Happy Endings author Thien-Kim Lam is back--with a rom-com set during the divine madness of Mardi Gras as two lovers ask: Can a Big Easy fling become the real thing?
Boudoir photographer Josie Parks never ever takes a vacation. But when a client cancels a New Orleans shoot at the last minute, she decides to fly out from her Washington, D.C., studio anyway. Maybe the trip will reawaken her recently stagnant muse. After all, it's Mardi Gras season...
Spencer Pham has come home after twelve soul-sucking years in corporate hell to pursue his passion: making a docu-film on his family's history as the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras krewe. The last thing he expects is getting whacked in the head by a beautiful woman trying to snag some parade beads.
During a long night at urgent care, Spencer and Josie connect over their artistic pursuits. He offers to show her the real New Orleans, if she'll help him with the camerawork for his film. Despite Josie's type-A personality clashing with Spencer's laissez-faire attitude, they seem to make a great team, and soon, the good times are rolling both on and off camera. But Josie has a life in D.C., and they both have big dreams they're chasing. When this Big Easy fling starts feeling awfully serious, can they find a way to choose between personal and professional passion?
Thien-Kim writes stories about Vietnamese characters who smash stereotypes and find their happy endings. A recovering Type-Asian, she guzzles cà phê sữa đá, makes art, and bakes her feelings to stay sane. Thien-Kim is also the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy romances with erotic toys. She’s been featured on NPR, BBC America, and NBC. Thien-Kim’s debut romance, Happy Endings, will be released with Avon Books in May 2021. Connect with her at www.thienkimlam.com
This dual POV strangers to lovers interracial romance set in New Orleans over Mardi Gras was so much fun with great emotional depth!!
I loved getting to vicariously explore the city through their eyes as local aspiring film artist Spencer shows boudoir photographer Josie around the non-tourist areas. A highly relatable children of immigrants #ownvoices story that was great on audio and had ties to the author's first book.
I loved every minute of this one that was especially good on audio! Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy! Recommended for fans of The accidental pinup by Danielle Jackson or Here for it by Melanie Johnson.
This is dual perspective written in third person, which is not my favorite, but I can deal with it. I liked the premise and the setting, an Asian man and Black woman romance set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Sounds right up my alley, however, it was very insta-love, which is my least favorite trope. The chemistry was lacking. On top of that, I was bored for most of the story. I also felt like we learned more about Spencer than we did about Josie. It was a quick easy read, so if you are looking for that and you don't mind insta-love, then this might be worth the read.
Thank you to Netgalley, Thien-Kim Lam, and Avon and Harper Voyager for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
DNF'd at 35%. I'm sad to admit that I knew that I wasn't going to enjoy this book within the first ten pages, but because I was eager for this story's premise, I stuck it out in the hopes that something will change that will hold my interest. Unfortunately, I just became more frustrated as I read it.
My first frustration was with the pacing: I know that instalove isn't a unique phenomenon for romcom stories, but for every few pages of this book, I was screaming "you just met yesterday!" It was beyond too early for the characters to act like they've been dating for months, trying to find deep connections and imagining the future with each other. It doesn't matter that their interactions stretch for ten (short,) chapters, they seriously cannot have that deep, soulful connection in just two days.
My second was with the telling instead of showing. It is my reading peeve. We could have gone on an adventure following the MCs' first date together, but we are only told what happened and how spectacular it was after the fact. We are also told the characters' feelings, even when it was obvious, instead of shown so we could connect emotionally with them and be in their shoes.
It felt like a book that's cut a lot of corners just to finish telling a story instead of telling a story.
Josie and Spencer's chemistry is as sizzling as a fresh batch of beignets. Loved how Josie was able to explore Spencer's relationship with his family as well as the history of their arrival in NOLA and the start of the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras crewe. Also, so much delicious food talk!
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Mardi Gras was just this past Tuesday, making this the perfect week for a visit to New Orleans – at least between the pages of this sparkling romance. There’s always magic in New Orleans, whether at Mardi Gras or not – even if it’s just the magic of the beignets at Café du Monde.
