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The Chai Factor

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Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.

As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.

400 pages, Paperback

First published June 11, 2019

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About the author

Farah Heron

10 books684 followers
Farah Heron is a critically acclaimed author of romantic comedies for adults and young adults filled with huge South Asian families, delectable food, and most importantly, brown people falling stupidly in love. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two children, and a rabbit named Strawberry. She recently adopted two cats, who are now in charge.

Farah’s debut, The Chai Factor was named one of the summer’s best books by The Globe and Mail, and was praised in Book Riot, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Bustle and more. Her next release, Accidentally Engaged, was listed as a best book of 2021 in Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, NPR, CBC Books, Kobo, and more. Her young adult debut, Tahira in Bloom, was recently released, and was praised as one of the best rom-coms of the year by USA today.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 349 reviews
Profile Image for ♛ may.
805 reviews3,773 followers
December 13, 2019
me: if i have to read another book with a muslim main character that's entire faith is defined by the fact that they don't eat pork i will S C R E A M

drive thru speaker: ma'am,,,,,,,this is a wendy's
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,874 followers
January 22, 2020
Absolutely brilliant. Goodness, I loved this. It's laugh-out-loud funny at points while tackling some really brutal stuff about bigotry both towards and inside the Canadian Muslim community. Amira is a ferocious heroine with a genuinely bad temper who doesn't pull her punches or make nice--which is a startling reminder of how much we do expect women to smooth things over. Duncan is a well meaning white liberal who screws up a lot because of unconscious privilege and unawareness that simply being yourself isn't a privilege granted to most people who aren't white cishet men. There's a lot of difficult stuff here, and no glib answers.

But there is friendship, and people trying to do better, and love of all kinds, and compassion, enough of all those things to allow us to hope, even if angrily. The central romance is not precisely the tentpole of the book--it's a lovely and believable romance but this is really Amira's story, about her finding her path and facing things as they are and as she needs them to become. Still there's enough romance with enough swoon to satisfy any romance reader.

Glommed it in two sittings, and that was only because of the pesky necessity of sleep. Hugely recommended.
Profile Image for aarya.
1,209 reviews
May 3, 2020
2019 Ripped Bodice Summer Bingo: Happily Ever After

A- review: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/r...

This book really, really worked for me. I want a million imperfect heroines with fiery tempers and who lash out constantly (even if they’re being unfair and not nice). I know $15 is a lot to spend on a digital book. But if it’s out of your budget or you don’t want to risk money on a debut, then I encourage you to ask your library to purchase it.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for romancelibrary.
1,055 reviews453 followers
December 21, 2019
I received an ARC from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Your enjoyment of The Chai Factor all boils down to your expectations.

If you are looking for a multicultural romantic comedy, then this is not the book for you.

If you are looking for a social justice guide on Islamophobia, racism, sexism, systemic discrimination, mental illness, drug addiction, the infantilization of Asian women, white boy guilt, and homophobia, then The Chai Factor is the book for you. Don’t get me wrong: according to the Internet, I am a social justice warrior. But this is not what I’m looking for in my romance novels.

If you like your heroines to be judgemental and judge others the same way she constantly gets judged, then you might appreciate her character a lot more than I did. Let me clarify something: I love angry heroines. But this particular heroine makes an ass out of herself by constantly jumping to conclusions about every single other character. It’s irritating to say the least. She sees sexism in instances where there is no sexism. She also does the most immature little things like turning up her music while the guys are practicing in the other room. She has a weird complex where she thinks she is being pulled into the boys’ drama when she is the one who is always inserting herself in their drama. Girl, bye.

If you like your heroes to have constant white boy guilt and want the heroine of colour to assuage their guilt, then you might enjoy this ‘romance.’ The ‘hero’ also makes the racism that Amira is subjected to about himself. Example: Duncan takes Amira out to see his friend perform and afterwards they find out that his friend is a racist. Obviously Duncan feels guilty about the fact that Amira had to be subjected to his friend’s overt racism. But…he makes the entire situation about himself: he says that the only reason his friend acted this way was because of their past falling out and that the only reason he even took Amira out was to get back into her pants. Boy, bye.

If I were to break down this book:
70% social justice, 20% making chai, 10% 'romance'

P.S. Pairing a brown girl with a white dude...

thank u, next
Profile Image for Maria Rose.
2,465 reviews242 followers
September 22, 2019
Given it’s set in the multicultural city of Toronto, it’s no surprise that Farah Heron’s début, The Chai Factor, delves into some serious issues such as racism and cultural and gender equality. Yet even so the author maintains some nice comedic flair and tells a sweet opposites attract romance making this an enjoyable read from start to finish.

