Chances are that you know what your astrological sign is, but did you know there is also a Chinese zodiac? It is based upon the year and hour of your birth and includes an Ascendant (or Rising Sign) and element similar to the astrology that you're likely more familiar with. And, in the same way that you can use astrological signs, you can use your Chinese zodiac sign to find compatibility and love. 

That is  what Olivia Huang Christensen does in Lunar Love, an upcoming novel from debut author Lauren Kung Jessen. Olivia has just been named as the new owner of Lunar Love, the matchmaking company that her Po Po started which uses the Chinese zodiac to find love for those who seek it. As Olivia struggles to keep the business afloat while sticking to tradition, a new dating app surfaces that claims to do what Lunar Love does. Hijinks ensues as Olivia and ZodiaCupid's creator Bennett O'Brien enter into a wager to find love for the other person. Whoever falls in love first...loses? You can see why there would be hijinks.

This story has been stuck in my mind from the first moment I read the synopsis and it did not disappoint. Even after just reading the first few pages, I was hooked. I knew this was going to be something special and special it was. The story is told from Olivia's first person POV and, as she interacts with each character, we find a special connection to each and every person based upon her experiences (past and present) with them. There are also some candid moments about various topics that would resonate with so many people.

One of the things that Olivia (and Bennett!) struggles with was captured in such a beautiful way with Lauren's writing. Both sides of this rivals-to-lovers relationship are mixed race and both struggle with racial imposter syndrome, the idea that they aren't "Asian enough." Even without knowing Lauren's background, it's easy to see that she is writing from experience in the way she so effortlessly incorporates it into the story. What makes it even better is that she writes it in a way that makes it easy for anyone to understand the struggle. I am "full Chinese" myself, but I was born and raised in America. I think I can speak for many members of the Asian American diaspora, mixed race or not, when I say that racial imposter syndrome is real and it's something that is hard to overcome, especially in the context of our world today. I felt a few good stabs right in the feels during these moments in the book and it was cathartic in a way that I didn't expect.

Another aspect of this book that really made me clutch my chest and feel the feels was how much of a deep dive into Chinese culture there was. From the mythology behind the Chinese zodiac to Chinese funeral traditions, there were so many parts of the Chinese culture interspersed into this story in a way that didn't feel like you were reading a research paper. Every part felt incredibly organic and in line with the story. It was handle with such love and care that you could tell Lauren is proud of where she comes from (and/or that she enjoys researching where she comes from!)

I feel like anyone who enjoys a good rivals-to-lovers/enemies-to-lovers romance would enjoy this story, but it was extra fun for me to be able to see so many parts of my life in this story as well. From the use of Chinese titles (Po Po, Gong Gong, Yi-Po, Yi-Gong) to the food, this could have been a story about my family in another lifetime. Speaking of food, do not go into this story with an empty stomach. There is so much food talked about throughout the course of the story that had me craving one thing after another (and I had been warned so I had eaten a full meal before reading and it still got me!)

I loved every moment of this book (including some cringe-worthy moments) and I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes next from Lauren. She is an author to watch and I am excited to be able to follow her journey from this first book and beyond.

Lunar Love is available for pre-order here and hits shelves January 10th, 2023. Like extras with your books? Pre-order a personalized, signed, and stamped copy from Lauren's local indie bookstore, The Bookshop, and also receive a free postcard that features artwork inspired by the book!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you.