Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
What I love most is Smartypants Romance’s insistence on representation in romance. With one of its newest books, Give Love A Chai, we are treated to a heroine not often found in the world of romance. So often, romance is white. Over the past couple of years, more and more POC authors are writing their truths into romance, but it’s been a slow process. Even more, the striation of race is still lost to certain groups. With Give Love a Chai, Nanxi Wen treats us to the Asian experience through the journey of her heroine, Ting Ting “Tia.” From just the idea that she has two names to the challenges of living with parents who dote obsessively over her, Tia’s story is one we need at a time when more representative stories are necessary.
Give Love A Chai is a second chance romance between Tia and Andrew. After a decades-long separation, Tia must ask Andrew for a divorce, something that they both believed had been completed a decade before. Tia is engaged and ready to marry, but she needs the divorce in order to move forward (I see you, Sweet Home Alabama). The problem is…Andrew and Tia aren’t done with each other. Additionally, the secrets that devastated their marriage still exist, and while Andrew wants a future with Tia, can she trust him enough to move forward?
For me, I liked the overall idea of the story. You can’t help but root for their reconciliation because there is a desperation to be together between these two. Also, Wen makes it clear at the beginning that Tia doesn’t “fit” within the life of her fiance, Clayton. With that, Wen makes it easy for the reader to want Tia and Andrew to work since choosing Clayton means living a predictable, unemotional life, something that isn’t innate to Wen’s heroine.
The issue for me with Give Love A Chai is its pacing. There were many times when it felt slow, and there wasn’t anything to push me forward. There is quite a bit of internal monologuing for Andrew and Tia that repeated the same misgivings and anxieties. For this reader, that felt overwrought. Instead, I wanted them to move forward, allowing the tension to build in reconciling the past through the revelation of secrets and finding a future in the face of the challenges of her parents’ expectations. The story doesn’t move quickly enough into that level of reconciliation, so the story reads slow.
However, Give Love A Chai sets us firmly in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City with Andrew as a lawyer for Cipher Security. That adds some excitement to the story. Plus the ending is quite sweet and lovely with a poignant look at an interracial marriage, reconciled and accepted. In the end, Nanxi Wen’s Give Love A Chai will fill your Smartypants Romance cup; it just might take you a bit to get there.
In love and romance,