By Samantha Pak
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Set on You
By Amy Lea
As a curvy fitness influencer, Crystal Chen has built a career on shattering gym stereotypes and ignoring trolls. A recent breakup has left her with no time for men. Instead, she finds refuge in the gym—her place of power and positivity.
But when Scott Richie, a firefighter and smug new gym goer, enters a sanctuary and regularly steals her favorite squat rack, sparks fly. As the two compete for gym domination, the last thing either expects is to run into each other at their grandparents’ engagement party.
With the wedding day approaching, Crystal realizes Scott’s not all bad and the pair start to grow closer. But when a photo on her social media goes viral and Crystal is attacked by internet trolls, their new relationship is tested and she’s not sure it will survive.
“Set on You” is a fun antagonists-to-lovers romance and it’s a good time seeing how Crystal and Scott’s relationship evolves over time. Their friendship and eventual romance don’t happen all at once—it’s a gradual shift, which makes it feel more realistic.
The story also features a female main character we don’t often see in the genre. Crystal is strong (mentally and emotionally, as well as physically) and while it shouldn’t be, it was refreshing to see a woman—especially an Asian woman—who wasn’t thin and petite finding love. As a long-time reader and fan of the genre, I always appreciate stories that break the mold of featuring the usual thin, white heroines that oversaturate the genre.
I also appreciated how Lea showed the downside of the “body positive” movement and the negative impacts it could have on someone. Crystal loves and is proud of her body. But she also has hard days when she struggles—especially in the wake of troll attacks. Because we’ve all been there.
Love, Comment, Subscribe
By Cathy Yardley
In high school, Lily Wang wanted nothing more than to be popular. Instead, she was part of a group of oddballs and honor students called the Nerd Herd. Now at 28 and working as a YouTube beauty influencer, she’s just on the cusp of popularity she’s been chasing. She just needs that little something extra to push her over the edge.
Meanwhile, fellow Nerd Herd alum Tobin Bui has been killing it as a YouTube gamer. But it hasn’t been all fun and games. His parents are disappointed that he dropped out of college to make videos of pranks and silly skits. And he’s starting to burn out and reach the bottom of his creativity well.
So when Lily approaches Tobin about collaborating to boost both their brands, Tobin agrees. And when their first video goes viral, their relationship heats up, too—with the whole internet watching.
“Love, Comment, Subscribe” is a friends-to-lovers story for the modern, technology-based world. Despite their similar career paths, Lily and Tobin are very much a case of opposites attract. Tobin’s usual casual and happy-go-lucky personality balances Lily’s more serious demeanor and image-consciousness out really well—and vice versa. It’s nice to see the pair learn from each other both professionally and personally.
Lily and Tobin have very different approaches to creating content and Yardley does a great job of showing how different people can do the same job differently. She also shows the realities of what it takes to be successful in this still relatively new industry. Making YouTube videos for a living is unconventional and may seem trivial to some, but through Lily and Tobin, Yardley shows how much work some creators put into their work—which will have many readers thinking twice the next time they go down a YouTube rabbit hole.
Partners in Crime
By Alisha Rai
With a career in solid accounting, good friends, and a whole lot of distance between her and her dysfunctional family, things aren’t too bad for Mira Patel. The only thing missing is a stable romantic relationship. So with her handy spreadsheet and the help of a well-known matchmaker, Mira sets out to find the one—except no one’s quite right.
This includes Naveen Desai, her very first match who she admittedly dumped in the worst way: by text.
For Naveen, his life has been focused on taking care of his sick grandfather and keeping said grandfather’s small law firm afloat. He has no time for love. But then Mira walks back into his life as the law firm is overseeing her late aunt’s affairs. They’re both determined to keep things professional, but Naveen can’t help but be curious as secrets begin piling up around his ex.
But just as the pair are about to go their separate ways, they get kidnapped and suddenly find themselves on the run in Las Vegas and the deserts of Nevada. As they escape jewel thieves, evade crime bosses, and try to untangle and clean up the hot mess Mira’s family has left behind, they start thinking about second chances and maybe giving their relationship another go.
“Partners in Crime” is a second-chance romance between two people with a lot of baggage. While it initially appears that Mira is the one with all the secrets, we learn pretty quickly that Naveen has some confessing to do of his own. When you take out the criminal elements, you get a story about two people dealing with past hurts and traumas and trying to overcome it all.
This is definitely one of those stories where you have to suspend disbelief and just go along with the premise of a pair of everyday people taking on criminal masterminds. Once you do that, it’s a whole lot of fun to see Mira and Naveen go from the frying pan and into one fire after another—all while falling back in love with each other.
Samantha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.