The Rules of Arrangement flips the HEA in Romance

Thank you to NetGalley and Alcove Press for providing an eARC.

This is Anisha Bhatia’s debut novel. She is an Indian woman living in American. Her first novel has traditional Indian beliefs about women living in a patriarchal society. But it is not your typical hopeless or predictable story about a young woman whose only chance at the good life is to get married.

Zoya Sahni is a young woman, whose life is planned for her by societal norms and family pressures, is unsure about her upcoming nuptials but not ready to disappoint her family by becoming an independent woman.

I read the audiobook which I would highly suggest. The narrator is so compatible with Bhatia’s writing that they must be related.

The aunt is hilarious. She is judgmental and domineering but her sharp tongue makes her a more palatable character. Zoya is “not like other girls.” She is dark-skinned, full-figured, and reluctant to marry.

I did notice some reviewers on Goodreads have given this story a low rating because of how the dark-skinned and plus sized main character is represented. I took no offense to it because I read the entire story. The reviews I read that criticized the story, did not complete it. I will say, the microaggression spewed on the MC by her family is something we deal with in real life. I am someone who likes grey characters because I think that makes the read more compelling. However, I think the ending really made me enjoy Zoya’s character more.

At first glance, this sounds like yet another book about an Indian girl being forced to marry. There tends to be a theme with books by Indian or Indian American authors. Before you reject this one and look for another read, I encourage you to pick it up. Bhatia’s writing reads like stand-up comedy from an experienced comedian. You will be entertained even if the narrative is predictable.

The themes are pressures of being a single woman, standing up to your elder relatives, finding yourself while others try to tell you who your are. The plus-size rep is not as satisfying but the story is so good that I’m not complaining about it.

The discussions about single women and prejudices people have about them were interesting. The plus-size mentions felt pretentious and more like an announcement than a narrative. Zoya mostly kept stating that she was plus-size. Some of the other characters would make offensive statements about her weight that she did not have the confidence to correct.

This is a coming of age story about a young woman deciding whether to marry when she hasn’t had life experience or embark on a career that could bring her the kind of satisfaction that being married would stifle. I loved this book and would recommend it.

To learn more about author Anisha Bhatia, head over to her website https://www.anishabhatia.com

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