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Better At Weddings Than You Blog Tour: Food Inspiration

Mina V. Esguerra is a prolific Filipino romance author and the founder of #romanceclass, a community of Filipino romance authors who publish books independently. I have featured her books and her writing countless times here on my blog, and I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for her latest release: Better At Weddings Than You. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I need to work on a review to share more of my thoughts about it. Aside from romance books, one thing that Mina and I share is our love of food! I noticed that Better At Weddings Than You had references to some restaurants and certain dishes, and I thought it would be a great topic for a guest post. I hope this guest post will make you curious enough to read the book when it comes out, and also to try the food mentioned here! 🙂

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Food Inspiration: As featured in Better At Weddings Than You
by Mina V. Esguerra

My books are not about food, but they may as well be. I write contemporary romance but I also love food… and I keep talking about it. Especially when I’m writing anything set in the Philippines. With Better At Weddings Than You, the premise that the main characters Daphne and Aaron worked in the wedding industry formed the “menu” for this book. Here’s a selection and the real-life counterparts!

  • Christmas Eve dinner (Real thing: Spiral Restaurant at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel)
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Daphne and Aaron meet over Christmas Eve dinner at a fancy hotel restaurant by the Manila Bay, and if you’re familiar with the area it’s an easy guess that it might actually be Spiral Restaurant at the Sofitel. If you know me at all, then you’d be sure — I adore the large restaurant, the seafood, salads, meats, and the cheese room.

  • Tea shop meeting (Real things: Rustic Mornings and TWG)
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So the tea shop I describe in an early chapter of the book doesn’t actually exist (that I know of) but it’s based on the many small restaurants popping up in the city. It would have a look similar to Rustic Mornings by Isabelo in Marikina, but with a tea list that would remind you of a page from the menu of TWG. Just a page, because TWG of Singapore’s full menu would be too much for a quaint neighborhood tea place!

  • Caterer Food Tasting scene (Real thing: K by Cunanan)

How do you choose your caterer for your wedding? You taste their food. While planning my own wedding I (seriously) sampled the menus of three caterers, and one of the visits kind of went like the scene in my book. K by Cunanan is one caterer you’d encounter in the industry, and they did our wedding. We loved the food and their reception venue styling.

  • Chicharon salad (Real thing: Chef Sharwin Tee’s Tempura Bacon Salad)

In one scene, Daphne gets to reveal something about herself and I get to describe a decadent salad. Everything I said about the salad is directly from a food memory – of eating my friend Sharwin’s Tempura Bacon Salad at his restaurant. I replaced the bacon with chicharon though. If you can make this salad happen, let me know! I think it works well with a fruit vinaigrette, by the way.

Believe it or not, I had to edit this list so I don’t go on and on. Thank you, Chachic, for giving me the space on your blog! Better At Weddings Than You comes out April 15 and its Amazon link is here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XKS8Y1T

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Book Description:
Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

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Cover Reveal: Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra

Iris After the Incident is the latest book in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila series, and will be released on August 5. These are books set in the Philippines that have some overlaps (e.g. cameos of characters) but each can be read on its own. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that I’m a strong supporter of Mina’s books. My reviews of her Chic Manila books can be found here, and all my other posts about her books can be found here. The cover for Iris After the Incident was just released today! Cover design by Tania Arpa, photography by Pach R. Urrea and features one of the shots from #romanceclasscovers. I think it’s awesome how Mina keeps trying to properly represent her characters through her book covers. She has partnered with Filipino fashion bloggers for some of her other covers, and the photo for Iris After the Incident was from a shoot specifically intended for Asian/Filipino book covers. How cool is that? I really like the simple and clean design of this cover, and it seems like the photo matches the book description well. The cover makes Iris look like she’s at a turning point in her life. I still need to read the book to find out if the cover is a good fit for the story… looking forward to it!

Iris After the Incident

Which moment has defined your life so far?

Whether she likes it or not, Iris’s life has been divided into two: Before the Incident, and After the Incident. Something very private was made very public, and since then life has been about recovering from being shamed, discovering her true friends, and struggling to find a new normal.

Two years into this new life and she finally connects with a guy again. He lives in the apartment down the hall, he’s hot, and he doesn’t look at her that way. He doesn’t know what happened. But he also won’t give her his name, not right away—which has to mean he’s got something to hide too.

