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Fiction Romantic Comedy

The Stand-Up Groomsman

by (author) Jackie Lau

Penguin Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Romantic Comedy, Contemporary, Asian American
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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"A low-angst charmer."—New York Times Book Review

A bridesmaid and groomsman put their differences aside to get their best friends down the aisle in this opposites-attract steamy romantic comedy.

They say to never meet your heroes, but when Vivian Liao's roommate gets engaged to her favorite actor’s costar, she has no choice but to come face-to-face with Melvin Lee again. He's just as funny and handsome as he is on-screen...but he thinks she’s an ice queen and a corporate sellout. It's none of his business how she chooses to live her life, no matter how charismatic he is.

Mel is used to charming audiences as an actor and stand-up comedian, but he can't seem to thaw Vivian’s defenses. If she can ignore the simmering attraction below the surface, so can he. The only thing uniting them is their goal for their friends’ wedding to go off without a hitch.

As they collaborate on wedding cake and karaoke parties, Mel realizes he might have seriously misjudged this bridesmaid, while Vivian discovers the best man might just be as dazzling off-screen as he is on. With the wedding underway, maybe more than one happily ever after is in the future.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Jackie Lau decided she wanted to be a writer when she was in grade two, sometime between penning “The Heart That Got Lost” and “The Land of Shapes.” She later studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to writing romance novels. She is now the author of over a dozen romantic comedies.

Jackie lives in Toronto with her husband, and despite living in Canada her whole life, she hates winter. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gelato, gourmet donuts, cooking, hiking, and reading on the balcony when it’s raining.

Excerpt: The Stand-Up Groomsman (by (author) Jackie Lau)

Chapter 1

One year later . . .

"I have a great plan for the rest of the afternoon." Mel adjusted his position on the barstool and reached for a piece of marinated tofu with his chopsticks.

Chu's was his favorite bar in Manhattan. Located on a small street in Chinatown, it lacked a proper sign and was never very busy, but somehow, it managed to stay in business. Mr. Chu made great lychee cocktails, which were infinitely better than the nonalcoholic sour plum shit that Ryan was drinking, and the food was good, too. Though Mel came here all the time, he hadn't been here with Ryan in almost a year.

"A great plan?" Ryan said. "Okay, let's hear it."

Mel couldn't help laughing at the skepticism in his friend's voice.

He was right to be skeptical, of course.

"I'm telling you," Mel said, "you're really going to like it."

"Is that so?" Ryan's voice continued to drip with skepticism.

"You know those threads on Twitter that match pictures of you in various outfits to pictures of other things? Like 'Ryan Kwok as Bubble Tea' or 'Ryan Kwok as Cupcakes.' Or 'Ryan Kwok as Vases from the Qing Dynasty.' Maybe 'Ryan Kwok as Poisonous Frogs.'"

"I recall you making one of those threads before. 'Ryan Kwok as Baby Pandas.'"

"There was also one I did of you as raccoons stealing from trash bins."

"How could I forget?" Ryan said dryly. "Okay, what's your brilliant plan?"

"I didn't actually call it brilliant."

"But you think all your plans are brilliant."

Mel shrugged casually. "What can I say? I'm a genius."

Behind the bar, Mr. Chu's lips twitched.

"I told your father about this plan," Mel said.

Ryan shook his head. "Of course you did."

"He approved."

"Unlikely. Or if he did, it was just so you'd stop bothering him. You're really talking this up, Mel. Expectations are high."

"Well, it's a 'Ryan Kwok as Donuts' thread. Lindsay will appreciate it."

"That sounds relatively benign for you. I'm disappointed. And relieved, to be honest."

"Ah." Mel held up a finger. "But I'm going to take these pictures myself. I've brought a bunch of different outfits for you"-he held up his knapsack-"and I'm going to make you eat all the donuts. Eight donuts in three hours before you go to the airport."

"You want me to spend the entire flight in the tiny airplane toilet?" But Ryan was chuckling.

"I've planned our route carefully. First up, there's a place in Brooklyn that makes herb-and-bone-marrow donuts."

"Did you say bone marrow? In donuts?"