Amira Khan is just a few weeks away from delivering her masters thesis in engineering, and is looking forward to some quiet writing time in her grandmother’s basement. On the train trip home from her grad school, she is harassed by a creep who figures an Indian woman is an easy target. To her surprise – and admittedly, her annoyance – a bearded lumberjack type tries to come to her rescue. She’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself, thank you very much, and only grudgingly comes to realize her would-be knight was just trying to be helpful. Hoping to put the whole thing behind her, Amira arrives home only to discover that her grandmother has rented out two of the two rooms in her basement suite to, of all possible options, a wannabe barbershop quartet!

Sameer, the grandson of a friend of her grandmother’s, is trying out with some singing friends he met online in a local competition, and they needed a place for their newly formed group to practice prior to the event. Her Nanima hadn’t been expecting Amira back from college so soon and had rented the rooms out to Sameer but this puts Amira in an awkward position – she doesn’t pay rent so she can’t complain about her Nanima renting out the rooms, but she had been looking forward to a quiet place to finish writing her thesis. And as luck would have it, one of the members of the quartet is none other than her train hero, Duncan Galahad (a name certainly befitting his actions). Compromise is the key, and also the start of an interesting friendship for Amira and Duncan, which eventually leads to more. Will these two people from very different cultures and backgrounds find the right threads to tie them together?

The premise that brings Amira and Duncan into each other’s orbits is certainly amusing, and while the story is told all from Amira’s point of view, there is definitely a lot about Duncan’s character that shines through. He’s a very decent guy; a peacemaker and a gentle giant. At first Amira thinks he’s gay, because she’s heard through the Indian grapevine that Sameer is gay (though he’s officially closeted to his communty and doesn’t know about the rumours) and she assumes he and Sameer are together. In fact, of the four members of the quartet two, Sameer and Travis are a couple, Barrington has a fiancée and Duncan is the only one who is single.

Amira grudgingly admits to herself that Duncan is kind of attractive, both inside and out. While they clash on more than one occasion, they also have some heartfelt conversations that lead to kissing and then more. Interestingly, there is some discussion between them of power dynamics when it comes to sex, as Amira likes to take charge, and Duncan likes to be bossed around. While you’d think this would lead to some hot BDSM type sex scenes, we don’t know – because they are closed door scenes. So hot kisses – check – but the rest is left to the reader’s imagination, which I confess I found somewhat frustrating and a bit of a tease. It seems an odd choice to go into discussions of kink but then not follow through on the page. But they both seem quite satisfied with whatever they end up doing and in a short period of time, Amira finds herself getting quite attached to her lumberjack.

As I alluded to in the introduction, there is more meat to this story than just the romance. Amira’s Indian culture is strongly represented in terms of cuisine and fashion, but like any traditional culture, the conflict between the older and younger generations is unavoidable. Her Nanima’s thoughts on homosexuality are negative and while one of Sameer’s purposes in bringing the quartet to Toronto was to introduce Travis as his partner to his own grandmother, that’s easier said than done. For a time, Amira ends up pretending to be Sameer’s girlfriend, his ‘beard’ to hide the fact that he and Travis are a couple. It’s not ideal, and the secondary romance between Sameer and Travis takes all sorts of twists and turns before being resolved. Amira’s own mother, divorced for a long time from Amira’s father, is going through her own issues relating to sexuality and acceptance. Amira’s relationship with her mother, her Nanima, and her much younger sister Zahra are explored in depth alongside her romance with Duncan.

But that’s not all. Amira is also dealing with the effects of a racial profiling incident a year earlier at the US border where she ended up becoming a news item, an event she’s still trying to put behind her. She’s angry – angry that her identity as a muslim and an Indian make her a target for online trolls (she ended up disabling her social media) and that anger seeps into her daily life. It’s not helped by the fact that her workplace – where she’d hoped to return after her master’s degree is finalized – seems to have regressed to a more misogynistic time. Her new male boss clearly doesn’t respect her capabilities, and the man she’s warmly thought of as her mentor may not be as delighted with her skills and intellect as she’d thought. And just when she and Duncan are finally getting along so well, another ugly incident reminds her that trusting people can incur a big cost.

The author covers a lot of heavy topics but makes them real by showing them through Amira’s eyes. Life is not fair, especially if you’re not a white male, and Duncan is the perfect foil for Amira’s anger. But his ability to try to understand and empathize, accept his own culpability where necessary and be a backbone and support for Amira show his willingness to be a true partner, one whom Amira soon realizes she wants in her life permanently, and their happy ending is sweet and believable. The Chai Factor is an enjoyable and thought provoking character driven romance and is definitely worth the read.

This review also appears at All About Romance: https://allaboutromance.com/book-revi...

A copy of this story was provided by the publisher for review.
Profile Image for Lisa (Remarkablylisa).
2,235 reviews1,801 followers
May 25, 2019

I received a copy from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for a honest review.

Oh boy, I read this after Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Devi so it's hard to live up to it. I mean, they're two completely different books. The Chai Factor follows Amira who is finishing up her super impressive Masters degree in engineering. She's already a bad-ass for being a female of visible minority and working a male-dominated industry. I appreciate Amira and all that she stands for including raising her voice over ongoing prejudice and racism to people of her culture. Amira isn't afraid to educate the ignorant people of clear race issues happening in society today which is fantastic but...