Although the description of the messy, yeasty, sugary goodness of the beignets on Josie and Spencer’s first date will certainly make every reader’s mouth water nearly as much as Josie’s when she first checks Spencer out.
Just after she hits him in the head with the parade beads she’s just caught. It’s either a painfully cute meet cute – or just downright painful. Because either Spencer is seeing stars and little birdies after Josie clocks him – or there are some serious sparks between them from the very beginning.
Jodie’s mortified – but not concussed – and she’s feeling them too. Definitely sparks.
Over a couple of plates of those iconically delicious beignets, Spencer and Josie discover that they have more than sparks and less than a whole lot of time to see where those sparks might lead.
Josie’s in town for a mere seven days before she needs to return to her successful but stressful boudoir photography business in Washington DC. Spencer is back home in New Orleans for an unspecified while, after a dozen years in a high powered, high stress and highly detested job in – of course – Washington DC.
Spencer is more than willing to go with the flow and see where it takes them. Josie has always been constitutionally incapable of taking a step without not just A plan, but Plans B through at least F or G as well. But just this once she’ll try.
For as long as she can stand it. Or until fate intervenes. Or love walks in. Or out. Or all of the above.
Escape Rating B+: The meet-painfully-cute kicks this one off with a bang – or at least with a clonk to the noggin. The banging comes later. But this isn’t just a romantic comedy, although it certainly has plenty of the elements to make it qualify as one.
(Which is honestly kind of a relief. I read several books last year that were promoted as romcoms that turned out to be anything but. So the truth in advertising is a welcome change.)
Howsomever, Full Exposure isn’t just a romcom and it’s the not-so-funny bits that tug at the heartstrings after the final page is turned.
A big part of what both Spencer and Josie are dealing with outside of all the sparkly banter between them are real cases of burnout. Both are/were under pressure in stressful jobs and both have issues with saying enough is enough. In Spencer’s case that’s a result of family pressure and a lack of open communication, while in Josie’s case it’s because she selflessly sacrificed both her savings and her dreams when her younger sister was in a severe accident and needed long-term, expensive, hospital care and physical therapy.
While the reasons for it may be different, both of them feel intensely responsible for supporting their birth families and neither of them are able to open a space in those feelings for their own artistic dreams – because art doesn’t make money they both believe their families still need.
As much as Josie and Spencer have their artistic dreams in common, their romance is definitely a case of opposites attracting. Josie is Type-A down to her toes, while Spencer has a bit more of the New Orleans attitude of “laissez les bons temps rouler” – or at least a bone deep ability to be spontaneous that Josie planned out of her own life in the wake of her sister’s accident.
But Spencer needs a bit of Josie’s organizational magic as much as she needs a touch of his spontaneity. (Not to mention as much of his touch pretty much everywhere as she can get!)
So this is a romance of letting go, letting things out, letting things unfold, and not giving up on the best thing that’s ever happened to either of them without one hell of a fight.
One of the other terrific things about this story is that, in spite of some bumps in the road, both Josie and Spencer are functional people who have terrific support networks behind them that they both truly appreciate.
In Spencer’s case it’s his sometimes intrusive but always loving family and the New Orleans Vietnamese community of which they are an integral part. In Josie’s case it’s her best friends, the Boss Babes, who are with her through thick and thin and crisis and resolution and everything in between.
Josie’s Boss Babes are terrific, but it seemed terrifically obvious that we weren’t getting the whole picture of who they were and how they all fit together in this story. The Boss Babes, including Josie, first appeared in the author’s debut novel, Happy Endings. (In other words, while Full Exposure isn’t exactly the second book in a series it isn’t exactly not, either) So if you enjoy Josie and Spencer’s story, and I definitely did, and if you’re wishing for a gang like the Boss Babes of your very own, check out Happy Endings the next time you’re looking for a fun, sexy read with a whole lot of heart. I certainly plan to!
