Today’s theme: Saving some greats for last! An eclectic collection of fun, smart books. Be sure to read the posts on Susan Mallery & Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee too!
Oh friends, oh friends, oh friends!
Please tell me you’ve read this book! Or that you are, right now, putting it on your TBR pile. Because you should. You really, really should.
(And if you haven’t, it’s only $1.99 right now!)
Okay, yes, this book came out last year. I read it earlier this year and it was one of my favorite reads of 2020.
Some things that makes any book stand out, in my opinion, are refreshing story lines, unique characters, and when plot, character and voice really synergize in ways we aren’t expecting and take us on a completely unexpected journey.
This book has all of that in spades.
Of course one could say we shouldn’t be too surprised at how different a book about Muslim characters might be, but I’d say that is the wrong way to look at it.
The thing that makes any #ownvoices book most powerful is the ability an author has to tell universally accessible stories in culturally resonant ways. Jalaluddin has introduced us to a Muslim community that might feel a little outside of what we’re used to, but we certainly recognize the emotional touchstones in the story.
Khalid’s mother may be much more conservative than we’re comfortable with, but the author wants us to realize that her outlook is as alien to Ayesha as it is to non-Muslims, and the beauty of the forward motion of the book is that Khalid, too, begins to question his mother’s influence and his choices, especially once he realizes how attracted he is to Ayesha.
Khalid flounders with an unfair professional situation (thanks to a racist supervisor) and through his internal struggle to find justice and adjust to a world that he realizes might not be quite so unforgiving as his upbringing has led him to believe, even as he confronts rigid biases, we see a true hero.
There is definitely a Pride & Prejudice vibe, and Khalid and Ayesha have to navigate unworthy suitors, social missteps and a mistaken identity or two, but the payout when these two finally see each other for who they truly are and find their way to each other is wholeheartedly satisfying.
I just loved this quietly powerful yet completely entertaining romance. I sincerely hope you’ll pick it up.
(Side points: This delightful book was a debut! I hope she has something new out soon. And isn’t that cover striking and gorgeous?)
AYESHA AT LAST
A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and who dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.
(This review is part of Read-A-Romance Month. Hope you’ll come back every day to check out my book recommendations. You can find the calendar here. Also check out The Romance of Reading, a Facebook “book club” where we’ll have great authors guest hosting every week.)
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