Consider yourself warned that you shouldn’t try to read this book on an empty stomach. The countless descriptions of fresh bread, as well as Indian and Tanzanian delights will leave you salivating.
What’s it About?
When it comes to bread, Reena Manji knows exactly what she’s doing. She treats her sourdough starters like (somewhat unruly) children. But when it comes to Reena’s actual family—and their constant meddling in her life—well, that recipe always ends in disaster.
Now Reena’s parents have found her yet another potential Good Muslim Husband. This one has the body of Captain America, a delicious British accent, and lives right across the hall. He’s the perfect, mouthwatering temptation . . . and completely ruined by the unwelcome side dish of parental interference.
Reena refuses to marry anyone who works for her father. She won’t be attracted to Nadim’s sweet charm or gorgeous lopsided smile. That is, until the baking opportunity of a lifetime presents itself: a couples’ cooking competition with the prize of her dreams. Reena will do anything to win—even asking Nadim to pretend they’re engaged. But when it comes to love, baking your bread doesn’t always mean you get to eat it too.
As soon as my best friend failed with her covid sourdough starter bread-baking attempt, I knew it was time to give this audiobook a listen. This romantic comedy has an unbelievably strong start filled to bursting with flirtatious banter, sexy accents, a curry dish or two, not to mention a fake engagement. I’ll freely admit that I’m a huge fan of a fake fiancé story line, and upon discovering that the premise for entering into this phony relationship was due to a love of baking I was fully on board. That being said, I’m usually not a huge fan of romances revolving around reality TV, but seeing as this reality show centered on cooking rather than a bachelor-type dating show, I was willing to give it a try. Surprisingly, I quickly found myself wishing that the TV show filming could have been featured a bit more prominently than it was! Most of Reena and Nadim’s cooking show antics were filmed at home by friends rather than on a studio set, throwing a twist into the typical reality show trope we may have come to expect in Romancelandia.
Even though I found myself wanting more focus on the cooking competition aspect of the plot line, one must admit that the nature of these two being able to film privately away from the prying eyes of a studio audience or full camera crew granted them the freedom to be more natural and at-ease with each other. The seamless chemistry and friendship that Reena and Nadim were able to develop was as delectable as any egg curry or bhajia recipe you might come across. It was such an entertaining transformation seeing Reena initially wanting to keep her distance from Nadim seeing as he was someone her parents wanted to set her up with, to slowly discovering that she was always either having a blast cooking or chatting with him, or constantly thinking about the next time they might be able to spend time together. What started out as a neighborly friendship and fake engagement begins to evolve into something that isn’t so fake anymore, and the fact their connection so strongly revolved around food meant I was hooked! Any time we got to spend with Reena and Nadim in their cooking bubble was an absolute blast, but unfortunately the external forces of family drama and misunderstandings threatened to tear them apart in a way that was somewhat frustrating to behold.
The Joys of Social Media
Family plays a crucial role in Reena and Nadim’s relationship, even if they try to keep their private life separate from the prying eyes of their intrusive relatives. At the start of the novel, the silly antics and kooky personalities of Reena’s many family members were a bit of a hoot, as she tries to balance her frustrations over their meddling with a strong sense of family duty which permeates their conversations. The fact that Reena might ultimately have to admit the benefit that their interference brought into her life through Nadim is a struggle she tries to avoid at every turn. This causes Reena to try and keep her relationship with Nadim a secret for as long as possible, as she not only doesn’t want to admit they were right, but she knows with absolute certainty that as soon as the truth comes to light her family will try to insert themselves into their lives even more than they already do. After some time, their constant insistence on honesty within the family, even though each and every one of them is trying to keep something secret from the others, became exhausting. The most frustrating aspect of the read though was the inevitable twist that almost tore Reena and Nadim apart.
In the midst of Reena’s growing infatuation with her neighbor, we find that she is almost desperately searching for any minor slight which could bring an end to their relationship. It all starts with her discovery of a photo of Nadim on a fancy yacht with friends. She latches onto his chic hairstyle, clothing, and rather over-the-top surroundings as a way to convince herself that he is somehow obsessed with status, wealth and outward appearance, even though there hasn’t been any indication during all of their time together that this was in any way true. The heaviest nail in the coffin though is when Reena tries to piece different social media posts together by people she’s never met before as proof that Nadim has been secretly engaged to another woman throughout their entire relationship, even going so far as to declare that a post by the patriarch of a family rival is “the truth” without ever bothering to confront or ask Nadim directly about what she was seeing. Let me put it this way, when you try to rely on Facebook and Instagram posts to reveal the true nature of the man you’re falling in love with…it’s probably not the best idea. All in all, this was the one major fault in the entire read, as there were a slew of other avenues which could have been utilized to put a wedge between Nadim and Reena. The path chosen seemed an unnecessarily immature choice for our characters.
Final Impressions: This read presents us with a fantastic beginning and progression of Reena and Nadim’s relationship before an unfortunate blip towards the end puts a damper on the plot as a whole, before ultimately pulling everything back together for a smile-inducing conclusion. In addition, it’s possible this book tried to be too many things at once by introducing an overwhelming plethora of romance novel tropes, including neighbors, a fake engagement, reality TV, a secret relationship and finally a big misunderstanding that could tear our lovebirds apart. Most of these themes were enjoyable in their own right (aside from the one), but having so many present in one read, not to mention the revelation of Reena’s struggles with mental health, as well as her somewhat contemptuous relationship with her parents and one sister in particular, was a tad too much to squeeze into one read. I probably would have preferred more focus and attention on Reena’s lack of self-confidence and battle with anxiety as the primary hindrance to her happiness with Nadim rather than a social media post. I realize the one was influencing the other, but the discussion of mental health really didn’t seem to receive the amount of attention it truly deserved. Overall though this was a fun read that had me giggling throughout, and seriously craving some delicious curry dishes every time I picked it up!
Smut Level: For a romantic comedy I definitely wasn’t expecting our male lead to have a foot fetish! While we never encounter any scenes with too much explicit detail, there are definitely some passionate moments thrown in to keep you coming back for more.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 369 Pages.