Being from the New Orleans area, a personal pet peeve of mine is books set in the city that are written by authors with only a passing knowledge of the area. I knew nothing about author Thien-Kim Lam before I started her new novel Full Exposure, a rom com about falling in love in New Orleans over Mardi Gras, but I was hoping that she was at least from Louisiana. When she mentioned in her story that the crowds during Mardi Gras become their own entity and move together as one mass, it gave her credibility. When she inserted the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill into her novel, I became intrigued. When the male main character Spencer gave female main character Josie tips for eating beignets, and both he and I said, “Don’t breathe while eating them,” I was sold on Lam being local. Turns out she is, so that is instantly a plus!
Full Exposure follows Spencer, New Orleans native, and Josie, DC native, as they hook up over Carnival season after Josie hits Spencer in the face with some Mardi Gras beads. According to Spencer, “Such a touristy thing to do.” Josie, a photographer, wants to capture the real side of New Orleans, and Spencer, who is making a documentary about his Vietnam family and the impact of their community on New Orleans, offers to show Josie around. Being that this is a romantic comedy, these two fall in love amid stories of the immigrant struggle in America, trying to find yourself and your craft in a cutthroat world, and looking for inspiration in the everyday.
Full Exposure does some things well, and other things not so well. I really enjoyed when Spencer and Josie were on foot, exploring the city and its people, experiencing the sights and sounds of New Orleans while getting to know each other. However, their actual romance left something to be desired. I never felt the chemistry between them, and I absolutely detested how during the rather explicit sex scenes, their way of talking to each other completely changed. I couldn’t buy that this was the same Spencer and Josie we have been following around the city - they became caricatures of themselves. The writing is uncomplicated and the story is short, perhaps too short for the subject matter it attempts to take on, but I do not think a longer novel would have necessarily worked with this author’s writing style.
I was so hype and had high hopes for this book once I saw the cover!
The story takes place in New Orleans and follows a cute quirky Black woman who had a type-A personality. In my mind she reads like a Virgo. Very meticulous, needs 3 business days before making decisions, and loves a list lol! She’s a photographer with dreams of getting her work shown in a prestigious gallery. Her love interest is a handsome Vietnamese man who’s in between jobs and has strong family ties and wants to honor his heritage.
Now the issue I kept running into was that the sexual tension felt forced. I couldn’t understand the instantaneous lust they were supposed to have for each other after knowing one another for 5 minutes. Also, as I kept reading I found it difficult to care about the main characters. Believe me, I tried.
But if you’re into the insta-love romance trope maybe you’ll enjoy this story.
Much gratitude to NetGalley, Avon and Harper Voyager for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an open, honest, and unbiased review.
There is no one on this planet that I would uproot my life and move states for after only knowing them a week (except Pedro Pascal, as a good friend pointed out), good lord. The chemistry just doesn't develop when it's instalove/lust and this book suffers because of it. Both the MCs were about as interesting as rocks (sorry for the insult to some cool rocks out there), and I never felt invested in their stories (obligatory disclaimer that it has nothing to do with their race - I would hate two white MCs if they were written like this too). I had such high hopes for this one too - sigh.
Boudoir photographer Josie Parks heads from DC to New Orleans for a photo shoot. When the shoot is cancelled she decides to spend some time in NOLA and enjoy Mardi Gras. Things get interesting when she accidentally hit a bystander with her beads. Spencer Pham, the unsuspecting victim, is glad to see that the bead-swinger is a beautiful tourist. Josie and Spencer begin a vacation fling that evolves into something more. From the angle of diversity and cultural enlightenment, Full Exposure is a wonderful book. The juxtaposition of main characters two cultures (Josie is Black, Spencer is Vietnamese) offers insight into values and prejudices. I have never been to New Orleans so there was a lot for me to learn. I really liked that Josie and Spencer were focused on the lives of real people, not the usual touristy things. The fact that Josie and Spencer were very different in personality added to these perspectives. What they had in common bound them together – they both were at a crossroads in the life and struggling to achieve goals and find new directions. Where the book was weaker, in my opinion, was the writing. As much as I liked the characters I felt like some depth of understanding was missing, particularly with Josie. The author was often telling me what Josie was like, but I still did not understand her motivations and decision-making processes. Full Exposure is an excellent fit with our current trend to expand cultural awareness through romance literature. Readers will be eager to know more, particularly about Vietnamese-American culture.