"Then, I hear you like matcha donuts, and these ones are a scary green color. Oh, and they have a wasabi filling. I've brought a lovely shirt for you to wear, and it complements the donuts: a green Hawaiian shirt with palm fronds."

"Are all your donuts savory?" Ryan asked.

"Glad you asked." Mel picked up his phone and flipped through a few pictures. "Behold, the quintuple chocolate donut."

"That doesn't look too bad. I'll eat that one and skip everything else."

"You sure you can manage?" Mel flipped to the next picture, which showed someone's hand next to the donut for comparison-it was about ten times the size of a normal donut. "I've also found a bakery that sells donut sundaes. Pretty excited about those."

"Look, Mel." Ryan scratched the back of his neck. "Much as I'd love to run around New York stuffing my face with donuts, I have something serious to tell you." He pulled a small box out of his pocket and opened it up, revealing an engagement ring.

Mel's instinct was to make a joke and pretend Ryan was proposing to him, but this didn't seem the time for such theatrics.

"You're going to ask Lindsay to marry you?" he asked instead.

Ryan nodded solemnly.

"Congratulations." Mel slapped Ryan's shoulder and ignored the twinge of envy in his chest. He was genuinely happy for his friend.

"Don't congratulate me yet. She has to say yes first."

"But she will. You know that."

"Well, I think she'll say yes, but . . ."

"When are you going to pop the question?"

"Tomorrow." Ryan slipped the ring box back into his pocket.

"I assume you're going to do it in private, just the two of you, rather than live-streaming it from the top of the CN Tower or similar."

"Of course."

Mel slapped Ryan's shoulder again, then caught Mr. Chu's eye. "Hey, could you get us each a glass of sour plum drink? Thanks."

Ryan's eyebrows shot up. "You're going to drink that?"

"To show my support for you," Mel said.

"A great sacrifice on your part."

"Indeed. Unless I end up spitting it all over your clothes."

"I'll be sure to keep my distance."

Ryan walked over to the slightly grimy windows of the bar as though looking for something, which was odd, but Mel didn't make much of it. Perhaps his friend was just lost in thought about his fiancŽe-to-be.

Mel liked Lindsay. She and Ryan were a good couple.

But why did a sweet, friendly woman like Lindsay have a roommate like Vivian Liao?

It annoyed Mel that he thought of Vivian whenever Ryan mentioned Lindsay. And it didn't make sense. They'd only met twice, and the second time, they'd been polite and distant.

The first time, on the other hand . . .

He'd probably see Vivian again at the wedding. Ah, well. His mouth had a tendency to run away from him, but he supposed he could manage to keep it shut.

As Mr. Chu slid two glasses across the bar, Ryan returned to his seat. Mel lifted his glass and clinked it against Ryan's . . . and then he had a too-big sip of his sour plum drink and almost gagged.

"Jesus," he muttered. "That really is disgusting."

Ryan laughed at his misery, which Mel supposed he deserved.

"Oh, by the way," Ryan said nonchalantly, as Mel was still coughing, "if she says yes, will you be my best man?"

Mel recovered and grinned at his friend. "Of course."

"I have a feeling I might regret this-"

"Don't worry, I'll plan the wildest bachelor party ever."

"That's what I was afraid of."

"Nah, you know I won't make it too over the top. Just a little over the top."

"I know." Ryan leaned forward, and they embraced.

Mel was pulling back when he saw something strange over Ryan's shoulder: a bright pink limo parked in front of the dingy bar.

"Right on time," Ryan said.

"Didn't think that was your style, but . . ." Mel trailed off as a familiar figure stepped out of the limo. Was that Po Po?

Strangely, Ryan didn't seem shocked by this development.

Mel's grandma shuffled into the bar, and Mel rushed over to meet her. "What are you doing here?"

"Why are you greeting me like that? You should say, 'Hello, Po Po, so nice of you to visit me.'" She turned to Ryan. "Everything is going as planned."

Were his grandmother and Ryan up to something? He shot his friend a questioning look.

Ryan shrugged. "This is payback."

Those were some terrifying words.

"Payback for all the times you stole my phone," Ryan clarified, "and posted weird polls on my Twitter account and called my father. Payback for-"

"Okay, okay," Mel said. "I get it."