Amira is snappy and the worst sometimes. She jumps onto everything that Dunclan says or does in the beginning. For example, Dunclan helps Amira out of a tricky situation with a perverted sicko in the train station but she snaps at him for trying to help her out when she could have clearly handled it herself. I think she overreacted to that because instead of politely going 'hey, I could have told him to back off myself', she went on this tangent about how she really, really, really, didn't like it how Dunclan stepped in. I get that Dunclan and Amira have this love/hate relationship going on but it felt unbalanced. Amira was meaner than Dunclan a lot of the times.

Furthermore, this book dealt heavily with racism. So if that's not your cup of tea, then this might not be the best read for you. Now, I'm not strongly versed or smart enough to ever put my two cents on racism. But there is racism and it will leave you very conflicted on how you can justify Amira's actions towards it.

Hey, it was a fun read set in Toronto and then it turned super serious in the end so if you like romance but want MEAT then this one is yours.
Profile Image for Nicole N. (A Myriad of Books).
855 reviews91 followers
November 26, 2019
If you’re looking for a light-hearted rom-com with a little bit of sexy times, don’t pick up this book. But if you’re looking for an inspection of a culture different from yours, one even the main character, Amira, lives but also questions its hypocrisies...maybe this is for you.

To be honest, it wasn’t for me. I borrowed this book from the library, thinking it would be a rom-com. I mean, look at the synopsis! But it’s not that. The dislike between Amira and Duncan felt forced, as did their dialogue and some of their interactions. I liked that Amira is a WoC in a STEM field. She’s had her fair share of racist, Islamophobic, and sexist situations. It’s crappy, don’t get me wrong. But it simply wasn’t what I wanted in a rom-com. There were points I like—such as when Amira stood up for Sameer in front of family and chewed out her grandmother for her “backwards” beliefs. For giving Ryan hell for calling Amira’s little sister names. She even tore one into Duncan. Fine. Good. People do need to realize when they are on the wrong whether they want to believe it or not.

I’m not sure how many more times I could have read that Duncan had green eyes, red hair, and a beard. Or that he was a lumberjack, a garden gnome, or a farm boy. All of these appeared so often I just couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

I wanted MORE romance, more sexy times. I definitely think the synopsis only hits the small points when it could explore other areas.

Idk... Would I recommend this book? Not really. It eventually became such a chore to get through, I found myself skimming it and just reading it without fully digesting. I’m just glad it’s over. Now I can move onto something else.
Profile Image for Yels.
262 reviews31 followers
March 3, 2020
The Chai Factor follows Amira, a 30 year old woman working on her master's degree in engineering, dealing with the hate thrown at her for being brown and Muslim, and now add the 4 guys living in her grandmother's basement. Amira clashes with one of the singers, Duncan. Amira and Duncan met on a train not realizing that they would be living together for 2 weeks since Amira's grandmother rented out her basement. Amira has a master's thesis to work on but her growing attraction to Duncan is proving to be distracting.

Thanks, I hated it. First thing first, I am not opposed to books, especially romance books, tackling social issues. I love books that are grounded on social issues since it makes it that much more real to me. The Chai Factor has every issues under the sun. I understand that people don't just deal with one issue, these things tend to have many layers and facets. I get it but having everything thrown in ONE book made it hard for me to get through. It wasn't just the social issues but the whiplash from the main characters. Amira is constantly getting angry at someone or something for things SHE does as well. I love an angry heroine but this ain't it.

Amira has these internal battles about the racism she faces and the Islamophobia she has to deal with. All heavy issues but fails to see her own prejudices. Her grandmother has antiquated views on homosexuality and although Amira calls her out on it by saying that she has lived in Canada for far too long to still think the same, Amira is the SAME way when it comes to Duncan. Amira is open that she supports Sameer and his partner while also saying that she is not like her grandmother. Then Duncan has a brother who is racist and when he tries to say that he is not like his brother, Amira is not having it. Since Duncan lives with his brother then he must be a racist. So with that train of thought, then Amira is just like her grandmother. It drove me crazy that Amira would flip flop in a span of a paragraph. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

I am in no way defending Duncan either since I hated him too. He meets Amira once and is already calling her princess. Please stop. It's not cute and I say this as a nickname loving person. I was tired of hearing about Duncan and his mossy green eyes. Justice for brown eyes when? The romance was meh at best. Amira and Duncan are at each others throat since the beginning and while I love enemies to lovers, it was hard to see the connection between them. I did enjoy that Amira is not hindered by tradition and religion when it comes to sexual relations with someone that she attracted to.

