The Marriage Game by Sara Desai is an adult contemporary tomance filled with drama, wit, and a hilarious enemies-to-lovers romance.
This novel follows Layla Patel, a woman in her twenties who returns home to her family in San Francisco after she loses her job as a recruitment consultant and breaks up with her boyfriend. Her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, offers her the office upstairs so she can start her own business. He also creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a husband and sets up dates, however she doesn’t know until the first man comes knocking on her door.
Another problem comes in the form of Sam Mehta who is the CEO of a corporate downsizing company and has his life carefully ordered. He finds a new office above Layla’s parents’ restaurant, but communication goes awry and he’s forced to share his space with Layla, her family, and a parade of suitors, all disrupting his ordered life. Sam decides to use this as an opportunity to get Layla married and then out of the office space. The two strike a deal: he will be her chaperone on the ten blind dates if she agrees to leave the office when she finds her match. But if she doesn’t find her match after ten blind dates, Sam agrees to vacate it.
An enemies to lovers romance is at the heart of this novel, but it is very well done so that both characters are still respectful and honest to one another without being totally rude. The two engage in hilarious witty banter that make the reader fully engaged in their relationship.
The characters are also very strong and well developed. Layla is a strong female character and her strength doesn’t disappear just because she wants to find love. She goes through a lot of self discovery and really figures out and embraces who she is as a person. She is also a curvy woman and while she is never described as plus-sized, the representation is appreciated. Sam is grappling with something that happened to his sister in the past and his need to avenge her. He is very controlled and organised and originally clashes with Layla because of her lack of organisation. He goes through a large change throughout the book which is very apparent. Both characters grow and help each other despite their initial dislike.
The book is told from a third person point of view so you get to watch the story unfold for both characters. We get to see Sam accompany Layla as a chaperone while she meets the suitors that her father has picked out for her as potential candidates for an arranged marriage. The two characters make it into a game to see which one will get to keep the office, but it turns into something very different. The plot has hilarious banter that keeps the readers interested and invested.
This is also an own-voices novel and the main characters are children of Indian immigrants. It’s full of Indian culture, traditions, and fun Bollywood references. But one of the best parts of the book are the descriptions of the food as Layla has a large sweet-tooth and her family owns an Indian restaurant that is largely featured. Family is also a huge part of this book and Layla’s family is always around and in each other’s business, but they are also very protective and supportive. Family is becoming a topic that is featured a lot more in romance books and I am very glad to see a representation of a healthy family relationship.
Overall, The Marriage Game is a hilarious blend of humour, romance, and family. It’s a funny romantic comedy that I highly recommend to anyone who already loves the romance genre or anyone wanting to try the genre out.
The Marriage Game is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers, like your local bookstore, as of June 9th 2020.
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Synopsis | Goodreads
A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.
After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…
As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he’s forced to share his space with the owner’s beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.
As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.