THE MARRIAGE GAME

A comic, potentially multicultural romance conflates India’s many identities into a misleading package for easy consumption.

A down-on-her-luck Indian American human resources professional locks horns with an Indian American corporate downsizer while also trying to find a suitable bridegroom.

Layla Patel returns to San Francisco after undergoing a public breakup with her social media–star boyfriend and getting fired from her job in New York. She's immediately plunged into a chaotic life with her extended clan while she tries to start her own HR firm. At the same time she's helping her family’s restaurant stay afloat after her father has a health crisis, she has another item to tackle: evaluating the potential grooms he had selected for her from a matrimony website. To complicate matters further, Sam Mehta, an uptight corporate executive, has rented the space above the restaurant and refuses to give up his lease. Desai, who has previously published as Sarah Castille, now mixes up ingredients for a South Asian rom-com khichdi, with meddling aunties, a mishmash of Indian foods, references to movie songs, and a string of marriage candidates. Layla and Sam’s chemistry channels the drama of Indian cinema. There are many humorous moments of banter and slapstick between them and a notable attempt to immerse the reader in South Asian Americanness. But the novel shows a poor understanding of the sociopolitical dynamics within Indian communities (including in the diaspora). Desai seems unaware that names signal a person's region and religion, so there are seemingly northwest Indian characters specializing in southern Indian vegetarian food, which sidelines their own staple cuisine. Similarly, Layla's marriage candidates span a pan-Indian, pan-religious roster, a misleading representation of the reality of religious biases that impact Indian minorities. A subplot about domestic violence also teeters on the edge of representing people with disabilities as supporting characters who only serve to shape others’ stories.

A comic, potentially multicultural romance conflates India’s many identities into a misleading package for easy consumption.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10056-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

FANGIRL DOWN

This golf romance is a winner.

A professional golfer trying to make a comeback hires his biggest fan to be his caddy.

Despondent and demoralized at his terrible season, professional golfer Wells Whitaker decides to quit the pro circuit. He’s already been dumped by his mentor, his sponsors, and his agent—why not throw in the towel himself? The only person left on his side is Josephine Doyle, his most devoted fan, a woman so dedicated to his career that she’s given herself the moniker “Wells’s Belle.” Josephine has been following the golfer’s career for years, and she can’t help but feel betrayed when he abandons the game. After a hurricane destroys her family’s Palm Beach pro shop, Josephine is surprised to find Wells at her door. He’s had a change of heart and is determined to give himself one last chance on the pro circuit. Wells has secured a spot at an upcoming tournament in San Antonio and wants Josephine to be his caddy. She can’t say no. The money she earns will allow her to rebuild the shop and afford health insurance, which is crucial for managing her diabetes. Once they’re at the tournament, their obvious camaraderie and their chemistry make them the target of gossip and speculation in the press. Wells feels intensely possessive and protective of Josephine while still respecting her autonomy, and Josephine learns that her faith in him was not misplaced. Although several of the initial plot pieces feel manufactured, the emotional connection between Josephine and Wells is vibrant and alive. They fit together perfectly, with each growing and benefiting from their professional and romantic partnership. Bailey delivers her trademark high-heat, spicy romance, but it’s the emotional connection between Wells and Josephine that makes the book a winner.

This golf romance is a winner.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9780063308367

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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