There is more that I can add but I am really tired and never want to think about this book ever again.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,238 reviews265 followers
Shelved as 'today-is-not-that-day'
March 24, 2021
At 15% and I'm not in the mood for a sexist boss and the male colleagues who don't find him so. Maybe another time, but I stopped reading this for 2 days after a nice start.
Profile Image for Shealea.
430 reviews1,193 followers
October 1, 2020
Unapologetically and fiercely feminist? Rich with nuance and introspection? A burly lumberjack man who will make chai to cheer up our beloved STEM heroine? The purest and most adorable gay couple in the world? An interracial romance that will have readers curling their toes in delight? Farah Heron’s debut novel has got everything covered, and it is absolutely criminal that The Chai Factor isn’t receiving the attention and praise it deserves. This book deserves more hype, imo.

Full review to follow.
Profile Image for Layla (Between the Lines).
608 reviews905 followers
July 14, 2019
“The best love stories have to start somewhere, beta.”

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book is exactly what I wanted to read right now. The Chai Factor give us three things: A feisty and outspoken protagonist to add some spice. A we-don't-like-each-other-but-we-want-to-kiss-each-other type of romance to add some sweetness. And some comedy to help digest the the very real issues of gender/race/cultural discrimination. I guess you could say it was... my cup of tea.

I also really liked that the story was set in Toronto. Yay, Canada.
Profile Image for Tasha.
124 reviews1 follower
June 27, 2020
This was a waste of my time and if you’re considering reading this then just don’t do it. First of all the premise is ridiculous this stupid barbershop quarter renting 2 rooms in this basement for 2 weeks to rehearse??? And no grad student in their right mind would go away from campus where all their research and their most resources are to go home to finish their report. Amira is incredibly annoying and hypocritical. Duncan is a pain from the start by constantly calling Amira princess when she kept telling him to stop. Also did we have to keep mentioning Duncan’s fire red hair and beard and mysterious green eyes like we get it he’s white I don’t care!!!!!!! The end was so half assed it would’ve made more sense if they DIDN’T stay together. The story would’ve been 1000% more interesting if it was about the mom but the author couldn’t even execute this book so she would screw that up.

TLDR: don’t ever get this book don’t open it don’t think about it
Profile Image for Lollita .
205 reviews72 followers
July 7, 2019
This was cute. Amira was rather annoying at times but the characters of the barbershop quartet were adorable.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,499 reviews187 followers
June 20, 2021
This romance had extra depth to it as it had so much to say about:
-islamophobia (as I write this, I struggle to understand how a white man in London, Ontario could deliberately drive his vehicle into a Muslim family walking in the evening, of whom he killed four members).
-how liberal-minded people think they’re automatically more progressive and better people because they don’t obviously actively mistreat the marginalized. Main character Amira Khan has legitimate anger and serious concerns about Canadian society, but more particularly how insensitive Duncan was exposing her and his black team member, then later her and her eleven-year old sister, to the hatred of his racist, misogynistic and Islamophobic friend and family.
-how South Asian families and communities don’t often support their members who are women, or darker-skinned, or queer, or suffering from a mental illness In fact, there’s often tremendous shame and pressure to not be these things, or hide them, and I liked how Farrah Heron shows characters grappling with this type of conflict while still trying to be part of their family and community.
-the sometimes misogynistic and/or homophobic behaviour within STEM professions of male colleagues to their female and others colleagues.

I liked this book a lot, and plan to read this author’s next book.
Profile Image for Minah Minhas.
47 reviews
April 25, 2022
3.5 ⭐️

this book focused on the life of a 30 year old muslim brown girl in toronto named amira, which was very cool for me to read about because of the parallels between me and amira’s life since i’m also a muslim brown girl living in toronto. i really liked duncan and amira’s relationship, it was so cute how they both managed to warm up to each other, especially when relating that back to how they felt when they originally met. this book also went through a lot of issues prevalent in desi culture regarding opinions on homophobia and essentially, the ideology of “what would others think”, which was something i really liked because it’s not talked about enough. now with this, i found that this book was a bit too stereotypical for me at times, and not only that, but i do feel as though this book was still kept at a surface level and i really wished for a more in depth story. overall not a bad book but it wasn’t amazing either.
Profile Image for Emmkay.
1,168 reviews73 followers
October 23, 2019
The perfect book to start reading during a tough stretch when I wanted something to put me in a good mood. Romance has definitely come a long way since my junior high scarfing of dubious Harlequins with rapey undertones (and overtones). This was charming and very woke, featuring a protagonist who's a 30 year old Muslim-Canadian engineer completing her Master's degree. There's traditional rom-com elements - the meet-cute, the hate-to-love thing, but the tension comes from stuff like the fact that the protagonist is prickly in her response to the well-meaning love interest in part due to her years of dealing with Islamophobia and sexism. I liked that there's airspace given to the main character's real-life-sounding work problems with a sexist undermining work culture. The chemistry with the love interest was kind of awkward, but overall a refreshing read. Also: set in Toronto!
Profile Image for Sabreena - Books and Prosecco.
154 reviews12 followers
June 6, 2019
The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Disclaimer: The amazing humans at HarperCollins Canada were kind enough to send me an arc of The Chai Factor in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions below are my own.

