An erotically charged, sex-positive book, starring a Vietnamese American woman trying to open a sex shop? Sign me up! In Thien-Kim Lam’s Happy Endings, Trixie Nguyen is an ambitious, confident, and aspiring entrepreneur with a raunchy sense of humor and excellent stage presence. With the support of her “Boss Babes,” a crew of badass women all in pursuits of their own dreams, Trixie can almost taste the fulfillment of her dreams: opening her very own sex toy business. That is, until she runs into Andre, her ex from her New Orleans days, who had left her without any explanation or closure. Just as Berger had done to Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, Andre gave Trixie only a post-it note. She didn’t even know he had arrived in Washington D.C, the city of their second coming.
Andre also has his own dreams—he wants to revitalize Mama Hazel’s, a restaurant and community institution that his late mother had owned and operated, a place struggling to make ends meet against the looming dread of gentrification. Then, through a delicious chance of fate, Andre and Trixie begin working together, holding sex toy pop-ups at Mama Hazel’s. Both see the successes of their partnership, but soon things blur from business to pleasure.
Unable to deny the heated chemistry between them, they begin to rekindle their intimacy with secret trysts at the restaurant, at his office, and at Trixie’s apartment. The book doesn’t beat around the bush for too long before we get to the juicy stuff—like Pants-on-Fire Appletini, steamy thick gumbo, and sex, lots of sex. Lam does an excellent job of building up tension and describing these scenes without being too cheesy or awkward. The author leaves enough room for imagination but serves as a gentle yet mischievous guide through their “entanglement”.
While their budding relationship starts off fun and reminds both of why they had loved each other so deeply in New Orleans, it soon quickly begins unraveling due to the great villain of all relationships—lack of communication. Here, the sexy fun read becomes a bit arduous. It was frustrating to read the same dialogue which depict the main characters falling into the same patterns that broke them up in the first place. Trixie’s plight was that she wanted to make her Vietnamese parents proud by owning something of her own. She already felt like a failed daughter by withdrawing from her master’s program and was tired of living in the shadows of her more successful siblings. Meanwhile, Andre didn’t know how to ask for help and would let his pride and insecurities spin him in a perpetual loop of self-victimization. In some ways, the characters felt very real—I think we all know a Trixie or Andre. We might even be a version of Trixie and Andre ourselves. When things got a little too real, it became difficult to be enthralled in the passion, which is what happened to our main characters and to myself, as the reader.
All in all, I am truly excited that this book is out there. We need more books about Vietnamese women talking about sex and enjoying sex. This quick read will be sure to make your heart and other parts of your body quiver a bit. Was there a happy ending? You’ll have to read to find out!
by Thien-Kim Lam
Vina Vo is a strategic consultant, writer, and K-12 education professional living in the Bay Area. During her free time, she loves hiking, exploring new bookstores, meditating, practicing yoga, and cooking tasty meals. Above all, Vina consistently envisions a world where people can create their way to freedom. She is the co-founder of the Novalia Collective: www.novaliacollective.com.