Full exposure is a sparkling and steamy diverse romance with Black and Vietnamese Representation. Josie and Spencer are a cute couple. Josie explores Spencer's family relationship, history of arrival of New Orleans and the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras Krewe. Josie and Spencer first meet at a Mardi Gras parade. Josie accidently hits Spencer in the head with beads that she caught.
This romance book tug heartstrings. Outside of their relationship, they are both dealing with real life issues such as burnout and being under pressure. Josie is saving money when her younger sister is in a severe accident, needs physical therapy and long-term hospital care. While Spencer deals with a lack of open communication and pressure from family. Both feel extremely responsible for supporting their families.
If you like the sights, sounds and eats of New Orleans and steamy Romance, I recommend reading Full Exposure!
Thanks to Netgalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for the ARC of this!
I liked the author’s first book and was excited to see this one. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so it was fun to live through Marci Gras vicariously. And all the food! I love when authors include a lot of food and characters eating. Ba ba was my absolute favorite, I am always soft for a Grandma ❤️ I hope to see more of the Boss Babes in the future!
Promising idea, poor execution. I really wanted this cute concept to work out, but the quality of the writing unfortunately ruined most of it for me. A lot of the character development was all tell and no show, with painfully on the nose exposition. The dialogue was awkward and I’m just not a fan of the insta-love trope. However, I did appreciate the cultural research and exposure as a Southeast Asian myself, so I wish this author well in future works.
Book's cover: great depiction of H/h in New Orleans
Source: Arc provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Book's Price: $10.99(kindle)
Price I'd Value: $7.99
Setting: New Orleans and D.C.
Genre: CR, Rom-Com
Tropes: interracial couple, opposites attract
Standalone/Cliffhanger/Part of a Series: standalone
HEA/HFN ending: HEA
Epilogue Included: no
Character(s)POV Spoken: H/h
Synopsis/Plot Summary: Josie Parks never ever takes a vacation, but when a wedding photog job in NOLA is cancelled, she decides to stay a week. Spencer Pham has been in NOLA living with his family for over a month. After 12 years of a dead end in job in D.C., he wants to pursue his passion: making a docu-film on his family’s history as the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras krewe.
Spencer and Josie have a meet cute and connect over their artistic pursuits. He shows her the real New Orleans, while she helps with the camerawork for his film. Opposites attract when Josie’s list making, and organization skills meet Spencer’s "go with flow" attitude. When this fling gets serious, they wonder if they can have the best of both worlds with dream jobs and love?
Contains Cheating: no
Contains Children: no
Flashbacks: yes, how Josie felt guilty about sister Tasha's accident, and what it cost her parents. Spencer working to support his family at a boring desk job, and feeling like he hasn't lived up to his family's expectations.
Jealy/Possy/OTT H/h: Spencer wants to spend as much time as possible with Josie, becomes possessive of her
Amount of Sex In The Book: a little too much
Overall Smex Rating: 4
Hero: Spencer Pham
Hero Description: Moved back to N.O. a month ago unemployed. Lived in D.C. for 12 years working as data analyst sending money to help family. He's a film maker without direction until he is clabbered in the head by Josie's beads. Meeting her ignites his passion physically and professionally.
Hero Likability Rating: 4
Hero loves books/writing: yes to books and great interview skills
Heroine: Josie Parks
Heroine Description: Owns a studio in D.C. as a boudoir photographer. Has a list of 30 by 30 -goals to accomplish by age 30. She stays in N.O. for a much-needed vacation. Always wanted to go to art school, but financially unable. Very organized, has made a lot of sacrifices for her family, forgetting about her own wants and needs.