“If there were a Sufi saint who protected single women travellers, Amira Khan was sure she had royally pissed her off at some point in a previous life.”

The Chai Factor was a bit of a wild ride. We follow Amira Khan, a 30-year-old Muslim woman who is finishing up her masters – in engineering no less! She is brilliant, but like most of us, she has insecurities and like all of us, she has faults. She moves back home to her grandmothers house to finish her final project and discovers a barbershop quartet living in the basement with her! Yup, I was here for that too.

Included in that barbershop quartet is: Sameer, a sweet, Muslim gay man whose family doesn’t know he is gay; Travis, Sameer’s white boyfriend, who is a hairstylist; Barrington, a black man and seemingly the quiet one of the group; and Duncan, aka the garden gnome, the lumberjack, and the white love interest. Yes. The colours are important.

“Just you is more than enough for anyone who matters.”

So Amira discovers four gorgeous men living in the same suite as her, but after some serious tension, they decide to work together so she can get her project done and they can practice for their singing competition.

To be completely honest, I didn’t like Amira to start. To me, she came across as quite rude at times, and I found myself saying, “GIRL, REALLY?!” at the way she behaved. She grows though. She learns from her mistakes, and we are reminded that everyone has a story. People behave the way they do because of what they are taught and what they go through in life.

“She hadn’t changed any minds; the world wasn’t any better. Fighting all these tiny battles was having no effect on the war. But it was killing her.”

As a Muslim woman, Amira has gone through a LOT. I, as a Sikh woman, have experienced some racism, but I’ve been lucky. I feel a little sick saying that because “luck” shouldn’t have anything to do with it, but while I’ve had things said to me, I’ve never had anything “physically” aggressive happen to me. TOO many people have not been as “lucky” as I have.

“…she’d grown weary of dealing with the preconceptions people had about her when they saw her or learned her religion.”

What Amira has gone through doesn’t excuse the rudeness, but it explains the wall she has built. Like I said though, she grows, and oooo there were so many moments where I was also cheering her on. She doesn’t let people get away with being racist or sexist, and to be honest, I want to be more like that. It can be terrifying to stand up to someone, but after reading this book, I want to be able to do it more often.

“It’s not my f*cking job to be some Muslim ambassador!”

Note: just because someone identifies a certain way, does not mean you have the right to use them to educate yourself on that identity. Pick up a book, use Google, do your research. Yes, this applies to ALL identities. Unless someone willingly and openly wants to have that conversation with you, do not expect or demand them to. Put the work in yourself. There are lots of resources out there!

“Brave Sir Galahad saved you from the evil villain. It’s utterly romantic. The perfect meet-cute.”

Okay! Moving on to the fun stuff. Love interest Duncan is an… interesting character. We get a similar experience with him where we slowly learn what has shaped him. I’m pretty sure there were moments where I was certain he was my soul mate, but there were a few other “cringey” moments. For example, after introducing Amira to his friend, who turns out to be super racist, Duncan makes it about himself and I felt really off about that. It’s not a huge issue, but I’ve decided he learned from that moment and if there was a sequel book, he wouldn’t do that again.

“You guys were doing enemies-to-lovers the whole time and we never noticed it.”

I freaking LOVE enemies-to-lovers stories!

Travis and Sameer are super cute, but my heart truly broke for them. It is hard enough being coloured in this world, but to be a gay Muslim with a traditional family! Sameer’s story is a roller-coaster, and while I don’t want to spoil how it ends, I will say I was happy with it. Actually, I was freaking ecstatic at the end! Cue: the biggest possible grin.

“Let’s fill that hall up with so much brown love that maybe the bigots will get scared and leave.”

^ new life motto.

Another thing I loved about The Chai Factor was how it captured Indian culture and family relationships. We see the dynamic between Amira, her younger sister Zahra, her divorced mother, and her grandmother – all in one house! Having several generations in one house is so normal for so many cultures, it was amazing to see that represented. Also, many Indians really do have that many cups of chai every day!

Having all those generations together means we see the conflict between “traditional” and “modern” values – especially with Amira’s grandmother and her friends. It’s interesting to see what “values” people will hold on to or let go of when those values are hurting the people they love.

It was also so damn cute to see how the barbershop quartet interacted with little Zahra! More adults need to be kinder to children. More adults need to be kinder to adults, for that matter.

“…I have to believe that even if humanity as a whole is bad right now, individual people are not.”

This book included discussions of mental health as well, and I really appreciated that. I know it can be very tough to talk about, but especially in Indian communities, mental health is practically ignored. Issues are swept under the rug and people would rather let someone suffer than admit they have a problem. Hopefully, by sharing it in this book, Indians will want to talk about it more.

