Book review: Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic swipes right on co-parenting

In a sea of rote romances, Malaysia-born, Singapore-based Lauren Ho's sophomore novel makes a splash with its original premise. PHOTOS: LAUREN HO, G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic

By Lauren Ho
HarperCollins/Paperback/400 pages/$17.56/Buy here 
3 out of 5

It is not every day that you see a Singaporean woman as the heroine of a romantic novel pushed out by a major international publisher.

And a Singaporean woman who is 37 and pregnant? Unheard of.

In a sea of rote romances, Malaysia-born, Singapore-based Lauren Ho's sophomore novel makes a splash with its original premise.

Lucie Yi has decided she wants a baby. Never mind that she is single at 37, having broken up explosively with her fiance; or that her cut-throat firm will not look kindly upon a rising star waylaid by maternity; or that her conservative family - and Singapore society - is unprepared for an unwed woman electing to become a mother.

Time and biological clocks wait for no man, not least Mr Right, so Lucie signs up for a co-parenting website, swipes right on the best candidate and gets pregnant.

The narrative may be one of romance - Lucie's two suitors are Mark, the affluent ex-fiance pulling out all the stops to get her back; and Collin, the dorky father of the baby, with whom she is trying to platonically co-parent and not exactly succeeding.

As romances go, it falls short of the chemistry that was so palpable in Ho's debut Last Tang Standing (2020), which featured a sizzling enemies-to-lovers relationship in a Singapore law firm.

But then again, Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic is not only a romance.

Ho paints a frank, funny portrait of pregnancy, supernumerary nipples and all, that will be relatable to those who are mothers and eye-opening to those who are not.

She also takes care to flesh out Lucie's other relationships, from her frosty family interactions to her bond with her best friends, Suzie and Weina.

The trio's conversations are a hoot. No-filter Weina is manically juggling infant triplets, while fun-loving Suzie, a Muslim divorcee, uses brassy cheer to mask her fear that motherhood will cause her friends to drift apart from her.

Those seeking hard-hitting fiction about single motherhood in Singapore should look elsewhere.

    Money is no issue for Lucie, a hotshot management consultant sheltered from most of the woes of the average single mother, such as housing or the cost of childcare.

    In fact, she outearns Collin considerably and secretly pays for more than his share of household expenses - one of the sources of friction in their relationship.

    Though the novel does touch on darker topics such as miscarriage, it is for the most part fun and frothy while gently pushing the envelope.

    For Singapore - where women aged 21 to 35 will have access to elective egg freezing only from early next year, and even then can use the frozen eggs only if legally married - Lucie Yi is groundbreaking.

    If you like this, read: Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho (HarperCollins, 2020, $19.26, buy here, borrow here). Ho's best-selling debut is about 33-year-old Andrea Tang, whose dating life has had to take a back seat to climbing the career ladder in Singapore's cut-throat legal sector - to her mother's chagrin.

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