Crystal Z. Lee’s debut novel, Love and Other Moods, takes its reader on a journey through modern Shanghai. Besides getting a glimpse at the sights, sounds, food and culture the city has to offer we get more acquainted with the young third-culture professionals who came to China for the opportunities they couldn’t have gotten in America.
While I’ve seen this book being compared to Crazy Rich Asians, I honestly think it’s more than that. For instance, while the characters are definitely privileged and some are even quite wealthy, we actually see them hard at work. There’s Joss a food writer, and engaged to be married to Tay, a furedai aka “trust fund kid” whose father was a former military official and who founded a renowned auction house and then there is her best friend, Naomi Kita-Fan a young woman with Japanese and Taiwanese heritage who followed her boyfriend to the “City by the Sea”.
Naomi and Joss’s friendship was one of the best parts of this book. I loved seeing two young expat professional women supporting one another and being there for each other. It was nice to see the two of them remain friends throughout the years and eventually experiencing some major milestones together. It was also refreshing to see Naomi facing several of the same struggles that any other expat in her situation would in the real world.
Dante was the most likeable male character in the book. I was sympathetic to his family situation, and I felt that the way he dealt with everything was not only realistic but fairly reasonable. The only character that I couldn’t care about was Logan, throughout the book even though he was supposed to be “fun” I honestly just thought he was an entitled loser. So while I didn’t hate him, I didn’t like him either.
There are two romances in the book, though the central love story is the one between Naomi and Dante since Joss and Tay get married at the start of the novel and remain a reasonably stable couple for the rest of the book. Dante and Naomi’s relationship had quite the romantic beginning though they do end up facing some challenges from Dante’s family who have suffered in the past at the hands of the Japanese and with Naomi being half Japanese, they unfairly projected their mistrust and hatred onto her. I was fine with this conflict for their love story. What I disliked though was the extra drama involving Logan that I felt was shoehorned near the end. It honestly was an annoying and depressing damper on an otherwise lovely relationship. That being said, I appreciated how the book normalizes both how relationships and marriages evolve. While both Joss and Tay and Naomi and Dante’s relationships grow out of their rose coloured, honeymoon phases, it causes them to emerge as stronger partnerships in the end.
Taking place over seven years, Love and Other Moods was an exciting and fast-paced story of young expats carving out their place in life and in the city. It is also a realistic look at family, relationships, motherhood and fidelity to one’s family. The book definitely captures the busyness and excitement of Shanghai, and it makes me wish I could travel to Shanghai right now to visit the locales and try the various foods that are mentioned in the book.
About the Author:
Crystal Z. Lee is a Taiwanese American bilingual writer and a member of the Asian Authors Alliance. She has called many places home, including Taipei, New York, Shanghai, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She was formerly a public relations executive who had worked with brands in the fashion, beauty, technology, and automotive industries. Love and Other Moods is her first New Adult novel. Her debut children’s book is forthcoming in 2021
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.