What else can I say! I devoured The Chai Factor. Heron’s writing was absolutely delectable, and she shared a relatable story that was entertaining, heart-warming, heart-breaking, and wonderful all at the same time. I’m kind of ready for my next Indian party now too, so I can doll up and dance!

Trigger/content warning: racism, homophobia, mental health, eating disorders, Islamophobia, sexism, drug abuse.

The Chai Factor is releasing on June 11, 2019, so pre-order your copy now or prepare yourself to run to the bookstore on Tuesday!

Note: All quotes above were taken from an advance reader’s edition of the book, and are subject to change in the final release.

Thanks again to HarperCollins Canada for sending me The Chai Factor by Farah Heron! I loved it!
Profile Image for Dana.
666 reviews9 followers
February 18, 2022
I loved this book so sooooo much! I adored each of the main characters, especially Amira and Duncan. The storyline touches on some hard topics, but it's also extremely heartwarming and had me laughing out loud several times. It also left me with a mad craving for chai!!!
Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,163 followers
August 27, 2019
If you enjoy the enemies to lovers trope, have I got the book for you! The Chai Factor is an incredible debut that kept me glued to its pages.

Let me tell you: this book has some of the best character growth I’ve ever read. But I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about Amira, our Muslim engineer heroine, at first. I thought she was acting rather childishly for a 30 year old woman. Things aren’t going as she planned with her degree and she’s heading home to finish her grad school thesis in peace. This is all on her mind when a fellow train passenger sexually harasses her, with a side of racism to boot. (Amira’s mom is from Gujarat, India and her dad is a Gujarati Indian from East Africa.) But then a white man intervenes and my reaction was, “who is this unicorn?!” Amira’s reaction was to get pissed off at him and I just did not get it. At the same time, I wanted to know what was driving her reactions to the people around her.

Oh, and that white guy who tried to help her? Well, when Amira gets to her grandmother’s house, she learns Duncan and the rest of his barbershop quartet just moved in to the basement. I almost cackled at Amira’s horror over sharing space with him. There’s banter and sparks and animosity aplenty. They do not bring out the best in each other at first but the evolution of their relationship had me absolutely captivated. I could not get enough of their romance once they finally gave in to their feelings.

This story doesn’t shy away from hard topics. The plot delves into religious homophobia and workplace sexism. This is set in Canada and Islamaphobia, xenophobia, and racism are just as big of issues there as they are in the United States. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two countries and particularly how current US policies impacted Amira, including a past incident of racial profiling at the airport. The story also digs in to how this plays out on social media: the harassment Amira faced after her story went viral, the way white supremacists use social media as a platform, and so on.

Amira and Duncan have to talk honestly about these specific differences. It becomes crystal clear when Duncan’s brother decides his daughter can’t spend time with Amira’s niece because of her race and religion. Duncan is trying to be the change he wants to see in his family and community, especially for his niece. However, he didn’t realize he should have told Amira about his family’s hateful views and this put her and her niece in harm’s way. My heart went out to Duncan in his anguish but it was ripped in two over the pain Amira and Zahra experienced. Duncan didn’t know what he didn’t know and yet the burden should not be on Amira to educate him. As a white person, it can be tempting to think I wouldn’t act like Duncan but I can’t let myself off the hook like that. We all have to do the work and interrogate our privilege. People’s very lives are on the line.

And so Amira and Duncan have to decide whether they can move forward. Are these differences too big to overcome? At first, Amira thinks they are. But this is where the aforementioned character growth kicks in.

Amira has to confront her anger and ask herself if this is all people see in her and if this is all she is. She does have to decide the kind of person she wants to be: in her relationship, in her family, in her friends, and in her workplace. Amira has a lot to be angry about and justifiably so but she can’t take it out on everyone around her. Reading her work through all of this turned out to be cathartic and I was really impressed with where she landed and how she decided to give Duncan another chance.

I loved Amira and Duncan together. The side characters were wonderful, from Amira’s best friend to her mother. Plus the rest of the barbershop quartet added so much depth to the story, what with two of the members being in a relationship. There’s so much more I could talk about but really you should read it for yourself. This book had great humor and heart and I’m really excited to see what Farah Heron does next.

For people who prefer low heat level, this is pretty closed door. However, it doesn’t shy away from Amira’s interest in dominating, which set it apart from other closed door romances I’ve read.

CW: Islamaphobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, closeted characters, divorce, reference to past racial profiling, sexual harassment, reference to side characters’ substance abuse, reference to past child neglect, unnecessary use of “spastic” as descriptor, eating disorder, hospitalization for eating disorder
Profile Image for Smart Women Read Romance.
369 reviews1,235 followers
June 25, 2019
3.5 stars
First off a disclaimer: I wouldn’t consider this a romcom (it’s heavy) or even a straight-up romance. BUT it is a compelling story about the heroine herself as she deals with a number of social issues including prejudice, sexism, and discrimination.

You can tell that the author feels very strongly about a number of issues, and I’m happy that publishers are recognizing more AOCs with unique perspectives that only they can tell. But she really crams a lot in there .

