Tieu, Julie. Circling Back to You. Avon, 2022. ISBN 978-0063069848 pp. $15.99
Cadence and Matt work in the same realty company and have a teasing kind of work relationship. He’s angling to be best friends while she fights a growing attraction, and co-workers have dubbed them Asian Pam and Jim and work spouses. When Matt comes down with the flu, Cadence gets him home but doesn’t stay to help him; they later reference it as a missed opportunity.
His Filipino family is desperate for him to settle down with a wife and have a family; Cadence is estranged from her aging father and stuck brother, following the death of her mother. Matt is angling for a promotion to LA to be closer to his family, and an opportunity to seal a deal and advance his career results in a forced proximity vacation for them, where it’s revealed that Cadence’s family home, adjacent to a pivotal property, might become the plot twist of the book. Matt decides to bring Cadence as his date to a family party and she mostly holds her own through the gauntlet of relatives.
Cultural details, from food to honoring of ancestors, add depth to the story, and I found myself hungry for more of this. The point of view switches back and forth between the two characters, as indicated by the split cover design. By the halfway point, the fake dating piece had not yet been introduced. Billed as a rom-com, the romance was underwhelming, with intimate details mostly shied away from, and as for the comedy, I found Cadence more snarky mean than funny. That said, I did appreciate her boundaries, and how hard it can be for women to succeed in a male-dominated office environment.
Better editing would have made this Asian-American office romance shine; I found a half-dozen errors that I shared with the publisher. It seems like it was originally written in a more immediate present tense, and then edited for third person alternating points of view. It’s likely they will be corrected in the final proof, but I didn’t find the characters particularly warm or compelling, and had to push through to the (predictably resolved) ending.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #CirclingBackToYou from #NetGalley.