If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and spark and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring phở restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao together despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.
Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
Before starting A Pho Love Story, I was in a serious reading slump. Everything was uninteresting, and I was so easily distracted I could not stay focused on reading. Then I started this sweet, assuming story, and there was no looking back.
Bao and Linh are incredibly earnest teenagers. Bao is all-around average and can’t figure out what he wants to do with his life. Though his family is demanding, they support him in figuring things out and want the best for him. Linh already knows her passion lies in the arts, but her family refuses to see her painting as anything other than a hobby that takes time away from her studies and the restaurant. They’ve sacrificed for so long, and they want Linh to study something which will lead to a lucrative and stable career. When Bao and Linh stumble into a type of friendship despite the rivalry between their families, they create an honest and caring dynamic, both likely searching for what their own families can’t provide due to cultural expectations and fear.
Loan Le paints a vivid, realistic picture of Bao and Linh’s parallel lives. As the children of immigrants who have faced death, financial insecurity, and racism in the effort to build a better life, they’ve both grown up in the same environment. Bao and Linh understand each other better than many others would, and their families efforts to keep them apart only contributed to the bond they began to form when they first met as young children.
I love that this lighthearted YA contemporary romance is only the superficial layer of a deeply touching perspective on immigration and Vietnamese culture. But, trust me, don’t read this without easy access to Vietnamese food – it will make you so hungry for not only pho but every dish so lovingly described.