Author: Annika Sharma
Narrator: Zehra Jane Naqvi
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 50 minutes
A charming NYC romance by co-host of the Woke Desi, for fans of:
• multicultural connections
• strong friendships and families
• a “will they/won’t they” story with powerful stakes
• the city that never sleeps
• bucket list adventures
• characters who fight outside expectations and pressures to build the life they want
Kiran needs to fall in line. Instead, she falls in love.
Kiran was the good daughter. When her sister disobeyed her family’s plan and brought them shame, she was there to pick up the pieces. She vowed she wouldn’t make the same mistakes. She’d be twice the daughter her parents needed, to make up for the one they lost.
Nash never had a family. The parents who were supposed to raise him were completely absent. Now as a psychologist, he sees the same pattern happening to the kids he works with. So he turns away from love and family. After all, abandonment is in his genes, isn’t it?
If she follows the rules, Kiran will marry an Indian man. If he follows his fears, Nash will wind up alone. But what if they follow their hearts?
Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words is the first in a new series, Chai Masala Club. In this introductory novel, readers meet Kiran Mathur from India. While this is still a romance story, the novel has a lot of focus on both the individual stories of Kiran and her love interest, Nash. Kiran comes from a “traditional” family where you must follow your parents’ expectations. The portrayal of her family seems to be a dividing topic among readers, so it is just one element to be aware of before reading, as it does not come across in a positive way. When Kiran’s sister wed a man outside of her family’s caste, she was disowned. To avoid the same fate of disappointing her parents, Kiran vows to follow their wishes. Kiran relocates from India to New York City where she attends college and then gets a job as an engineer. As a new resident to the city, Kiran meets her neighbor Nash, a white man, and the two begin to connect.
As this is a duel-perspective romance, the reader follows both Nash and Kiran throughout their journey. Nash comes from a family where his father left when he was young and his mother passed away after a struggle with addiction. He has his biological aunt still in his life and he has a found family with his best friend Brandon. While he has a fulfilling career, he is not sold on the idea of a fulfilling love life. His career was interesting as he is a psychologist who helps kids from similar situations as his background. Kiran and her friends each have a bucket list that they made in college, so Kiran is tasked with completing hers. She recruits Nash to help her check off each item on the list as Nash has his own list for New York since he moved there from Nashville, Tennessee.
A main obstacle with this potential couple is their cultural backgrounds. Throughout their time together, Kiran introduces Nash to many aspects of her culture and it is a nice way to integrate a learning experience for the reader. There are a few moments that will also depend on the reader when Nash and Kiran visit India as there is a comment made about it being “smelly” or the locals staring at the foreigners in awe. In my experiences traveling to India, even to more rural locations, I could not relate, as I was never stared at more than everyone was already looking at each other. Neither were deal breakers for me, but they were just some that stood out for me. The one item that did stand out for me is just the romance in general as I did not feel the romantic connection between the characters first of all. I felt the two connected on a deeper friendship level, but I did not feel it grow as an actual romance. The other element is Kiran entertaining the idea of Nash as a romantic partner in the first place. I understand attraction and a romantic feeling cannot be helped, but it just seemed odd that Kiran is set to follow her parents’ wishes no matter what to marry an Indian man yet she leads Nash on towards a romantic relationship rather than establishing that boundary early on and sticking to it. I feel there just should have been a little more exploration into her going against her parents for Nash in the first place to have the reader connect to this choice.
Overall, this story had a lot of potential, but it did not quite get there for me. Many of the elements just did not add up, including Nash being completely clueless about Indian culture. Nashville and New York both are large metropolitan cities filled with people from all backgrounds, so it just seemed odd that he would not have a vague idea about some parts even if he never at least tried the food before. Nash and Kiran were cute together and, while I may not fully connect to them as a couple, I loved them getting to know the other. As this is the start to a series, many of the side characters within the Chai Masala Club that could have their own story and each of them is fleshed out a little more than a throwaway type secondary character. I loved that each of them comes from a different background with Kiran is from India, Akash and Sonam are Indian-American and Pyle is Indian-British and I cannot wait to try their stories!