- 3.7 / 5
- Romance/Slice of Life/Josie
My first detailed review will be on this little gem of a novel here. It is a Chinese light web novel by 焦糖冬瓜 , it was originally published in 2015 and is now completed with a total of 84 chapters. As of now there is 43 chapters that have been translated into English so my review will be on what I’ve read thus far. The novel can be found at distractedchinese blog or on novelupdates.com.
Caution review may contain minor spoilers
Heartbeat at the Tip of the Tongue is a delightful modern romance novel. The story in a nutshell is about two people who are polar opposites of one another who are brought together by chance to compete in a culinary contest. The female lead Lin Ke Song is a likable character. I found her pragmatism and witticism refreshing and charming. When we are first introduced to the protagonist Ke Song she is unemployed with a string of unsuccessful employment in her wake. With little to no prospect or plans for her future, Ku Song spend her days keeping her childhood friend, and long time crush Song Yi Ran company. Her days of leisure is short lived when her uncle offers to bring her over to New York to help manage his flourishing restaurant. Initially, Ke Song was taken aback by the offer but the prospect of gaining experience in management, and the possibility of procuring sufficient income to further her education in the states appealed to her tremendously. Nonetheless, the conspicuously deciding factor for her to accept the offer was the excuse to follow her childhood friend Song Yi Ran to New York.
Not soon after settling into her new life in New York City, Ke Song was offered the opportunity to participate in a culinary show. Weeks prior, Ke Song and Song Ki were out sightseeing when they stumbled upon a cooking contest. Impelled by Song Ki to participate, she grudgingly accepts but purposefully sabotaged her tomato omelette dish to make it astoundingly inedible to tease and torment the judges. Unbeknownst to Ke Song, this particular cooking contest will determine the competitors for Masterchef, an upcoming culinary show. The participants is chosen not for their notable cooking skills but rather they select the participants who produced the worst dishes, and her’s left a deep impression on the judges. Ke Song, has no particular interest or affinity for cooking, her only talent as far as food is concerned is her ability to accurately guess the ingredients used in any particular dish. Ke song enjoys food but views it as nothing more than a way to satiate and appease the appetite so she was rather disinclined to accept the offer, however she was won over by her uncle’s enthusiasm and enticed by the prize money. Cautiously, she accepts the offer although with a lingering sense of foreboding.
Ke song apprehension turned out to be spot on when her mentor was revealed to be none other than Jiang Qian Fan. Professionally, Jiang is known for being a renowned three star Michelin chef, who is both respected and admired in the Western and Eastern culinary world. However to Ke Song, Jiang is only the arrogant, critical, and socially inept man she played food tour guide to for a day, back in china, months prior. Needless to say her experience with Jiang left her with a singular impression of him, and one she is wary of experiencing again. Discourage not only by her past experience with him, she also silently questions his capability as a chef since his vision impairment must be a disabling hindrance to cooking. Jiang, for his part was preparing to voice his objection to this absurdity when he sensed her doubts and skepticism. Greatly offended by her dismissal of his skills solely for his lack of sight, he decides to accept her as his pupil and train her to represent him in MasteChef. With much reluctance and wariness on both their ends is the partnership formed, but this atmosphere of dread does not last long as they began to slowly overcome their differences through the language of food.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, even though there is 40 plus more chapters to go I couldn’t help but rave about what I’ve read so far, and it’s good guys. I found the translation easy to follow and the description of the food quite soothing and entertaining to read. There are a couple things I want to talk about at length, one is the character development. I think the author did an amazing job of slowly developing Ke Song’s character throughout the story. At the beginning Ke Song was kind of aimless and unsure of her future. She seem quite dispassionate with her choice in career and it shows in her employment failures within that field. But as she slowly mentors under Jiang her understanding and appreciation of food broadens to encompass more than just the enjoyment of food but its preparation, selection, harmony and display as well. Witnessing Ke Songs growing passion for food was as fulfilling and heartwarming for me as was the romance.
