Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Thursday, March 4, 2021

  

by Farah Heron
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Forever Romance
Publication Date: March 2nd 2021
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★1/2
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷1/2

Farah Heron has only released two books and she is already one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Farah's debut, The Chai Factor, is a work of art, and I was eager to pick up Accidentally Engaged. This book was just as joyful of an experience as The Chai Factor. You can tell that this story is a project that Farah Heron put all her heart into and I'm grateful that she decided to share it with readers.

At the center of Accidentally Engaged is Reena, a South Asian woman who is a little disgruntled at how her life is turning out to be and the pressure of her parents' expectations. She has a career in finance that she absolutely despises. Reena's true passion lies in cooking and baking, especially bread-baking. At the same time, her parents are trying to set her up with a "good Muslim boy" and their latest target, Nadim, also happens to be Reena's new neighbor. An opportunity to make her dreams come true arises in the form of a cooking contest, Reena and Nadim team up and enter a fake relationship. This not only provides her with a much-needed reprieve from her stagnant life, but it brings her a new friend and maybe love into her life. 

I really like how Farah Heron writes her female protagonists. They are all such normal characters and it's easy to relate to them. I really adored Reena and related to her a lot. Both her connection and her discontentment with the South Asian community she grew up in rang a chord with me. Reena loves her culture, which the author weaves into the story really beautifully through the food and traditions, but there were also parts of it that she found suffocating. I like that Farah didn't shy away from showing the complexities and ups and downs of what it's like to grow up to South Asian immigrants. Reena's identity isn't the only layer of her character I liked. She starts off the book accompanied by low self-confidence and unhappiness at certain aspects of her life. We see a lot of her growth throughout Accidentally Engaged and it's very satisfying to someone who is rooting for her. 

As much as I liked Reena, it was Nadim who stole the show for me, and admittedly, it's for a very selfish reason. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nadim had grown up in Tanzania. I think a lot of people are under the impression that there are no South Asian communities in Africa. I grew up in one of these big communities myself, so this book feels like the only representation I will ever see in a romance book. If I seem protective towards Nadim, it's because this is the representation of my dreams. Anyways, Nadim is an actual angel who oozes sunshine! He is a sweetheart, knows how to lay on the charm, and is gentle. I liked that his personality was in contrast to Reena, who is a bit of a grump. They balanced each other out really well and I could see why they started off as such good friends.

If you enjoy the fake relationship and friends-to-more tropes, I think you are going to have a grand time with Accidentally Engaged. The progression of their relationship is fun! The two get close as they shoot for the contest from Reena's kitchen and as Nadim falls in love with her cooking, he slowly finds himself falling in love with her too. Honestly, they were precious together and they also had me laughing quite a few times. The cooking show scenes, in particular, were terrific because they not only show just how much chemistry the two share but also just how comfortable they become around each other as they film more episodes. 

Accidentally Engaged is a beautiful book that explores love, family, culture, and cuisine within a South Asian community. It's rich and complex and doesn't shy away from showing both the ups and downs of growing up in the desi community. Just make sure you have a snack while reading the book. You're going to need it. I loved this book and I hope you will too!

CW: mention of depression and anxiety

Relationship disclosure: Farah Heron and I are mutuals on social media.


***


Hi everyone! 

Please welcome Farah to the blog! I invited her to chat with us a little bit about Accidentally Engaged. I really enjoyed her thoughtful responses and I hope you guys learn a thing or two about Farah and her amazing new book!

For readers who have not read the synopsis of Accidentally Engaged yet, can you tell us a little bit about your main characters, Reena and Nadim?


To me, Reena is a relatable everywoman of our times. She’s well liked and has lots of friends, but is a bit stuck. She dislikes her job. She’s never really connected with anyone romantically, even though she’s tried. And like so many millennials, she feels that true independence is out of reach. Nadim, on the surface, is her opposite. Highly educated, charismatic, and successful. But he’s insecure too, with past baggage from poor choices, and feelings of unworthiness thanks to his troubled upbringing. But a simpler answer? Reena is a woman that loves to bake bread, and Nadim is a man who loves to eat bread. They’re a perfect match.  