Iris wants to start over. Should she do that with the only person who will understand, or is this the same idiotic decision that got her in trouble in the first place?

Social media sites for Mina:
Website
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#romanceclass


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What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra

What You WantedAndrea and Damon first meet in the short story Wedding Night Stand, and their story continues in What You Wanted. This title is the latest in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila collection, which has romance books featuring female twenty-something professionals in Metro Manila. Not too long ago, I was also a female twenty-something working in an office in Manila so these books are fun for me to read because I can relate to them. They feel realistic, like the stories can happen to someone I know. Which was why I dove into What You Wanted sooner rather than later. I also like how Mina keeps partnering with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. What You Wanted’s cover was designed by Tania Arpa, featuring fashion blogger Rhea Bue. Note to self: start posting OOTD shots so I can potentially be featured on a book cover.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It’s the classic one-night stand: Beach wedding, bridesmaid, groom’s friend. When Andrea and Damon meet, sparks fly, and they give in to the attraction. Sounds simple, but Andrea’s still getting over someone, and Damon thought he’d be hooking up with another person that night. It could still be simple, really, if they chalk it up to a weekend tryst and move on.

But one night becomes lunch the week after, and then dinner the next weekend…and before they know it, Andrea and Damon are still together, dealing with the feelings they know they might still have for other people. How hard can it be to get exactly what you want? How do you even know what it is?

I enjoyed Andrea and Damon’s story of how they met and got together in Wedding Night Stand. I thought it was cute how they danced around their flirtation. What You Wanted is a continuation of their story and because they already got to spend a weekend together, the two of them are much more comfortable around each other. And I really liked that about them, how their sort-of-relationship felt really cozy. I liked both Andrea and Damon’s personalities and I thought they were great together. Andrea has a bit of wild side and seems like a fun person to hang out with. She likes doing spontaneous things like suddenly going off to a secluded beach hours away from the city by herself. She also tended to be flighty when it comes to relationships and the one time she was ready to become serious with someone, she got hurt pretty badly. Damon is the type of guy that seems like he has everything going for him – handsome, smart, polished and financially well-off. And yet the girl he’s been interested in for the past two years keeps dragging him along. For two people who haven’t had a stellar record in the relationship department, Andrea and Damon sure handled things well between the two of them. But maybe it’s because they tried to keep things casual – heck, it was supposed to be just a one night stand. That just kept being extended.

Like I said, I really liked how cozy Andrea and Damon were together. From how willing they were to meet the other person’s friends and family, to how Andrea kept sleeping over, to how they had their meals together, to how they kept meeting around their office area… it just felt like they were meant to be together because it seemed effortless and drama-free (when it’s just the two of them). The drama only happens when other people come into the picture. It made me root for them as a couple, and I wanted them to get over their hang ups and just be together. Overall, What You Wanted probably isn’t my favorite Mina V. Esguerra romance because while I liked Andrea and feel like I could be friends with someone like her, I couldn’t relate to her in the sense that I can’t see even a sliver of myself in her. I probably have more in common with her older sister Julie, who is more steady and acts a bit like an old maid (“manang”). Damon, however, might be one of my favorite Mina V. Esguerra heroes. He’s not perfect but even his imperfections seem appealing. Plus he loves to eat good food! Always a plus in my book.

The author’s Chic Manila books can be read as standalones but the latter books have cameos from the characters in earlier books. In What You Wanted, Damon and Andrea meet at a wedding where he’s a co-worker of the groom and she’s the sister of the bride. That was the wedding of Anton and Julie from That Kind of Guy. Damon also lives in the same condo as Ethan and Moira from Welcome to Envy Park. I think these little overlaps make it a little bit more fun to read the books because it makes the reader feel like all the characters are connected somehow. What You Wanted was an interesting addition to this collection and I’m looking forward to reading more romances set in Manila.

My reviews of the rest of the Chic Manila titles:
Wedding Night Stand Welcome to Envy Park That Kind of Guy Love Your Frenemies 2 No Strings Attached My Imaginary Ex Fairy Tale Fail 2


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Freebie Alert: Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra is free on Amazon now until the 17th. It’s the prequel to Mina’s upcoming Chic Manila book, What You Wanted. While this short story is a freebie, I thought it would be the perfect time to write an equally short review for it. 🙂

Wedding Night StandHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

A wedding, a moody bridesmaid, a man in pursuit – of someone else.