Heroine Likability Rating: 3
Heroine loves books/writing: yes
Secondary characters: Tasha-Josie's younger sister. Was in a bad hit and run when she was in high school. Caused a lot of financial issues for their parents. Rose and Cynthia-Spencer's sisters Nina-Spencer's youngest sister, very bossy but believes in Spencer's film making. Jimmy-Spencer's bff from high school. Became a doctor to please his parents. Has a crush on Nina. Ba` Ba`-Spencer's grandmother turning 100 years old. He is taking care of her while his parents are away. Tells Spencer her story of coming to New Orleans from Vietnam. Her husband (Spencer's grandfather) creating the first krewe of Saigon.
Boss Babes: Zoe, Trixie, Keisha, and Reina-Josie's bffs
H /h RELATIONSHIP INFO
OW/OM/Exes: none mentioned.
Cheating Before/During/Outside H/h Relationship: no
CONTENT WARNINGS/TRIGGERS: racism mentioned
AUTHOR OVERVIEW: Thien-Kim Lam
New or read before & any favorites: new author for me
Overall Rating: 3.5/4
Do You Recommend This Book: yes
Will You Re-read This Book: no
Would You Read More Books by this Author: yes
COMMENTS/NOTES: I learned a lot about New Orleans and Vietnamese culture. I've never been to NOLA or Vietnam, but I got such a clear picture of their food, people, and traditions. I could go without 1 or 2 of the sex scenes, but I understand Josie and Spencer were only supposed to be a vacation fling. My favorite character is Ba`Ba` of course. I can't help but think of my own grandmother telling stories about the family, remembering all her signature dishes, and just living as an African American woman with a biracial husband in the 1920s.
New Vocabulary/beautiful words: Marigny- Area in New Orleans known for Cajun bistros, jazz clubs, and sidewalk musicians. busker-a person who performs music and other entertainment in the street or another public place for monetary donations. krewe-organization or association that stages a parade or other event at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Te`t (Nguyen Dan)-celebration in Vietnamese culture indicating the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese calendar.
Favorite quote: "Look for the unusual but capture the everyday." Josie and Spencer's mantras working on their project for the exhibition.
The HarperCollins strike is over! Congrats to the Union 🎉
When it comes to contemporary regular life books, I’m not a fan of the characters falling in love almost instantly. Maybe it’s because I’m aroace but I just don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Spencer was ready to uproot his entire life for Josie within hours of meeting her. They were entwining their lives by agreeing to collaborate on a project within one day of barely knowing each other. The story wasn’t bad but I do think it needed to take place over a longer timeline than it did (which I’m pretty sure was less than a month).
On another note, this is not the first book I’ve read this year that took place (partly) in New Orleans. The more I keep reading about it, the more I want to move there 😅 (time to start heavily researching potentially moving there?)
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Beginning with a disastrous meet cute, Spencer and Josie seem to be on a crash course. But what begins with injury, ends up with sparks flying. From the very beginning, each of them thinks that this will be a fun fling. However, it turns out they develop feelings for each other fast. I love the trope of a couple who thinks they're in it for the 'fun' and then instead - despite protests - develop feelings. Full Exposure has plenty of chemistry and spice, but the core of this book lies in Spencer and Josie's personal journeys.
I wanted to like it! Mardi Gras setting, culturally diverse characters, figuring out who you really are, rom com, lighthearted feel. It has all the elements i love, but I never connected with the characters or story line. It hurts to say but this was a DNF 70 pages from the end. Everything about it was underwhelming. I laid it down one day and never wanted to go back to finish it.
This is the first time I've read about an interracial romance with a Black woman and Asian man, and it was charming seeing elements of each of their cultures woven throughout the narrative. Very fast paced, and very steamy, and made me want to eat all the food mentioned in it
DNF. I read this author's previous book and found it mediocre. I didn't realize that when I started this one, but I try the books that are personally sent to me, so I'm not sure I'd have made a different decision. I got about 100p in before I gave up on this one. The dialogue is atrocious. It feels like it's supposed to be banter, but it's extremely cringe. The story isn't coming together either. The plot seems all over the place. The guy is supposed to be taking her to lesser known, locals spots in NOLA and the first spot he takes her is this super touristy revolving bar. Huh? Anyway, I'm out.