I loved the unexpected depth of this heartfelt, emotional, enemies to lovers romance. I’ll openly admit that I was close to abandoning it SEVERAL times in the beginning, but I’m so glad that I didn’t. The back half turns into a great read, and I loved the connection between these two. But, fair warning, I DID abandon the audiobook partway through because the narrator so perfectly depicted a woman whose voice drips with condescension that I had trouble connecting to the story. Once I switched to the Kindle edition, I had a MUCH easier time getting invested.
The story follows Liya, a woman from a traditional Indian household who just doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her family. Life experience has taught her to be independent and self-reliant (yes, there are some triggers here), so she has no interest in settling down and getting married. When Liya’s family sets her up with a prospective husband, Jay, their initial meeting goes horribly. Things don’t get better when they start working together, and the two clash on a daily basis. But somewhere along the way, their conflicts turn into a connection as Jay and Liya realize just how much they have in common. They’re two individuals from a similar upbringing whose pasts have shaped them into the people they are today – and that might be the foundation they need to have a lasting relationship.
Culture and tradition play a huge role in this story, so keep that in mind before reading. I’m not Indian and have no firsthand experience about any of this, but I’ve always found arranged marriages to be fascinating, so I had a decent understanding of the process before I started reading. Ultimately, the feel of this love story is universal though – these are two people who have been hurt in the past, and that’s the basis of their connection. I loved how perfectly Jay complemented Liya, and while she was really, really difficult to like at the beginning, it was also obvious that she was lashing out because of her pain and insecurities. Jay’s the perfect kind of loving, patient man to pair well with this strong but broken woman, and a lot of that comes into play in the back half. So, yeah, in the beginning, Liya is over the top obnoxious and a difficult heroine to appreciate fully.
This turned a corner for me somewhere along the way, and I no longer had any thoughts of setting it aside. I loved the depth and the emotion behind it. It’s a slow emotional burn as these two begin their relationship with a series of misunderstandings, but the connection gets a lot richer later on. Jay is definitely the draw here, and I loved that he was a relationship guy – a man who loves his family, and would be completely open to commitment if he felt he was worthy of it. I also loved that he let Liya be her fierce self without trying to rein her in. He does soften her edges a bit, but that just speaks to the connection. I felt for Liya several times, especially later in the book. She’s treated so disrespectfully, and I didn’t like all of the shaming – I honestly expected her “number” to be WAY higher, given how everyone responds to her. This one’s got a bumpy road to happily ever after, but if you can make it past the first third, then you’ll find yourself reading a unique and compelling romance.
🎧 Audio note: Don’t listen to the audio. There, I said it. Liya is already a difficult character to like, so if you listen to the narrator’s “rich witch” depiction of her, it’s not going to do the story any favors. I can’t even tell you how many times I almost abandoned ship early on, and I did set it down a few times. That didn’t happen at all once I switched to the Kindle edition, so whether the story got better or the voice really made me hate Liya that much – I don’t know. Regardless, it’s single narration audio, well done. You can definitely tell the difference between Liya and Jay’s voices, and it’s very easy to listen to at the office. The runtime is just under 11 hours, and the narrator’s voice was slow enough that I comfortably listened at a higher speed, so you can probably shave an hour or two off of that if you choose. There are a few sexy moments, but no explicit scenes, so no worries there if you’re listening in public. No content I’d feel uncomfortable listening to at work. Had the narrator’s voice been different, this would’ve been a really great listen.
Bookshop PB: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781538733332
A fiercely independent engineer walks out on the man her parents have set her up with — only to start working side-by-side with him at her job in this laugh-out-loud debut with “delicious banter, deep wounds, heartwarming friendships, and a path to love that often feels impossibly hard, and [a payoff] satisfying enough to give you a book hangover the size of Texas” (Sonali Dev, USA Today bestselling author of Recipe for Persuasion).
Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.
Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?
Bookshop PB: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781538733332
About the Author:
Sajni Patel was born in vibrant India and raised in the heart of Texas, surrounded by a lot of delicious food and plenty of diversity. She draws on her personal experiences, cultural expectations, and southern flair to create worlds that center around strong Indian women. Once in MMA, she’s now all about puppies and rainbows and tortured love stories. She currently lives in Austin where she not-so-secretly watches Mathew McConaughey from afar during UT football games. Queso is her weakness and thanks to her family’s cooking, Indian/Tex-Mex cuisine is a real thing. She’s a die-hard Marvel Comics fan, a lover of chocolates from around the world, and is always wrapped up in a story.
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