I read Crazy Rich Asians last year, and while I didn’t love it, it was a lot of fun. I saw the movie, and while it was certainly fun, I hated Gemma Chan’s portrayal of Astrid. Astrid was my favorite character in the book, but Chan’s portrayal of her was just so wooden, and most of her storyline got cut to keep the movie a reasonable length, and while I understand why they had to do that, it still bummed me out.
When we last left Astrid, she and her husband, Michael, were on the brink of divorce because Michael wasn’t making as much money as his in-laws and he felt like they were constantly holding it over him. He made it look like he was having an affair so Astrid would divorce him, but Astrid discovered the real story and they made up. It helped that Astrid’s ex-boyfriend, Charlie Wu, who is super rich and successful, bought Michael’s company for way too much money, allowing Michael to take that money and turn it into way more money and finally become the huge success he always wanted to be. Charlie didn’t tell Astrid any of this and he buried it under a mountain of parent companies so it couldn’t be traced back to him.
Fast forward a couple years and Micheal is super wealthy and successful, but he’s turned into a control freak who wants to present the perfect image, complete with the perfect family. He starts questioning Astrid’s fashion choices (which is ridiculous, since she’s a bonafide fashionista who knows way more about clothes and fashion than he could ever hope to know) and blaming her outfit when a dinner with clients doesn’t go as planned. He also starts abusing their son, Cassian for swearing, even though he swears like a sailor in front of Cassian on the regular. Astrid gets a phone call about this treatment when she’s out of town, but she acts like Michael and Cassian just need to “work things out.” If anyone called me to tell me my son had been locked in a closet for hours on end without dinner just for swearing, I would have been on the next plane home.
I find it hard to believe that Michael could have changed so much in just a couple years. Someone who can abuse his family when he feels the pressures of success is just as likely to abuse them when he feels like a failure. Since he blames Astrid for clients backing out of deals when he’s successful, there’s no reason he wouldn’t have blamed her for his failures before he made his millions.
So, by the end of the book, Astrid is finally taking Cassian away from his violent father and Charlie is separated from his wife. Astrid also managed to figure out that Charlie was the one behind Michael’s initial success and that he did it for her, so it looks like there’s a pretty good chance they’ll get back together.
Meanwhile, we left Nick trying to patch things up with Rachel after his family traumatized her. They weren’t engaged, like in the movie, but I think the implication was that they would work their way there.
So this book starts with the two of them in L.A. getting ready for their big wedding when Nick’s mom, Eleanor Young crashes their wedding reception. Nick hasn’t spoken to her for the past two years (since the end of CRA) so she had no way to reach him except to bribe Cassian with ice cream into telling her where his mommy is going for Nick and Rachel’s wedding. She shows up to make peace and to let them know she’s found Rachel’s birth father, Bao, Gaoling, who had changed his name, and is now a big-shot politician in China. She even managed to contact him and bring him to L.A. so he could meet his daughter and celebrate her wedding with her. They arrange for her and Nick to take a trip to China to meet his wife, Shaoyen, and son, Carlton.
But just before Nick and Rachel are scheduled to arrive, Gaoling realizes his wife isn’t as on board with the whole thing as she initially said she was. She says Gaoling has brought shame on her and their son and she won’t stand for his bastard child to be brought into her house. So she leaves and Gaoling really has no choice but to leave with her. Carlton was supposed to go with them, and he does at first, but then he backtracks and manages to meet up with Nick and Rachel for dinner as scheduled, just at a slightly different venue. He and his girlfriend, Colette, take them to a more casual restaurant and he makes some excuse about his father having to leave town suddenly for work. It’s plausible, but the longer Nick and Rachel go without seeing her father, the more suspicious it seems.
Colette decides to host a dinner at her place and invite Nick and Rachel and Gaoling, so they can spend some time together and Shaoyen won’t get suspicious.
So things aren’t exactly going smoothly, but they’re managing to work things out until Rachel gets dangerously ill and has to be hospitalized, whereupon they get an anonymous warning that she has been poisoned with a specific drug and if the doctors don’t give her the antidote soon, she’ll die. It comes with a warning not to mention it to anyone and to never return to China, but of course they notify the police, and Nick tells Carlton what happened, and Carlton promptly blames his mother, who insists she had nothing to do with it and she cooperates fully with the investigation.
It turns out the real criminal was Roxanne, Colette’s personal assistant, who allegedly acted without Colette’s knowledge, but that’s up for debate. Roxanne says her job is to make problems go away without Colette ever knowing about them, and when she realized Colette was afraid Rachel would take Carlton’s inheritance, thereby making the chances of her father approving of a marriage between them even less likely, Roxanne decided to do what she does best: solve the problem. So she’s arrested, but she insists Colette had nothing to do with it, so the police can’t arrest her, but Carlton loses no time in cutting off all ties with her.
Colette begs Rachel to speak to Carlton on her behalf, and while it involved a C plot I won’t get into, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, while begging for Rachel’s help, Colette is dressed very similarly to the way Kitty Pong’s PR person told her to dress while apologizing to someone she had deeply offended.
Rachel doesn’t blame Colette for what happened, but she does refuse to get in the middle of her relationship with Carlton, which I think is perfectly reasonable, but Colette lashes out and Rachel responds by telling her off and leaving. It gets caught on video, put online and got got millions of views. Carlton calls to tell her about the video and to congratulate her on her awesomeness.
The book was fun, and a quick read, but Kwan’s writing still needs improvement. He uses way too many adverbs and his dialogue feels stiff and forced, and as previously mentioned, characters do things that don’t at all line up with the person we had been previously introduced to and we’re just supposed to buy it.
What did you read this week? Any other fun sequels?