A Pretend Relationship Gets Complicated In This Excerpt From Fake Dates and Mooncakes

Books Features Sher Lee
A Pretend Relationship Gets Complicated In This Excerpt From Fake Dates and Mooncakes

Fake dating is one of the all-time greats when it comes to romance tropes. What’s not to love? Two friends, acquaintances, or sometimes total strangers agree to pretend to be in a relationship to achieve some sort of shared goal, only to realize they have come to mean more to one another than they ever expected along the way. Swoon, is basically what I’m saying. 

Sher Le’s Fake Dates and Mooncakes puts a YA spin on the subgenre with a heartfelt story of Dylan, an aspiring chef who wants to win the Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake-making contest, and Theo, a rich kid who’s looking for a partner to help get his family to stop matchmaking for him. That Dylan starts developing real feelings for the boy he’s meant to be fake dating is only one of the story’s twists, as it wrestles with issues of both heritage and class. 

Fake Dates and Mooncakes cover

Fake Dates and Mooncakes is described as a mix of Heartstopper and Crazy Rich Asians with a charming foodie twist and honestly sounds absolutely scrumptious.

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

Dylan Tang wants to win a Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake-making competition for teen chefs—in memory of his mom, and to bring much-needed publicity to his aunt’s struggling Chinese takeout in Brooklyn.

Enter Theo Somers: charming, wealthy, with a smile that makes Dylan’s stomach do backflips. AKA a distraction. Their worlds are sun-and-moon apart, but Theo keeps showing up. He even convinces Dylan to be his fake date at a family wedding in the Hamptons.

In Theo’s glittering world of pomp, privilege, and crazy rich drama, their romance is supposed to be just pretend . . . but Dylan finds himself falling for Theo. For real. Then Theo’s relatives reveal their true colors—but with the mooncake contest looming, Dylan can’t risk being sidetracked by rich-people problems.

Can Dylan save his family’s business and follow his heart—or will he fail to do both?

Fake Dates and Mooncakes won’t hit shelves until May 16, 2023, but we’re thrilled to be able to share an excerpt from this charming story right now. For context, at this point in the story, Theo and Dylan are continuing their fake dating charade during a gathering with Theo’s family, when Dylan saves one of his cousins from drowning. The following excerpt takes place the next day. 

Chapter 12

When I wake up, I’m engulfed in a sea of pillows. Sunlight streams through glass and hits me in my eye, making everything overly bright. I’m not sure where I am.

On the nightstand is a gigantic basket bursting with colorful daisies. A note card reads:


Memories from last night rush back: Terri. The pier. The ocean. The cold.

I’m still wearing Theo’s Burberry shirt. The clean, musky scent of the soft flannel reminds me of him. His side of the bed is creased, which means he was sleeping beside me at some point during the night.

I extricate myself from the pillows and reach for my phone. Good thing I didn’t take it with me when I headed out last night, or it’d be at the bottom of the ocean.

There’s a bunch of messages from Megan with photos of different dog treats: Which is bacon? This one? Or this one? Never mind I gave her all 3. She likes me more than you now. Two texts are from Aunt Jade: Having fun? Good night! and Morning, everything ok?

I don’t know how to tell her that Theo’s cousin nearly drowned last night. Or that we both could’ve been fish food. I don’t want her to worry. I text back: Sorry for the late reply. Having a great time. Love you!

My head snaps up as the bathroom door opens. Theo steps out.

“Hey. You’re awake.” He’s dressed in dark blue pants and a shirt with narrow gray and white stripes. He comes over and sits on my side of the bed. “How are you? Feeling better?”

“I’m fine. How’s Terri? Is she all right?”

“Yeah. She stayed overnight at the hospital just to be sure. Her father’s driving her back to the villa now.” He gestures at the basket of flowers. “Nora sent this.”

I look at him. “Now I understand why Terri invited you without telling her family.”

Theo nods. “I wanted to give her moral support and divert some attention. Pissing off my dad is the cherry on top.”

I can’t imagine growing up in this glossy world where money can buy anything and appearances mean everything. Lucia put Terri through the ordeal of being in the wedding party when she clearly wasn’t coping well with the whole situation—all for what? So the relatives wouldn’t talk? From the way Herbert asked Theo about Terri, they’re talking all the same. Still, Lucia’s dis- tress when she rushed up to her daughter’s unmoving body on the beach was terrifyingly real.

“Sure you’re okay?” Theo touches my forehead and neck. Suddenly I’m unbearably warm. “Your aunt will kill me if she finds out what happened last night.”

I shake my head. “Don’t worry. I didn’t say anything to her. And I don’t intend to.”

Theo gets to his feet. “Well, if you’re feeling up to it, we’re in time for brunch.”

I glance at the clock on the nightstand—quarter to eleven. My stomach growls on cue. “Yeah, I’m starving.”