It was hard to connect with the heroine especially in regards to the hero because the enemies to lovers trope went a little overboard on the “enemies” part. I like a fiery heroine, but Amira’s oftentimes unwarranted attitude toward Duncan was a hard pill to swallow. Every time Amira had to educate Duncan on as aspect of her culture or the inherent racism that she constantly deals with, it felt like a lecture rather than a conversation with someone she was forming a romantic connection with.

I might be spoiled from another series that deals with cross-culture romance where the MCs had such an intense connection that they felt comfortable discussing hard topics without judgment and room for growth and understanding.

There is so much going on in this novel, and I applaud the author for speaking out against these tough social issues, but I think it would have been better served if one or two would have remained the focus and highlight the others in her next book. I’m looking at you, Reena! You deserve an HEA!

Overall solid debut, I just wish the romantic element wasn’t just background noise.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,204 reviews189 followers
July 25, 2019
Romance between an engineer and a baritone from a barbershop quartet! Irresistible! Amira is finishing up the last few weeks of her graduate degree and has come home to her grandmother’s house for some peace and quiet, not realizing that her grandmother has rented out the spare rooms to a barbershop quartet with a singing competition to prepare for. It’s the perfect setup already, but in case that wasn’t enough, Amira also has a meet-cute on the train with the baritone from said quartet—a big, red-bearded lumberjack looking dude who saves her from a creepy guy’s advances. I loved how abrasive Amira is—she goes nuclear first and asks questions later—and how the narrative doesn’t require her to change to be worthy of love. (She still has to apologize sometimes, because that’s life, but Duncan likes her fiery personality.) I also loved the clash of cultures (Duncan is white, Amira is Indian-Canadian and Muslim) and how Amira refuses to be a vehicle for a white person’s enlightenment. There are a lot of supremely satisfying mic-drop moments.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,125 reviews724 followers
September 21, 2019
Social justice, feminism, and anti-intolerance themed romance set in Toronto - I literally can’t think of any other way to describe it! Really enjoyed.
Profile Image for Jess.
2,820 reviews5 followers
October 26, 2019
This was very good. I found the specificity of it really appealing and despite my usual dislike of suddenly very intense romances, I thought it mostly worked here. Except maybe as it related to how angry the heroine was that the hero hadn't confessed his family's bigotry to her so early. Now, I haven't dated in long time and I am not a WOC who faces bigotry in their day to day life, so maybe that's a completely reasonable ask. I don't know. But in two weeks, to me, it just seemed unreasonable for her to have expected him to tell her everything about what his family is like. (I definitely got her argument for why it should have happened before introducing her and her sister to his relatives. That wasn't cool.) Because while they're fighting about it, he implies that she would have asked him to walk away and she denies it, but that's exactly what she WAS asking for. And no matter how intense a connection two people have, I'm not sure I'd ever believe that's a reasonable ask.

Anyway. Like I said, this was very good and I would definitely recommend it. It is by no means an easy book to read, so if you're looking for that, I'd go elsewhere, but I very much found it worth my time.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,220 reviews1,650 followers
March 10, 2022
The Chai Factor took me some time to settle into, even though I thought it was good straight away. There's so much racism and sexism that Amira encounters, and it's hard to take at times. If you're looking for something straight up fluffy, this isn't the right mood for the moment, but it covers a lot of hard topics very effectively. The romance is also a really good hate to love vibe, and Amira's such a grump, and I love her. And Duncan's a big ol' cinnamon roll. Their relationship dynamic is less common in romance, and I always love to see it.
Profile Image for Victoria Kourtis.
59 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2022
This book is everything! My heart fluttered with love, rage for these characters, and just happiness in general. Also, such a treat to read about Toronto and hear about real places here! Very much enjoyed the Princess Bride references! 12/5
Profile Image for Colline Vinay Kook-Chun.
522 reviews12 followers
May 27, 2019
This novel was perfect for my mood: a light-hearted story that made me smile; and a story that describes a protagonist that finds love unexpectedly.

Amira is a determined young woman who is very sure of what she wants in life and in love. She reminds me of so many young women who want to put themselves first and are not in a rush to marry. She wants to focus on her studies in order to graduate with her Masters; she wants to advance in her work; and she wants a man who is of the same culture as she. But life does not always work out the way that you want it to – as Amira soon finds out.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it does not only focus on the love aspect of Amira’s story. We read, as well, about her relationship with her mother and grandmother; and we learn a bit about her work and her relationship with an admired colleague. During the story, Amira comes to some realisations about her life – realisations which help her accept the changes that could happen to her. The Chai Factor, however, is not a story in which the man saves the day. Instead, it is a story about a woman’s personal growth which eventually leads to her accepting that her life can embrace some changes (and one of those changes happens to be a relationship).

