Niki Randhawa has always strived to be a perfect Indian daughter, choosing a tech career over music, her passion, and always following the rules, including dating men of whom her parents would approve. Her carefully planned future shatters, however, when she’s laid off from her job.
Realizing that always doing the “right” thing hasn’t led to success or happiness, Niki impulsively books a flight to Mumbai to attend the wedding of her friend, Diya.
At a lively Diwali celebration, Niki eyes the band’s bass player, later to learn he is London musician Sameer Mukherji, a close friend of Diya. During the wedding celebration and subsequent group honeymoon, Niki and Sam grow closer, with Sam encouraging Niki to follow her passion. Living in different countries, their fling, no matter what feelings it might generate, can only be finite—unless the both take risks, reveal secrets, and stray from the expected path.
My favorite part of the book was the Indian setting, both Mumbai and Goa, which were vividly described. There is also a great sibling relationship between Niki and her older sister.
An important theme throughout the book is familial and cultural expectations and how they shape us and how miscommunication or faulty assumptions can intensify them. It also addresses colorism, class, and gender and income inequality in India.
While I liked Niki and Sam, and was even convinced that the wedding/ honeymoon environment could engender a rapid attraction, they also had communication issues, which at times were frustrating but also necessary to move the plot. For example, I wished Niki hadn’t deflected so much with humor.
Though the book has a fun Christmas scene, Diwali is celebrated in October or November. But, I am here for non-Christmas love stories!
Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!
Single mother April Parker raised her daughter in Willow Creek, but now that Caitlin is graduating and leaving for college, she plans to sell her house and move to the city. Before she can list it, though, she has a long list of updates and repairs from her real estate agent to deal with.
Mitch Malone, the handsome, gym teacher, is a player known for wearing a revealing kilt at the town’s Renaissance Faire. When he asks April to pose as his girlfriend at an upcoming party for his grandparents’ anniversary, she agrees—as long as he helps her with her home repairs.
As they spend time together, their relationship heats up, especially when Mitch’s family dinner turns into a family weekend, but April reminds herself that she will be moving soon. What started as just an act, though, could turn into more—if April could let go of her plans, but even Mitch might not be enough to keep her in Willow Grove.
I enjoyed Well Matched as much as Well Met, the first book in the series. Mitch’s cousin, Lulu, was hilarious, and his family was infuriating—thinking he settled when becoming “only” a gym teacher—but they also began to come around. This book had several scenes at the Faire because April, the quintessential non-joiner, volunteered as a ticket-taker to support Caitlin. Seeing the Faire from that front-of-house perspective was different and fun. The couples from Well Met and Well Played made appearances as well.
A good choice for those who like the fake-dating trope or age-gap romances.
Some open-door steam.
Thanks to Berkley Romance and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review! I also ordered a signed, finished copy from Mostly Books (Tucson, AZ) and got stickers and a print of April and Mitch!
June Jones had planned to leave her home town for university, but a family emergency kept her in Chalcot, the small English village, and she developed a solitary existence working at the library and spending time immersed in books. As her world shrank, so did her self-confidence. Yet, she adhered to her routine, and she loved her job, even though her boss, Marjorie, was insufferable.
Her ordered existence, however, is disrupted when the council announced budget constraints would lead to closing some of the libraries in the district. At first, June avoids explicitly aligning with “FOCL” (Friends of Chalcot Library), but watching the devoted patrons fighting for the library and understanding all the ways the library is essential to them inspires her to take a stand for what she believes. Her new friendships make her realize her loneliness, and she even rekindles communication with Alex Cheng, a classmate from London in town helping at his family’s restaurant. Despite June’s efforts and the rising community support, powerful forces are at work behind the scenes against the library.
I loved the library setting and all the library denizens. They were interesting secondary characters who showed that libraries are more than repositories of books. Once their backstories were revealed, they also challenged stereotypes. I also liked the age diversity—a precocious young boy to an elderly man and everything in between.
June at times frustrated me, she was so conflict-averse. On the one hand, I share that trait so empathize. On the other, June really let Marjorie take advantage of her and demand inappropriate personal tasks.
While there is a romance between June and Alex, it’s not the focus of the book, and I even wish that there had been more scenes with him. The book reminded me more of A Man Called Ove or All the Lonely People told from a thirty-year-old’s perspective.
The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng, Publication Date: August 10, 2021
An aspiring artist an alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kelly never looked back when she left her Michigan hometown. But on her birthday, while attending her best friend’s art opening, she opens the door to the bathroom and walks into her own twenty-ninth birthday party in Michigan with her family and a husband, Eric, who had been a high school acquaintance. She has twelve years of new memories—but has echoes of her Chicago life.
What’s more, she experiences glitches: her tattoos fade in and out, and when she asks Eric about conversations they’ve had, he denies them. She doesn’t doubt he loves her, but he also has a controlling impulse and a covert relationship with a secretive and security-conscious start-up.
Kelly tries to find her real life, but there’s no one she can really trust, not even her own memories.
For me, The Other Me started slowly, and I thought there was too much time and repetition regarding the authenticity of Kelly’s relationship with Eric while I would have been happier for Kelly and Linnea to interact more. Once the situation clarified, Kelly determined a course of action, and more characters entered the narrative, I thought the action was more exciting and that interesting ethical issues were introduced. Trying to keep it vague – best to go into it without too many preconceived ideas!
Thanks to @NetGalley and @Berkleypub for providing a digital reading copy in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!