Andrea Crisostomo is no longer your Ms. Right Now, thank you very much. She’s had enough of guys who like her “free spirit” but then break up with her before things get serious. One guy in particular screwed her over so much that she now hates weddings, but she has to suck it up to attend her sister Julie’s big day.

Damon Esquibel enjoys the slow and steady chase, and it looks like his two-year pursuit of Geraldine is about to pay off. He’s at his friend Anton’s destination wedding only because of her. But then he meets the sister of the bride, who doesn’t seem to want to be there, and it’s enough to question his plans for the evening – and the rest of the weekend.

As the title and the premise suggests, Wedding Night Stand is set during a wedding a few hours away from Manila. The happy couple who tied the knot? Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy, another book from the author’s Chic Manila series. I think it’s pretty cute how these books are loosely connected. They’re standalones but it feels like a treat whenever I see cameos of previous MCs. Also, it feels realistic because even though Metro Manila has a population of almost 12 million (according to Wikipedia), it still feels like such a small world sometimes.

I started reading Wedding Night Stand past midnight last Sunday. You might be wondering why I would start a book that late when I would have to wake up early the next day for work. That’s because I was in denial that the weekend is over. Anyway, this was the perfect choice because I was able to finish it in one go. And I didn’t have to give up that much sleeping time for it. It’s short, flirty, and steamy with just the right amount of sexual tension for two attractive individuals who happened to be assigned seats next to each other. Can I just say that Damon’s a really hot guy? Kulang na lang ng kanin. There’s also a tiny bit of sweetness in there, when the two characters side with each other after learning about the other person’s story. I picked this up, knowing that Damon and Andrea’s romance would be continued in another book. But I think it can stand well enough on its own. So grab it while it’s free!


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Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I grab copies of her novellas and short stories when they’re released and I try to read and review them as soon as I could. The early chapters of Welcome to Envy Park were uploaded to Wattpad so I was able to sample part of the story. I was really looking forward to reading this particular title because it’s about a Filipino lady in her mid-twenties who worked in Singapore for five years and is now back in Manila, trying to figure out what her next move is. I think Welcome to Envy Park’s cover looks pretty good. I like how bright and happy the colors are. I think it’s a great idea for Mina to partner with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. I think the outfit that the girl is wearing is cute and girly although I don’t really picture Moira wearing something like that.

Welcome to Envy ParkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

I’m glad that Mina gave us a character who has lived and worked abroad because that’s such a common occurrence for Filipinos. I’m proof of that. I think half of my friends are currently studying or working abroad and I’m not sure when they’re planning to go home or if they’d rather settle down outside the country. I could totally relate to Moira because of the similarities in our working experience and because we’re about the same age. Her descriptions of what her life was like in Singapore is pretty accurate, although I was hoping it included more details. I would have wanted to know what her hobbies were, where she hung out, what her favorite restaurants or dishes were, etc. But maybe I’m just curious about those things because I’m currently based in Singapore. I feel like I could be friends with Moira, we would have conversations about OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) life while trying out new restaurants. Once she’s back in Manila, it was expected that she’d compare herself to her friends who stayed back home and here’s a section of the book that I really liked:

Maybe it was the tequila buzz, but I really did think that I had come out ahead. Surely the lessons in independence that leaving home provided a person counted for something. Counted for more, at least, in terms of emotional growth, and maturity, because those years were the most difficult and humbling of my life so far.

You got that right, sister. Living independently, away from the support system of family and friends, is definitely good for emotional maturity and growth but it’s damn hard. It’s the second most difficult experience of my life, the first was when my dad passed away. I can’t believe that in the five years that she was away, Moira only came home for Christmas visits. I think I wouldn’t last here if I didn’t get to go home three or four times a year. I liked that Moira was also not sure about her career plans, that she was still trying to decide what to do next. I’m also at that stage in my life and I believe most of my friends are also like that – in the process of understanding in what direction our career should go or figuring out what our calling is. The one big difference between me and Moira is that’s she’s a doer and I’m more of a go with the flow type of person, which makes me more like Ethan in that regard. I didn’t really plan to move to Singapore, the opportunity presented itself and I knew it would be stupid not to take it. Anyway, I liked how Moira and Ethan got to know each other through their gym sessions and food trips. I always enjoy reading Mina’s books because of the romance and while I have no complaints about how Moira and Ethan’s relationship developed, I would have loved to see more swoon-worthy scenes. That’s a minor quibble because I enjoyed it overall. What I really liked was that while Welcome to Envy Park is a light and fun romance, it still makes you think about life choices – why people choose to work abroad and why others would rather stay in the Philippines. I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends because I feel like they would be able to connect with the story, regardless of what their choices are. There’s just something about Mina’s novellas that make it easy for me to both read and review them. In my dashboard, there are several other drafts of reviews for other books that I’ve read but here I am talking about Welcome to Envy Park.

