Dylan struggling to believe he can fit in with Theo’s family. The two characters have some great moments together, but I did think there was not enough build up.

While mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival are a goal for Dylan, I was surprised that the competition did not play a larger role in the novel. There is still a lot of great descriptions of food and parts of the competition, but a lot of the story stays mostly with the fake dates part of the title. Since both “fake dates” and “mooncakes” are utilized in the story, the title does work, but I just wish that there was a little bit more with the mooncakes. The fake dating part was well-done as there is the “classic” bits where real feelings start appearing as the two don’t know how the other feels. The connection between Dylan and Theo was cute, but I don’t think it was as deep as it could have been.

The timeline for the story goes from the characters meeting to the fake dating, and then the mooncakes. Each piece is not bad, but I do wish that they were integrated more. I loved the inclusion of culture and food into the story and the main couple were cute together. There are interesting conflicts with some expected and some not which provided a nice mix throughout the story. The pacing was quick, and it was an easy read to do in a single sitting. This novel is very difficult to land on a rating and review as it was both great and not at the same time. I think the concept was interesting, but the execution missed the mark a little. Overall, this was a decent debut novel. While I may not reread this one anytime soon, I would check out more from the author in the future.

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Random House Children’s, Underlined, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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