Speaking of romance, prepare yourself for a love triangle (I’ve warned you). Although it is pretty clear who Ke Song will end up with several chapters in. I will admit I did ship her with the wrong guy for the first 5 chapters. I originally thought Song Ki was the ML but I swear I had valid reasons. first off, he was the first eligible bachelor that was introduced (and man did he make quite an impression), and Song ki is pretty much your stereotypical ML in romance novels. He is rich, handsome, arrogant, and charming. Plus whenever Ke song and Song ki interacted they had the most entertaining rapport and banter. The comedic dynamic and utter witticism shared between these two had me grinning from ear to ear from the very first dialogue they shared. I enjoyed their compatibility and complete lack of restraints with one another, it’s very telling of their long standing friendship. I was drawn to Song Ki right off the bat, not because Ke Song was utterly in love with him but I admired the value he placed on Ke Song and their friendship. Which is also the reason why their relationship never progress any further then that. Ke Songs, on her part values their decade long friendship too much to stir the waters unnecessarily. As for Song Ki, while he is confident and comfortable in their platonic relationship, his affections for Ke Song however is rather romantically inclined, but because of his facetiousness, and philandering ways whenever he would subtly hint at his feelings it would either bounce off or would be taken as a joke rather than him trying to tactfully confess. His timidity however created the perfect opening for Jiang (the male lead) to intervene.
Personality wise Jiang is the complete opposite of Song ki. Song ki is carefree and charming, whereas Jiang is rigid and indifferent. They couldn’t be more different. It took quite some time before I started to ship the FL with the ML. Their first several interactions with one another was quite tense and strained, and for valid reasons on Ke Song’s part. Jiang is a difficult person to befriend, he has no desire for or interest in interpersonal relationships, and he makes this fact known. Jiang is a very complex character, he may appear aloof and cool at first but as he slowly opens up his home and heart to tutor Ke song, we gradually see the hidden depths and inner strength he possess under the facade of indifference. So Jiang while lacking in charms and sweet nothings he more then makes up for it in resilience and sincerity. Their relationship was tumultuous from the start and to be completely honest I was quite worried at the beginning, the chemistry and attraction was just not there, but that’s half the fun of this novel, observing their awkward and frigid interactions transform into lingering looks and timid smiles, ah the buildup and slow burn in this novel is done excruciatingly well.
I’ll end this overly long review soon I promise, but before I concluded, I want to talk about some of the glaring factors about this novel that I did not like. For one I absolutely abhorred the fact that the supporting and side female characters in this story are all portrayed as rivals and competitors for the ML attention. This is an overly done and abused trope, it is incredibly annoying. Anytime a female character appears she is either berating Ke Song on her looks, trying to seduced the male characters or both. I can completely understand a need for a rival, to add tension and to further the plot along, but when it’s done redundantly as if on reflex this then becomes extremely off putting. There are also other little things here and there that did not make sense, like Ke Song’s age. Her age wasn’t revealed until 30 or more so chapters in. I had originally thought she was 21 or 22, since she was a recent college graduate and because of her maturity level. It was later revealed however that she was 18….what the holy hell? how ?? More than that how is it that her age was never questioned once…..?? for instance the perfect moment to have brought up her age was when she got completely wasted (light weight) and ended up in Jiang’s room. So while the drinking age in China may be 18, are we to pretend the legal drinking age isn’t 21 in America. But that wasn’t even the worst of it, the worst you ask is the fact that the ML is 28. I’m not being prudish about the age difference, it’s fine, they are both consenting adults, but isn’t it jarring the lack of attention and scrutiny her age poses? She never once commented on Jiang’s older age which is questionable, and for Jiangs part the man is blind so he has a bit of a pass but not by much.
I realized I’m making a big fuss over her age but remember I have been waiting for the revelation of her age for over 30 + chapters, before then with the clues given I gathered that she was around her early 20’s, it made the most sense overall, however when she was revealed to be 18, I found myself in utter disbelief. My main complaint here is, I felt the author halfheartedly and sloppily threw that tidbit in without much thought to how it would affect the story or how senseless it was. With the way the story and Ke Song was set up her being 18 couldn’t hold up. But I digress, this novel while it may not be the most original or outstanding book out there, I do think it is well worth the read. That is if, you can get over some of its flaws. So if your looking for a opposites attract, mentor student relationship with a slow burn romance, with moments of surprising depths and maturity, that isn’t to fluffy or antsy then I couldn’t recommend anything better then The Heartbeat at the Tip of the Tongue.