This delightfully erotic novel was published five years ago, yet it is one of those books that continues to entertain and, in my case, is a recent discovery. It is Book Two in the Awesome Foursome series about four friends in Vancouver, BC, Canada who meet weekly for a meal together and compare notes on the love adventures. These conversations and gatherings show up throughout the novel and seem to be the literary vehicle which carries the plot of the novel along. It is also the place where the heroine is able to work out a great many of her issues surrounding what she believes to be a "non-relationship" with a firefighter named Scott Jackman.
Jenny Yuen is tiny, beautiful, with hair like a cascade of black silk and a body that tempts and entices. She is an independent journalist who has been sent to cover the annual competition to determine the twelve guys that will grace the Firefighters' Calendar. Jenny's personal favorite is Mr. February, a rookie firefighter and EMT who wows the audience--mostly made up of women--with his slow and sensual tap dance rendition of a Gershwin classic. Surprisingly, and no one is more surprised than Scott--Mr. February, he is attracted to Jenny after the contest even when he is surrounded by women who fall into his usual category: blonde, buxom, and beautiful. Their attraction sizzles right from the beginning and becomes sort of a "friends with benefits" kind of series of encounters. That's OK at first, but Scott wants more and his growing attachment to Jenny is unsettling, especially as his feelings for her change early on in their encounters.
At first glance this novel appears to be pretty much about Jenny & Scott's sexual games during which they live out their secret sexual scenarios about which they have fantasized during their adult years. But at its core, this novel is about the traditional ethnic family, its values and aspirations and expectations as they clash with 21st century social norms and relational acceptance in a country where many cultures exist side by side and have easily intermingled right from the start. Jenny is Chinese-Canadian, and her family is extremely traditional. As she still lives at home with several generations of her relatives, she must sneak out, meet Scott somewhere other than her home, and refuses to even consider what they have together as a relationship. She is constantly pressured to date Chinese men of her parents' choosing, and she must even carry extra clothing when she goes somewhere because she does not wear her family's choice of apparel when she is away from home.
Scott, too, is dealing with a very traditional German family whose traditions and expectations are set in stone--German is better--and who respond negatively when they find out he is dating a Chinese Canadian. Amidst the fun and comradarie of the four friends is also the pressures of these traditional families with Jenny and Scott sometimes confused at how to work toward a future that they want without upsetting and alienating their loved ones.
This is a highly entertaining novel. Lots of wit and the characters are beautifully created and crafted, and Scott and Jenny are intelligent and bring a wealth of personal knowledge into their encounters. It is a book that will be such fun to reaed, yet there is that serious component that stimulates some very conscientious thought about the implications of changing ideas about one's identity as a part of a particular ethnic group. Certainly both Scott and Jenny are who they are because of how they were raised with a the sense of belonging in their families, surrounded by their ethnic tradition. Yet they are people of their times and also reflect the open acceptance that has become desired in countries like Canada and the United States, nations that have welcomed immigrants from a vast number of foreign places.
I really enjoyed this book, and even though it is well past the blush of first publication, it is a book that bears reading for lots of reasons and all of them good. I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.