Review: The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Is there anything better than a book that makes you laugh out loud and sigh with contentment?  Sara Desai delivers all that, and more, in her 2020 novel, The Marriage Game.

Layla Patel is at rock bottom.  After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job, she’s returned to San Francisco, and her large, lively family, to turn over a new leaf. No more lame jobs, and no more lame boyfriends.  Layla’s devoted father offers to help  get a new recruitment business off the ground by giving her free office space above their family-owned Indian restaurant.  There’s just one problem. It’s already sub-let it to someone else. 

Sam Mehta, the handsome and hyper-organized CEO of a corporate downsizing company, isn’t thrilled about sharing his office space with Layla. Her free spirit clashes with his tightly-wound ways. Sparks and office supplies fly from the first moment they meet. Sam is convinced he’s never met a woman so infuriating… or so captivating.

Soon, Layla learns her father also created an online dating profile in the hopes of finding Layla the perfect arranged marriage.  When prospective husbands start showing up at the office, Sam agrees to help Layla land her man in exchange for giving up the office space.  Before long, Sam and Layla’s marriage game becomes a contest for much more. 

Quite simply, I adored this book.  

Desai introduced a white, mid-western woman like me to the vibrant Desi (South Asian) culture within San Francisco. Her writing invoked all the senses, and I swear I could smell the cardamom while I read.  Even better was the incredible dialogue and humor.  I laughed so loud my children wanted me to read out loud! There is one, especially memorable scene, involving the removal of shapewear in preparation for sexy-time. The book is worth the kindle price for that chapter alone. The chemistry between Sam and Layla is palpable, and the sex scenes are satisfying, without being excessively graphic.  You can expect to laugh in those moments, too!

My only criticism of the book comes with pacing.  The high point of conflict came a little early for me (around 75% mark) and the last quarter of the book felt like one loooong set up for the grand gesture. That aside, the plot is strong and the main characters are well-developed.

If you’re looking for a fun read with lots of heart, The Marriage Game is is just what you’re looking for!

Favorite Tropes: enemies to lovers, arranged marriage, workplace romance, commitment phobias, wager, matchmaking, and revenge

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