Author Jasmine Guillory was my gateway drug into the romance genre. I had always been skeptical of "bodice rippers" but her first book, The Wedding Date, had me hooked. I've pre-ordered all of her new books since then (she's penned five total, with a sixth coming out in July 2021).
So when I saw Farah Heron's bright book cover on a shelf recently, I couldn't help but pick it up. Titled Accidentally Engaged, it's the story of Reena and Nadim, two singles being set up by their meddling families.
Reena works in finance, but her true passion is food. She loves to cook and bake, particularly bread. Nadim is new to the city, in town to work for Reena's father's real estate company. Reena's dad has rented Nadim an apartment across the hall from Reena (subtle!).
While the two plan to reject the match for marriage, when Reena has the chance to enter a cooking competition to win a scholarship to the pastry school she's always dreamed up, she needs Nadim's help. The casting directors are only accepting couples for the show, so Reena begs Nadim to pretend to be her fiancé so she'll qualify.
In a surprise to no one, as they cook and bake together each week, they fall in love. But how do you get engaged for real, when you've already been pretending to be engaged on TV? Keeping up this charade results in many comedic moments.
As I was reading, I kept thinking, "I really hope this becomes a movie!" It's equal parts steamy romance and family drama, with delicious food and beautiful Indian and Muslim traditions sprinkled in.
My dream casting would be Mindy Kaling as Reena, Nikesh Patel as Nadim, Freida Pinto as Saira (Reena's younger sister) and Jameela Jamil as Amira (Reena's best friend).
At the very end of the book, in the acknowledgements section, Heron shares, "As an adult, I became obsessed with cooking. Bread from scratch, home pasta, Chinese, Thai, Caribbean food, plus any baked goods you could imagine. I love learning to cook food from around the world. But when I want to feel connected to the beautiful country of Tanzania, and my own specific culture - East African Indian Muslim Canadian - I turn to our food. That is what this book is about, connecting to your roots through food. Writing a romance between two people finding their place in their culture and falling in love through their love of home cooking was such a joy for me, and I am grateful to everyone wo had a part in making this book happen."
Maybe that's why I loved it? Because food and sharing it with people you care about it also what sparks joy for me.
Whether you consider yourself a romance fan or not, this book is a such a delight. Definitely add it to your summer reading list!