Though it's not necessary to relate to a book and its characters in order to enjoy a story, I have to tell you that I really did relate to these characters and their experiences. I particularly liked that Nadim was a South Asian who grew up in Tanzania. First of all, thank YOU because this will probably be the closest representation I will ever get as a South Asian who grew up in Mauritius and then moved to North America. Secondly, there's this misconception that there aren't many brown communities in Africa. I was curious as to why this was the background you specifically picked for Nadim.


This means a lot to me that you connected to their background! I was excited to write a story that highlighted a South Asian double-migrant community. Like Reena and Nadim, I am a Guajarati Indian whose family came from Tanzania. Our community is unique, but not that small. There is a large South Asian community in East Africa, although many left in the seventies due to political unrest in the region. And even though we were in Africa for generations, our Indian identity has remained our primary identity because the community is so close knit. For Nadim, I decided to make him a recent immigrant, because I wanted a contrast between Reena and Nadim’s backgrounds—with him growing up in east Africa while she grew up in Canada. But of course, because their roots are the same, they overcome their surface-level cultural differences quickly and realise their deep bond. 
 

Through Reena's eyes, we get to see all the complexities of what it's like to grow up in a desi immigrant community. I liked that you didn't shy away from showing all the positives and negatives of the community. If Reena could create her perfect desi community, what would she get rid of and what would she keep?


This is a tricky question because I think one of the ways in which Reena grows in the book is that she realises that the things she felt were stifling her in her family and culture could actually work for her on her own terms. But even at the end of the book, I think Reena would be happy to get rid of the culture’s habit of not showing weaknesses and hardships to the world. When you can’t be open about your challenges, it's hard to get the support you need to heal.

Let's switch gears to questions that are a little bit more fun (hopefully). Bread baking is a big part of Accidentally Engaged. If you could pair each of the characters in the book with non-bread baked goods, what would you pick?


Nadim would be a cinnamon roll, even though technically that’s kind of bread. When Reena first meets him, she thinks he is rakish, flirty and maybe a bit of a player. But he turns out to be caring, sweet, and he only wants the best for Reena. Reena’s a bit trickier. I think she would be something that seems simple but is complex to make. Like maybe a danish, or a croissant. 
 

If the characters in Accidentally Engaged could hang out with the characters from another author's book, who do you they would get along best with?


This is easy. Definitely Ashna and Rico from Sonali Dev’s Recipe for Persuasion. Ashna is a chef, and I think she and Reena would love to talk about food, and their experiences on a televised Food competition. Also, about their memories of food and family. Plus, their complicated relationships with their mothers. Rico is a pro-soccer player, which is Nadim’s favourite sport. He’d be so excited to share a beer with him. And they both have distant but demanding fathers, so if they ever got bored of the sports talk, they could bond about their families, too. 

I know you already told Amira's story in The Chai Factor, which was amazing too, btw! Do you plan on writing more books with these characters in the future? What can you tell us about your next writing projects?


I’ve written Amira’s story in The Chai Factor, and have written Reena’s brother Khizar’s romance in a short I wrote last year for the Love All Year anthology called Making Up with Eid Bae. I’ve been psyching myself up to write Marley, Reena’s cousin’s story for a while, but the backstory I created for her is on the sadder side, so I keep putting it off. I’ve also always wanted to go back and write Sameer and Travis from The Chai Factor’s first meeting. That would probably be another short, or a novella, if I ever write it. 

My next 3 published, contracted books won’t have any characters in common with The Chai Factor or Accidentally Engaged. My first YA, Tahira in Bloom will be out later this year. It’s about a teen fashion designer who enters a floral sculpture competition with the plant-obsessed boy next door. And in 2022, I will also have two books out—another adult Rom-Com published by Forever, and another YA later in the year.


Many thanks to Farah for taking the time to chat with me! I hope we've both managed to convince you to give Accidentally Engaged a try!

Let's chat!

What are some of your favorite books with a strong focus on cooking or baking?
Let me know in the comments below!




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