"You will love this surprise," Po Po said with an enthusiasm she usually saved for karaoke and reusing Ziploc bags. She grasped Mel's arm and led him toward the door. "Have a good flight to Toronto, Ryan."

"Thank you. Remember to send me the video."

The video?

Mel helped Po Po into the limo and climbed in after her. He wouldn't mind being chauffeured around the city in a pink limo-after all, attention and bright colors were kind of his thing. But the surprise was clearly about more than the vehicle.

Indeed, inside the car were three people he'd never seen before, plus his little sister, Joy.

Despite her name, Joy wasn't really, well, joyful. As usual, she was clad entirely in black; unlike usual, she was sporting a smile. Though perhaps that smile was a bit . . . evil?

She held up her phone.

"What is this?" he asked. "Some kind of Just for Laughs gag?"

Po Po sat down and lifted up a sign that said: "Po Po's Speed Dating."

The limo started moving. Mel was trapped.

"Meet your prospective dates," Joy said in her signature bored voice. She gestured at the three strangers-two women and one man.

Two of them looked just as unhappy to be here as Mel was, but one of the women was smiling as though she were looking forward to this.

It wasn't that Mel objected to dating. He had a somewhat active dating life, and not just because it provided good inspiration for his comedy. He enjoyed going out and meeting people. Though for whatever reason, his relationships tended not to last long or be too serious.

He did, however, object to dating people his grandmother had picked out for him.

Five years ago, Po Po had set up Mel's older sister with the grandson of one of her mahjong buddies, and against all odds, they'd hit it off and gotten married.

A very unfortunate development.

Sure, Mel was happy for his sister, but Po Po still bragged about that as though it had happened yesterday, and she fancied herself a good matchmaker.

And now Po Po was turning her focus to Mel. That wasn't a surprise; if anything, he was shocked it had taken this long.

Po Po gestured at the three East Asian strangers seated across from Mel. "The woman on the left is Cindy."

Cindy briefly nodded in his direction. "Hi."

Undeterred by the lack of enthusiasm, Po Po continued, "Cindy works as a pharmacist. Also a brilliant pianist and tennis player." She turned her attention to the man in the middle. "Next is Felix. I hear he has many tattoos. Maybe he can show you later."

Felix didn't even blink at Mel's octogenarian grandmother talking about his tattoos, but Mel wasn't as calm. "Po Po!"

Po Po ignored his outrage. "Felix is a banker. Respectable job, yes?"

A banker. Annoyingly, that reminded Mel of a certain woman who worked for a bank. It also reminded him of his first couple of years after college, when he'd had a job that required him to be somewhat respectable-not really his thing.

"His grandma says he makes excellent dumplings," Po Po added.

That made Felix a little tempting, but . . .


Po Po gestured to the last woman, the only one who seemed excited about this. "This is Aubrey."

"Hi, Melvin!" she said, holding out her hand, which he shook rather limply.

"Aubrey is a researcher in Joy's lab," Po Po said.

Oh God. That meant she liked creepy-crawlies.

"But I found Cindy and Felix myself." Po Po sounded quite proud of this accomplishment. "Cindy is the granddaughter of my friend at the karaoke club. Felix is the grandson of another friend. See? I even found you a man."

"Yes, I can see that," Mel said.

"You are thirty-four." Po Po shook her finger at him.

"I know how old I am." He didn't usually get this annoyed at his grandmother, but then again, she didn't usually hold him hostage in a limo of prospective spouses.

Because he knew Po Po's next sentence would involve marriage.

"It's time you get married!" she said. "Way past time. You like all genders, so it should be easy for you to find someone. Do not understand why it's taking so long."

Cindy shot him a sympathetic look. Likely she had to deal with similar comments from her own family, but he hoped for her sake that her friends weren't assisting her family-which sadly didn't appear to be the case for him.

"Ryan was in on the whole thing?" Mel asked.

"Yes," Po Po replied. "Very kind of him, wasn't it?"

"I'm going to hack into his Twitter account," Mel muttered, "and post all sorts of embarrassing stuff."

