Nisha Sharma delighted readers with My So-Called Bollywood Life, a YA rom-com, and now she’s back with a sizzling romance for adults: The Takeover Effect. The first in a series about the Singh family, The Takeover Effect follows Hemdeep Singh as he returns home to save father’s business from a hostile takeover with the help of lawyer Mina Kohli. To celebrate the book’s release, Sharma shared her favorite contemporary South Asian romances!
When I started writing the Singh trilogy, I focused on three things that I knew were absolutely true:
1. Families are messy and complicated.
2. Love can happen in an instant, in an arrangement, or take years to develop.
3. There aren’t nearly enough diverse, messy, complicated love stories that featured truth one and two.
I’ve been a romance reader my entire life, and I didn’t start seeing myself represented in the romance genre until my twenties. How sad is that? Even though the industry has started to change, we still have a long way to go. To fuel that change, I sit down at my desk (almost) every day and try to add chapters to the narrative so that other South Asians can easily find themselves in messy, complicated love stories. Here are a few of my favorite contemporaries. I promise after reading these, you’ll be clamoring for more South Asian romances, too.
Bow to the Queen! Singh is hands-down one of my favorite writers. In Rebel Hard, she explores a love story that starts with the same sizzle you get when dropping cumin seeds into hot oil. However, the heroine isn’t ready for a long-term commitment. Thus begins an adventure where two people explore what they want, what their families expect, and the importance of creating one’s own happily ever after. This is an important romance because it demonstrates that we are not a monolithic culture. Singh’s sexy, engrossing love story takes place in the South Asian community in New Zealand.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. Like, an unhealthy obsession. My cat’s name is Lizzie Bennet, I watch all of the movies (Firth-Darcy rules), my MFA thesis was about Austen’s alpha male archetype, and I reread the book every year. So when Kamal’s retelling was announced, I immediately pre-ordered it. Kamal has delivered a rich, quick-witted twist on the beloved classic that takes place in modern-day Pakistan. In Unmarriageable, the Binat family navigates through socio-economic class expectations, while Alys Binat and Valentine Darsee navigate assumptions and prejudices about each other. This is such a good retelling.
Banerjee’s book was one of the first I could connect with on multiple levels thanks to a shared cultural background. In Imaginary Men, Banerjee takes common elements of a romance story we’ve all read before and seasons it with South Asian spice. The main character is a matchmaker, the hero is her perfect guy, and there is one big problem: She’s made up a fake fiancé to stall her meddling Bengali family. Banerjee gave me hope at a time when I didn’t think I’d ever see a story about an American South Asian, so I will forever be grateful to Imaginary Men for opening my eyes to diverse contemporaries.
For years, I was an attorney in New York City where I got to wear heels and sit in a large boardroom across from men who thought I was the unassuming “model minority”…until I opened my mouth. I love stories about powerful women in politics, and Snow delivers with her Politics of Love books. Celebrity is one of the most interesting stories in the trilogy. The main character is an attorney and the hero is, well, her husband, who is about to lose his wife because he let outsiders influence his relationship. Snow’s book is an incredibly steamy novel filled with drama and tangled family ties. Most importantly, Celebrity shows that passion transcends race, culture, and background.
Lalli’s book is almost uncomfortably close to my life. I have a wonderfully meddling family led by a Nani who wrote the book on meddling. I’ve gone on blind dates that could make even the most open-minded person cringe. And, like many of my South Asian friends, I may have told a lie by omission once or twice to get some relief from cultural obligations. I inhaled The Matchmaker’s List because it is such a fantastic story that paints a picture of how important family can be in someone’s love life. Lalli’s book isn’t the typical example of a romance, but that’s why I love it so much. She shows readers a romance through another lens while expanding the genre.
How could I write a list of South Asian contemporaries and not mention Dev’s book The Bollywood Bride? Well, I can’t. In The Bollywood Bride, the heroine returns to Chicago with the hope of healing (hiding) at a family wedding, when she is reunited with the hero. Both characters have history, and a lot of it. What unfolds involves secrets, heartache, and tons of Bollywood drama. Dev’s voice is an important addition to the South Asian romance scene because she weaves the immigrant experience into her prose. Characters who have lived lives in both India and in the U.S. will have different voices and points of view than characters who were born and raised in one country or the other. Because of Dev’s talented story-telling and perspective, she’s become an insta-buy author for me.
There are so many more contemporary romances that I wish I could highlight and share for you here. Falguni Kothari (The Object of Your Affections), who writes the most deliciously complex women’s fiction, and Suleikha Snyder (Seared), which will have you fanning yourself as you flip pages, also deserve mentions. I know this is only the beginning though. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these recommendations, as well as The Takeover Effect.
Nisha Sharma is the author of contemporary romance The Takeover Effect, and My So-Called Bollywood Life, a YA rom-com. She grew up immersed in Bollywood movies, eighties pop-culture and romance novels so it comes as no surprise that her work features all three. Her writing has been praised by NPR, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Buzzfeed, Hypable and more. She lives in New Jersey with her Alaskan-born husband, her cat Lizzie Bennett and her dog Nancey Drew. You can find her online at www.nisha-sharma.com or on Twitter and Instagram @nishawrites.