As I’m brushing my teeth, I realize I have no proper brunch clothes. Given what Theo’s wearing, even the single polo shirt that survived Megan’s carnage is too casual for the dress code. I’m pretty much doomed for the rest of the weekend. Maybe I can tell Theo I have a headache and ask him to bring back a few bread rolls or something.

When I walk out of the bathroom, Theo has put on a navy blazer, which he leaves unbuttoned. He looks smoking hot, but I’m too stressed to enjoy the view.

“Listen, I’m really sorry to break this to you now, but I have nothing to wear to brunch,” I blurt out. “I swear, I packed the nicest shirts I own, but Megan’s idea of a hilarious prank was to replace them with…these.”

I cringe as I show him the T-shirt with the bulldog in professor glasses holding a humerus bone. Theo takes out a white T-shirt with a dozen scowling rabbits and the line EVERY BUNNY WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING.

“I think this one’s my favorite,” he says.

“I’m not joking. Your aunt Lucia is going to freak out if I show up in any of these.” I take the Kung Fu Bunnies T-shirt from him and stuff it into my backpack. “Can you lend me one of your spare shirts? You’ve packed a dozen extras of everything in that huge carry-on, right?”

Theo points at my black Levi’s. “Put those on. I’ll find something to match them with.”

I change into the jeans and follow him into the walk-in closet. I look around. “Where are our suits?”

“They got a little creased in the garment bags, so I asked the staff to have them pressed and sent back before the ceremony.” Theo waves at two blazers on the rack, one tan and the other gray. “I always bring at least one extra blazer and a pair of loafers. A server might spill a drink on your sleeve, or you might step on some doggy poo on the lawn. True story.”

To my surprise, Theo gives me a white crew neck T-shirt.

“A collared shirt isn’t the only way to pull off a semi-formal look,” he says. “A turtleneck is great in winter, but in hotter weather, you can wear a blazer over a plain T-shirt. Try it on.”

“You’re as good in the closet as I am in the kitchen,” I joke, hoping Theo won’t notice how self-conscious I’m feeling as I take off my sweater. I realize, too late, how my words came out and turn red. “I didn’t mean you’re in the closet! I’m not, either. What I was trying to say…You know what? I’m just going to shut up now.”

Theo chuckles. “I get it. We’re two guys standing in a wardrobe. It’s cool.”

Although I don’t have time to hit the gym, hauling around fifty-pound bags of rice and gallons of cooking oil is pretty good weight training, so I’m not lanky or anything. But being shirtless in front of Theo sends an anxious tingle up my spine. I duck my head and quickly pull on the T-shirt. The cotton blend is soft and luxurious. The Tom Ford label probably has a lot to do with that.

Theo takes the tan blazer off its hanger. “In any wardrobe emergency, you can’t go wrong with neutrals, clean lines, and layering.”

I stand in front of the full-length mirror while Theo helps me put on the blazer, which complements my denim jeans perfectly. “The trick is to mix and match in a way that doesn’t seem as if the pieces were put together at the last minute.” Theo meets my eyes in the mirror. “We want them to look like they were made for each other.” 

 His enigmatic tone makes me wonder if he’s talking about more than just clothes. 

 “Thanks,” I tell him. “You really saved the day.”

Theo shakes his head. “No, Dylan, you did. I didn’t get a chance to thank you last night. For saving Terri. What you did was . . . really dangerous but incredibly brave.”

“I didn’t know if I could save her. But I had to try.”

“You didn’t just save her, you saved the whole wedding,” he replies. “If not for you, what should be the happiest day of Nora’s life would’ve ended up being the worst.”

I don’t say that Terri was drinking when I found her. The hospital would’ve run blood tests and disclosed her alcohol level to her parents—but no one else has the right to know unless Terri decides to tell them herself.

“How did you know I was out there?” I ask.

“You hadn’t come back by the time I got out of the shower, so I went looking for you,” Theo says. “A member of the staff saw you heading out to the beach. When I was close to the pier, I heard someone shouting over the waves. I thought I imagined your voice at first.”

Terri might not have survived if Theo hadn’t helped me drag her to shore. And he was the one who resuscitated her. I didn’t expect a rich kid who never had to lift a finger for anything to know CPR.

Theo’s just half a shoe size bigger than me, and his pair of dark tan loafers complete my outfit. I face the mirror again. I should feel like an imposter, dressed up in Theo’s T-shirt and blazer and trying to squeeze myself into his world—but for the first time, I don’t.

Theo moves closer, adjusting the lapels of the blazer and dust- ing invisible specks off my shoulders. As I stare at our reflections, I find myself daring to hope that maybe all this glitz and glamor isn’t who he really is. That his world is closer to mine than I expected—and like his Burberry shirt, it’s somewhere I can fit in.

Fake Dates and Mooncakes is available on May 16, 2023, but you can pre-order it now.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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