Treat your shelf!
By Shaan Bajaj
Last year I read 18 books and began this year with the very optimistic goal of reading one book a week. Although I have miserably failed in keeping up with that challenge, the last two years have encouraged me to venture beyond the authors I am used to reading. As a young teenager, I allowed my imagination to run wild when reading books, specifically young-adult romance novels. As an adult, I have been making a conscious effort to read more South Asian romance novels, because of how much more relatable they are. They tend to have a significant focus on our culture; on arranged and love marriages, and are often set in households that sound exactly like our own.
Without further ado, here are my top desi romance novel recommendations for different tropes.
A/N: Masala is not liable for any second-hand embarrassment, tears or heartbreak you may experience while reading any of these books.
ENEMIES TO LOVERS
Having two characters who hate each other slowly realise they have feelings for each other is personally one of my favourite romance tropes. For readers who relish in lovers’ tension that you can cut with a knife, these two desi novels will not disappoint!
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
Liya Thakkar is the definition of a strong independent woman, carving her own path in her career and love life despite what society may have to say about her unconventional lifestyle. Enter Jay Shah, the suitor her parents are trying to set her up with, instantly making them enemies. As fate would have it, Jay also happens to be the lawyer hired to save Liya’s company. As they reluctantly work together, their instant hate starts to fade, as
they realise they have more in common than they think, including pasts that they both want to hide.
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
Layla Patel, resident hot mess, moves back home after losing both her job and her boyfriend. In an attempt to help, her father offers her an office space for her own business, located above their family restaurant and sets her up with ten suitors. However, her loving father failed to mention she would be sharing the space with the ever-annoying yet incredibly-attractive Sam Mehta. As they fight over the office space, their bickering starts to turn into much more…
A partnership born out of convenience, the fake relationship trope follows two individuals who agree to a façade of being in a relationship for a short period, usually until they get what they want. Reading one of these novels comes with the excitement of knowing that they are falling for each other even when the characters themselves are in huge denial.
Accidently Engaged by Farah Heron
When Reena Manji loses her job, she decides to pursue her passion for cooking by entering a food competition that will win her a scholarship to a renowned culinary school. What’s the catch, you ask? The competition is only open to couples. On a drunken night, she and her next door neighbour, Nadim, who also happens to be working for her dad and is coincidentally the suitor her dad wants her to marry, submit a video as a couple so Reena has a shot at the scholarship. But what’s in it for him? P.S. This book will make you so incredibly hungry, so make sure to keep some snacks at hand when you’re reading!
Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma
Hopeless romantic Kareena Mann is looking for her Mr. Right, with the hopes of eventually buying and settling into her father and late mother’s house with her partner. That is, until her father informs her of his plans to sell the house unless she finds a fiancé. Enter heart surgeon and TV host, Dr. Prem Verma, with whom she had an argument on live television, making it hard to find any other matches. Meanwhile, Dr. Prem is trying to repair his reputation since their viral argument, while securing funding for his clinic, and meddling aunties convince him that fake-dating Kareena is the solution for both. Despite their supposed hate for each other, their chemistry will make you want to shout, “get a room!”
When two characters come from different backgrounds, readers are able to witness how
they share their cultures and learn to love and embrace each other despite their differences. These two desi romances explore the power of destiny.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
When young teenager Nishat tells her Bangladeshi parents that she is a lesbian, their reaction isn’t ideal. As she struggles to cope with their insistence that “Muslim girls aren’t lesbians,” she bumps into Flávia, a biracial girl she has not met since primary school. Nishat immediately develops a crush, however, things get heated when they end up rivals at a school competition with the same business idea: a mehendi enterprise. Watching
Nishat navigate family, relationships, high-school, and the inter-cultural differences between her and Flávia makes for an awe-inspiring read.
Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma
Kiran, an Indian immigrant who moved to NYC, has built a life she can take pride in as she provides for herself and her parents back in India. After her sister was disowned for marrying a man from a different caste, she feels the pressure to fulfil her duty as a well-behaved daughter. However, what will she do when she starts to fall for her White American neighbour, Nash? This book manages to explore the ups and downs of dating someone from a different culture, while also highlighting the experiences of being an immigrant.