I never would have read this book if not for the author contacting me and letting me know of this contemporary romance with desi characters set in South Africa. As I’m always excited for more diaspora stories, I was glad to have the opportunity to read this one and while I have a few conflicting feelings about it, it was an overall enjoyable experience.
I really really liked Varini as a character. She was warm, kind and compassionate, with lots of love in her heart. She is also an accomplished doctor and I loved what little we got of her interactions with patients and colleagues, and her dream about creating a pediatric oncology wing in the hospital. Her only weakness was Aariyan and I totally understood her conflict over feeling all the love towards him even when he kept hurting her repeatedly. On the other hand, Aariyan was a frustrating mess and I really wanted to shake him up for the most part. I hated how much he gave Varini a bit of hope but then crushing her spirit, never ever apologizing for his appalling behavior or ever communicating anything. I could sympathize a bit for his past but I just couldn’t accept the way he treated her.
I absolutely adored the whole cast of side characters we got in the book. My favorites were obviously Divya and Eri, but the whole gang of friends were very entertaining and I loved their banter. I also liked that all the elders in the book were sweet and gave sensible advice to the main characters, but were never stereotypically nosy like I usually see depicted in other books. We even had a couple of delightful kids who brought a lot of laughs and emotional heft to the story.
While I really liked the characters for the most part, I think it was the writing where it faltered a bit for me. Firstly, I have to mention the desi elements because the author managed to bring a very familiar South Indian feel to the book and I absolutely loved it. I also thought the family dynamics and some of the romantic moments between the couple were written beautifully, but at other times, the writing felt disjointed and wasn’t going with the flow. I also thought many side characters were all introduced at once and it felt very infodumpy, and I could hardly keep track of them. Even the way the wedding rituals were described felt more informational rather than an organic part of the story. There were also places where I felt there was more telling rather than showing, but thankfully those moments were few and far between. While second chance romance and marriage of convenience are some of my favorite tropes and I have read many books with such plot lines, I think the author did a reasonable job subverting them enough to make it feel fresh and different from the usual. However, the way the story is written towards the end and how Aariyan realizes his true feelings was very very cliche and I was slightly disappointed.
Overall, I can say that I enjoyed this book enough despite some of its flaws. If you like second chance romances or arranged marriage based stories, you can give this a try. It is slightly predictable and the hero might frustrate you a lot, but I really loved everyone else. And despite being set outside India, it is very South Indian at its heart (specifically Tamil) and that familiarity definitely made me enjoy the book a lot more than I expected to.