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A Pho Love Story – Loan Le

Thank you so much to the publishers for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

All’s fair in love, war and noodles . . .

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and spark and fire. She loves art, and she dreams of making a career of it one day. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including expecting her to work practically full-time at their family’s pho restaurant.

For decades, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh have resolved never to befriend each other, for fear of pushing too far and bringing on undue heartbreak. But when a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao closer, sparks fly . . .

A Pho Love Story follows Bao Nguyen, who is still questioning who he wants to be and what he wants to do in life. And, Linh Mai, who wants to follow her dreams as a painter and an artist but is unsure how to do so. Due to a family feud, they’ve been avoiding each other for years. But, when they meet again, become friends and start developing feelings for one another things go into disarray.

I had a lot of high hopes for this book as it is was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Sadly, I really struggled to fully enjoy this book and found it very difficult to become invested in. It did have its moments which I thoroughly enjoyed and I still feel it is well worth a read because I know so many people who have loved it.

I enjoyed the characters, I just did not form the connection with them that I usually do when reading a book. Linh is navigating the tough decisions she has to make upon which career path she wants to go down. She seems quite over dramatic at times but I felt her character growth throughout the book was worthwhile. I loved how she voiced all her ideas and opinions via her art too.

Bao is not too sure on what he wants to pursue in life. Then when journalism falls into his lap it is like it was meant to be. I enjoyed watching him write to portray his emotions and thoughts and how those words are powerful and meaningful to the reader.

I was hoping for a more slow-burn, forbidden romance between Linh and Bao but they very quickly became friends and things moved from there. The tension that I was hoping for just was not there but there were some extremely cute moments.

The family drama between the Mai’s and the Nguyen’s was interesting but it just did not give me enough to be invested in. It has to be said though this book does not just revolve around romance and rivalry. This book also talks about racism, the experience of Vietnamese immigrants in America, family pressure, trauma, grief and finding your passion. The author covers these topics in such an expansive and great way. I feel it is worth the read just for the discussion around Vietnamese immigrants.

I’m so glad that I could get the audiobook from my local library to listen to alongside reading this book. It really helped with the pronunciation of characters names, phases and food dishes that are mentioned a lot throughout the book. I feel it worked excellently as an audiobook and I did enjoy listening to that.

This book made me feel so hungry it is unbelievable. It is pack full of delicious descriptions of food that made my mouth watch. It made me realise I have yet to try any Vietnamese cuisine so I will be rectifying that as soon as possible.

Overall, this was a fun read even if it did fall short in a few areas. I enjoyed learning some things about the Vietnamese culture whilst reading this book and the mouth-watering food descriptions are worth the read alone. Just don’t read it on an empty stomach!

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