Take One Arranged Marriage...
by Shoma Narayanan, contemporary (2013)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, AUS$7.99, ISBN 978-1-743-06955-4


Like the title would suggest, Take One Arranged Marriage... is all about an arranged marriage, which still makes sense in a romance set in India, which is what this is. Shoma Narayanan is one of the authors writing for the Indian imprint of the Harlequin Mills & Boon line, and those folks release this edition for the region of Australian, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. This is how this book falls into the clutches of yours truly.

Naintara Sundaram is a pretty progressive lady for a 22-year old living with her conservative parents in Jamshedpur. She hopes to get a PhD soon, but her father insists that she settles down with a guy. Well, if she can't find a guy, maybe he'd concede to her getting a teaching job in the neighborhood. But to him, it is just not done for Tara to run off to some university away from home. Tara disagrees, but you know how living with traditional parents can be - it's hard to just keep arguing, especially when you feel guilty sometimes for bruising their feelings.

When the story opens, Tara learns that her parents have contracted the parents of her future husband behind her back. Apparently Tara's father learned from his boss that this boss has placed an ad looking for a wife for the boss's 32-year old son Vikram Krishnan. Marrying his daughter to the general manager of the company is like marrying the girl to a Duke back in the old days, so the man eagerly convinces Vikram's father that Tara is the epitome of the sweet traditional girl that every upper caste Indian man would be pleased to marry.

Tara sees a silver lining in this whole farce: Vikram is a businessman based in Bengaluru, the very place where she intends to pursue her studies. If she can intercept him before he reaches her parents, and they can come to some kind of agreement where they'd marry but she is free to pursue her studies, perhaps things would work out for the best.

As it turns out, Vikram is a very agreeable fellow. Seriously, he is a very nice guy, especially for a hero in a tale featuring an arranged marriage. I almost pinch myself - if I am not dreaming, I have better start buying the lottery because this is amazing - until I realize that this book is released under the Sexy imprint and not the hilariously misnamed Modern one. You know, the line where heroes are still allowed to smile and have fun instead of acting like they have barbed baseball bats shoved up their nether region. Unlike other books in the Sexy imprint, however, the love scenes here are very mild - nothing graphic at all. I guess I can't have everything, heh.

Take One Arranged Marriage... is a very easy read. The characters enjoy an easy-going camaraderie and their banter feels natural and humorous. The first half or so of this book is all about romantic comedy that works. The characters are a bit one note, but they are likable sorts and their chemistry is enjoyable to follow.

There is minimal angst in this story, and what little conflict there is here is quickly resolved shortly after it crops up. This is a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand, there is no forced conflict to generate fireworks. On the other hand, with the characters being so agreeable and so quickly to resolve their differences, this story doesn't have much going for it once the characters get married by the midway point of this story. Without packing an emotional punch, the story ends up being too lightweight for its own good.

But hey, this doesn't necessarily mean that this story is bad. It's one to while the blues away since it delivers romantic comedy with a light-hearted touch. Like cotton candy, though, it makes me feel like, while it sure tastes nice, I'm missing that special something that would have made the meal better.

Rating: 75


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