Review: Accidentally Engaged

Farah Heron's second novel, Accidentally Engaged, is a fun and warm contemporary romance full of heart and humor. When she meets her new neighbor Nadim, Reena Manji is adrift. She's just been laid off from a numbers-crunching job she hated. Her parents are pushing her to marry the son of a business partner, but Reena's already had 12 failed relationships and doesn't want another foisted upon her. And her once-popular food blog was tanked by her health-obsessed sister, leaving avid baker Reena to pursue her passion only as a hobby.

It turns out that Nadim is actually the man her parents had intended to set her up with, but--after promising never to marry each other--the two soon bond over beer and bread. One night, after a little too much alcohol, they video themselves making late-night comfort food and enter a contest to be on a Toronto cooking show. Despite their chemistry and easy camaraderie, nothing is simple: Nadim and Reena pretend to be engaged for the competition while keeping their relationship secret from their families and developing real feelings for each other in private. And then there are the trust issues and Reena's lack of self-esteem and depression. According to the community gossip chain, Nadim may have secrets. Whether he does or not, Reena doesn't feel capable or worthy of a healthy relationship with him.

"The Reena she let people see enjoyed drinks at the bar, fresh bread at home, and no drama. Who'd want the real Reena--the neurotic mess with maladaptive coping skills? Who couldn't manage to keep a job she hated? With a family who never, ever let her be free. None of the other 12 guys had been interested in sticking around once her true self began to emerge."

Heron keeps the story happy and hopeful, however. Messy as her family may be at the start of the book, Reena's friends are fun and supportive, never letting her negative self-talk win out for long.

Full of food so lovingly described that the scents nearly waft up from the page, Accidentally Engaged is not to be consumed on an empty stomach. Like Reena, Heron (The Chai Factor) is an East African Indian Muslim Canadian woman, and she uses food and the act of cooking together to illustrate the deep sense of home and belonging that Nadim and Reena find with each other. It's a steady theme throughout the book: home is where you make it--with the people you love. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Shelf Talker: In Accidentally Engaged, Farah Heron balances the ingredients for a charming romance: a heroine finding her way, a swoonworthy love, a complicated but loving family and a happily ever after.

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