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

THE MARRIAGE GAME

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 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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