As I was reading, I caught a hint of the Pride and Prejudice scenario – though this book is not a retelling of Austen’s classic – in the description of Amira. She is proud of who she is – proud of her culture, her brown skin, and what she has achieved in her life thus far. She also makes certain assumptions about Duncan (a white musician), assumptions which indicate her prejudice. Slowly her prejudices are shown for what they are and it is this clarity which helps her develop as a character.

While reading Farah Heron’s novel, I embraced the description of a culture that is not well-known by me. Hints of this culture are subtly woven into the fabric of the novel and added another dimension to the story for me. The story is set in Toronto and I smiled at any venue mentioned as I could see exactly where it is in my mind’s eye.

I enjoyed reading Heron’s debut novel. It is a relaxing read that depicts the story of opposites attracting – opposites not only in personality, but also in culture.
Profile Image for Barbara.
963 reviews123 followers
June 29, 2019
Would somebody PLEASE ask novelists to stop rehashing Pride and Prejudice again and again and again? This one doesn't even self-identify as a P&P homage but here we go again - people jumping to conclusions and assumptions about others, seeing offence where none is intended, and judging others whilst moaning about themselves being judged. Sigh! Here we go again.

That said, it's not a bad story with a few nice quirks. If I hadn't recently put myself through two other P&P-readie-likies perhaps I wouldn't be quite so grumpy about it.

Amira has been on a career break, working on her Masters thesis when she decides to head home to grandma's house (hey, Little Red Riding Hood), only to find the train breaks down on the way. Step in one broad-shouldered flannel-shirted knight in plaid armour to protect her from a sleazy guy on the train. Then suspend ALL disbelief when she gets home to Grandma and finds said knight and three other men - a barbershop quartet no less - in her basement apartment. Cue lots of angry shouting and flouncing as Amira and Duncan (her Sir Galahad) work out their differences.

There are some interesting sub-plots. Amira's mistreatment at the hands of immigration officials, her new possibly sexist boss, her possibly not entirely supportive 'mentor', a gay couple about to be destroyed by one of them's religion, intergenerational wranglings between grandma, ma and Amira, casual and not so casual racism......yep, plenty to get stuck into.

I'm really not sure if it adds to the story that Amira is a very unconventional Muslim woman. She drinks alcohol, she has 'hook-ups', she doesn't wear a headscarf and she's not a regular at the mosque by a long way. Is her treatment at the hands of the immigration staff somehow worse because she's not 'one of those Muslims'? There's something a bit uncomfortable around that storyline.

There's an ongoing theme around whether not being racist doesn't count if you fail to call others out on their offensive behaviour. I'm not sure that's entirely resolved either.

A thank you from me for leaving the details out of the bedroom scenes - I've had too much squelchy stuff this year (stay away from Verity, horrible book).

I'm giving this three stars because I'm left wondering what conclusions I was really supposed to make other than people would find their lovelives a lot easier if they stopped and listened to each other and occasionally kept their gobs shut and thought before they spoke.
Profile Image for ally.
22 reviews
June 21, 2022
this book! i’m absolutely obsessed with this story. the characters are so loveable that i just want to put them all i my pocket!

i saw so much of myself in amira, and so much of this book reminded me of my own interracial relationship with an indian man. there were times i felt like amira, strong willed, short tempered and untrusting of men (bc men am i right?) and times i felt like duncan, going to his first indian party and learning about the culture.

the topics that this book dives into are so important in modern day culture. i think the diverse set of issues and characters really make the story overall. it’s such an amazing story about self realization, and becoming the person you want to be.

read this book!!


“yes. we’re going to fight for us.”
Profile Image for Carling.
227 reviews73 followers
December 12, 2019
first off, yay more Canadian written books with explicitly Canadian settings! however the first two hundred pages felt so much like bad fanfic with awkward set-ups and cringe worthy dialogue that it really damped my enjoyment of the latter half which felt actually good. also the ending felt a bit rushed as so much is still up in the air that it honestly would have felt more organic for them to stay broken up or at least have some scenes showing why them missing each other so the ending felt less like fulfilling genre conventions and more deserved.
2 stars
Profile Image for Jenna.
1,725 reviews18 followers
May 28, 2021
Amira & Duncan have amazing chemistry & witty banter. (it's one of those love/hate relationships)

The representation of diversity.

I'm not an Indian Muslim working in the STEM field so I did like the window into that viewpoint.

The previous book dealt w/Reena's romance storyline so I was confused as to why none of those events have happened in the timeline of this book. (now full disclosure, I DNF'd that book so maybe amira was in that one w/duncan but I wondered why this book came 2nd)

It felt like I was reading a political rant by the author on immigration, bigotry, prejudice, women in the STEM field, homophobia, etc. That was too much and it overshadowed the romance story.
Also the sex scenes were too intense for me. (bordering on the steamy/erotica line)

Overall, I'm glad I finished it for the insight into those issues but I probably won't read this writer again. I do like to read books w/diversity represented so I'll read more by writers I liked who do that.
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