My reviews of Mina’s other books:
My Imaginary Ex
Fairy Tale Fail
Love Your Frenemies
No Strings Attached
That Kind of Guy
Interim Goddess of Love
Queen of the Clueless
Icon of the Indecisive
Young and Scambitious


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New Release: Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra

My favorite Filipino chick lit author Mina V. Esguerra has a new novella that’s just been release. It’s called Welcome to Envy Park and I’m really excited to read it because the main character is a girl in her twenties, who just came home after working for a few years in Singapore. That is a work of fiction that has Chachic written all over it. I’m really curious what bits of an OFW’s (Overseas Filipino Worker) life will be included in here.

Welcome to Envy ParkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

The cover is designed by Tania Arpa, featuring Dominique Tiu. I love that Mina and Tania have tied up with fashionistas for book covers. I already have this downloaded on my Kindle so hopefully I’ll have time to read (and review) it soon. Any new releases that you’re looking forward to?

Welcome to Envy Park Author's Note

Thanks for the shout out, Mina!


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That Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra

I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra’s latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about it here. I enjoy reading her novels because I can relate to her characters and of course, the local setting.

signed copy of That Kind of Guy

Thanks again for my copy, Mina! Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Good girl Julie never expected her hot former-player boyfriend to propose marriage. But when he did, she turned him down for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Will she settle for a nice, safe guy instead? Or will she let him find his way back into her carefully guarded heart?

Manang is a Filipino word that is roughly translated as “older sister” and is usually used as a term of respect. It’s hard to define but manang is also used to describe conservative girls. My friends and I say we’re manangs when we’d rather stay home on weekends (and in my case, read or blog) instead of go out and party. A girl can be a manang in so many different ways – from the way she dresses (no sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses) to the way she dates (not willing to be set up on a blind date). Julie is a manang in the sense that she’s a good girl. She doesn’t do wild parties and she doesn’t date random guys. In fact, she’s never been in a serious relationship. When a friend suggests that she should loosen up by dating a fun guy, Julie agrees to try things out with Anton. She’s just as surprised as everyone else when it becomes apparent that Anton wants to start a serious relationship with her. I was curious about Anton when I first met him as Tonio in No Strings Attached. I wanted to see how Mina would write about a playboy settling down. I wasn’t disappointed, Anton turned out to be a really sweet guy in spite of how he was initially portrayed as a wild party boy. Here’s a quote from the book that I really liked:

“Before I met him, I wondered how I could possibly fit a relationship into my life. My days felt full, of people, things, and concerns, and I wondered what I’d give up to accommodate someone new. Anton made it seem easy. He didn’t take me out of my life; instead, he sort of slid into the empty spaces and made himself comfortable.”

It’s funny because even though the book is written from Julie’s point of view and I have manang tendencies, I liked Anton’s character more than his girlfriend’s. His actions and his lifestyle made sense when he explained them. I guess I just couldn’t understand why Julie wasn’t invested in their relationship but then again, that’s something that Julie herself is trying to figure out. What I like about Mina’s books is that I still enjoy reading them even if I can’t fully relate to her characters. Why? Because I feel like her books are stories that can actually happen to some of my friends. I guess a huge part of that is because of the local setting. I liked watching Julie and Anton’s love story unfold. I also think it’s nice that they have such different personalities and yet they go well together. I’m already planning to recommend this (andmaybe even buy copies to give as gifts) to my girlfriends. That Kind of Guy is available in local bookstores all over the metro and will be available as an ebook soon. Mina, when will your next book be released? 😛

Other reviews:
One More Page
Perfect Nostalgia
Girl Next Cubicle