"He said he would keep you at Mr. Chu's until we arrived in style."

Joy snorted.

"Aiyah!" Po Po shouted. "Pink limo is very stylish. Are you saying you prefer a black limo covered in bugs?"

"Definitely." Joy turned to Mel. "How does it feel to have the tables turned for once? Usually, you're the attention-seeking middle child who's hell-bent-"

"I wouldn't say hell-bent."

"-on playing pranks and getting on everyone's nerves. And now you're having it done to you." Joy was still holding up her phone, presumably filming the whole thing.

"As though you've never done anything to get on my nerves?" he asked. "You released your ant colony in my bedroom!"

"I was six. It was an accident, and I was just as upset about it as you were. I'd put a lot of work into that colony."

"And now you've moved on from ants to-"

"Stop arguing!" Po Po said. "Not much time. Mel needs to talk to Cindy, Felix, and Aubrey. Not to you, Joy. The trip to Queens shouldn't be too bad right now, so ten minutes for each date, yes? I supply the drinks." She pulled out a bottle of champagne.

"Here, let me open that for you," Felix said.

She handed it over then winked at Mel. "You see? He's so thoughtful!"

Well, Felix was probably just concerned about what disaster might occur if Po Po attempted to open the bottle.

But as aggravating as this whole situation was, Mel did feel a moment of gratitude for the fact that Po Po had been so accepting when he'd come out. He'd expected his father to handle it better than his maternal grandmother, but he'd been very much mistaken. (To be fair, he'd been mistaken about a lot of things as a teenager.)

"Ooh, I'll go first!" Aubrey said, shifting toward Mel. "I've watched every episode of Just Another New York Sitcom, plus your Netflix special!"

Oh no. She'd probably expect him to be funny.

Yes, his Netflix special was good, but he hadn't just gone up there and spewed out any old thing that came to mind. No, it had taken lots of careful preparation.

And he might generally be a funny dude, but he just wasn't feeling it now. Seriously, who wanted to do speed dating under the watchful eyes of their grandmother and little sister? His donut plan with Ryan had been much better than this-and nowhere near as cruel.

"Uh, thanks," Mel said, not bothering to attempt a joke now.

Cindy interrupted his so-called date with Aubrey. "Was that Ryan Kwok in the bar with you?" she asked, leaning forward.

"Yeah, he's in New York for a few days," Mel replied.

Editorial Reviews

"Lau’s books have some of the best effort-to-emotional-payoff ratios in romance, and that’s before we get into Mel’s buoyant stand-up routines...This is my favorite of Lau’s yet, and, as always, it’s full of delicious food descriptions, delicate emotional landscapes and families who show affection by being relentlessly annoying."—New York Times Book Review

"The Stand-Up Groomsman is the best of opposites-attract romcom: it has two relatable, lovable, layered characters who not only perfectly complement each other, but also understand the other person’s boundaries and wishes and respect them till the very end. It’s complex, steamy, and uniquely charming, with plenty of both hilarious scenes and insightful commentary. Jackie Lau’s latest effort is masterful, inspiring, and full of heart!"—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

"Jackie Lau's books have a special way of packing both heat and heart. The Stand-Up Groomsman is no exception! Readers will devour this scrumptious, sexy, and dazzling romance."—Amy Lea, author of Set on You
"Jackie Lau’s deft touch weaves together heart and charm in The Stand-Up Groomsman. This opposites attract story featuring Vivian and Mel is filled with appealing (and hilarious) side characters, emotional complexity, and Lau’s trademark humor, resulting in an enchanting and satisfying read."—Lily Chu, author of The Stand-In

“Insightful, clever, and honest, The Stand-Up Groomsman will draw you in and keep you there."—Jayci Lee, author of Booked on a Feeling

“Lau shines in this witty rom-com that pairs a Chinese American comedian and a Chinese Canadian finance whiz…This fun, feel-good outing hits the spot.”Publishers Weekly

“Lau’s inclusion of BIPOC characters, mental health issues, intergenerational trauma, and exploration of sexualities beautifully illustrates Vivian’s and Melvin’s personalities.”—Library Journal

Other titles by Jackie Lau