Author: Farah Heron
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.
Accidentally Engaged brings soap opera level drama with cultural influences, compelling characters, and endless amounts of delicious food! This is my first novel by this author and it won’t be my last! This story was humorous, light-hearted, and also covers the more heavier family dynamic and cultural topics.
Reena Manji is 31-years-old and single living in Toronto. She works in finance, but her true passion is baking bread! Her Indian parents would not approve of a career in baking, so she has stuck with financing to not disappoint them. When she returns home one day, she runs into her hot new neighbor, Nadim, an Indian gentleman with a British accent. They instantly hit it off and are about to agree to go on their first date when it is discovered that Reena is the woman that Nadim is to be together with in an arranged marriage set up by their parents! Being burned before by too many failed relationships, Reena is hesitant to pursue a relationship with Nadim. Instead, they eventually decide that friends might be the best way to go as they still have incredible chemistry and cannot avoid each other as neighbors.
In addition to her complicated love life, Reena has a messy relationship with her sister. At one time, Reena had a successful cooking blog, but it did not pan out due to some sabotaging by her sister. Now, her sister is going to write a cookbook of her own and Reena can’t help but feel crushed. Her sister keeps asking for help on developing recipes for the cookbook, but Reena has no interest in helping her sister as it was her dream to write a cookbook. Their complicated relationships are a great insight into family dynamics as it is not only Reena’s bond with her sister, but Reena also has her prying parents that are constantly butting into her life. All Reena wants is to be independent and have the choices that are made be her own.
When Reena thinks her life could not become more complicated, she loses her current job due to downsizing. Luckily, a cooking competition seems like a new career might be on the horizon as the prize would get her into culinary school! In a crazy series of events, Reena enters the contest with Nadim as the contest is only open to couples. Now that they have been accepted into the contest, Reena and Nadim must continue the ruse that the two of them are an engaged couple in order to advance them into each new round and, hopefully, win the entire competition. The more time they spend together, the more the both of them feel the increased chemistry between them.
With all of the new twists and turns, it truly becomes a fun and entertaining soap opera. We have Nadim and Reena who have feelings for each other and are pretending to be engaged for a cooking show, they want to date each other, but not get married, so they need to keep this secret, and the cherry on top is that they have to pretend to only be friends in order to avoid pressure by their parents. If this drama isn’t enough, there is a bigger twist that happens later on in the novel that adds a new level to the story! I really did not expect this much going on in what appeared to be, at first glance, a more traditional simple romcom novel.
The story is told from Reena’s point of view, so the reader becomes more connected to her story as they follow her ups and downs. Although Nadim was a compelling character, you miss some of his development as you don’t get to see his inner thoughts on the page. I loved the chemistry between Nadim and Reena as they seemed to have a genuine bond and I loved how they got to know each other on a deeper level. They had a more instant attraction, but there was also a deeper bond that they developed along the way, too. I do wish there was more time focused on just them though as sometimes it seemed that their alone bonding time was a little rushed as there was a lot of story to get through.
Overall, this story was very fun! I love Reena and she made a delightful main character that you want to root for to get a happy ending. The story develops in a fairly detailed manner for the majority of the story, so at times the pacing can seem a little slower. For me, it was not a problem and I preferred to have it this way as I get to enjoy each aspect of the story. The only negative was, as the story is fairly steady throughout, the ending goes faster, so it can seem rushed by comparison. The friendships in this story are amazing and enviable as they are perfect! I loved how they all come together and are supportive of the other. Amira, Duncan, Shayne, and Marley were all a delight. I was excited to find that Amira and Duncan have their own story, The Chai Factor, and I am very excited to add it to my TBR and any other novel written by this author!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for an ARC to read. The opinions expressed are completely my own. **