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Marriage Unarranged

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‘Chick Pea Curry’ Lit, Chick Lit with an Indian twist

It all started ended with that box…

Aashi’s life was all set.

Or so she thought.

Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.

But then Aashi found the empty condom box...

Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.

Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.

And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…

378 pages, ebook

First published February 9, 2020

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About the author

Ritu Bhathal

4 books118 followers
Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970's to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is mostly credited to her mother.
The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her own writing, from fiction to poetry.
Winning little writing competitions at school and locally gave her the encouragement to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.
A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was recently awarded The Best Overall Blog Award at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in 2017.
Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the furbaby Sonu Singh.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 111 reviews
Profile Image for Dash fan .
1,467 reviews717 followers
June 11, 2022
5☆ An Absolute Delight to Read!

Marriage Unarranged was a dream to read, it had Romance, Self Discovery, Humour, Culture, Travel, Strong Women, Friendship, Protective Brothers and a dash of Drama.

When Aashi discovers her fiancé hasn't exactly been saving himself for their marriage, she calls off the wedding and deals with the heartbreaking aftermath of upsetting her family.
Only her family are far from unsupportive they rally round Aashi even when people are talking about her being damaged goods!

So her protective brothers Sunny and Bali and best friend Kiran accompany Aashi on an adventure of self discovery and healing.
Well the trip was meant to be with her Mummy-ji wedding shopping in Delhi. But she definitely don't need that or him in her life right now!

However things are about to get interesting when Aashi meets the devilishly handsome Arjun on the flight to Delhi.
Arjun quickly becomes part of their group as they find out his never been to Delhi and has no where to stay.

But is Arjun all that he seems?
Is he the right distraction Aashi needs to take her mind off her scumbag ex?
Or is he just another person who might just steal her heart and break it again?
I guess you will just have to read it yourself to find out 😏

I loved the characters they were so well developed and likeable (except Ravi of course), I loved their bond and Friendships they solidified along the way.

Marriage Unarranged is a Heart-warming Rom Com about Second Chances, Discovery, and Adventure.
I absolutely loved all the culture and ambiance surrounding the story.
Bhathal took my senses on a journey and I felt like I was right there with Aashi, taking in the smells, sounds and sights. It was an absolute delight!

So if you are looking for a Feel-good, Uplifting Rom Com that will take you on a journey of discovery then I highly recommend you grab a copy of Marriage Unarranged today!!

Thank you to Zooloo's Blog Tours and SpellBound Books for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

You can Find this Review and all my Other Reviews on My Blog :-

Profile Image for Zoé-Lee O'Farrell.
Author 1 book201 followers
January 31, 2020
I have been dying to read this book for ages, ever since Ritu told me at the last Blogger’s Bash that she was writing it! So when she asked me if I wanted to read it I jumped at the chance!

When I got my copy, I do what we all do went on to Goodreads and marked it as Currently Reading and I checked out how many pages and then I panicked! Because I thought that is a lot! Will I like it? Will it drag? Because according to Goodreads it’s nearly 400 pages!

However!!! And it is a HUGH HOWEVER!! Do not let that put you off! Once you meet Aashi and her plight you won’t want to let go of the book. She is naive, bless her, when we first meet her and arranged husband Ravi, he is a bit shifty and we know before she does what he’s been doing! Douche bag alert! What then follows is such a lovely tale of not only letting go but of rediscovering yourself.

I love that this is heavily loaded with the traditionalism of Sikhs, down to the terms of endearments and phrases. We learn about arranged marriages and what happens with broken engagements and the dispersions of gossip and social cast that come with it.

Aashi trying to deal with her heartbreak still wants to go to India with her best friend Kiran and her brothers Bali and Sunny. This unit is such a fab unit to have the pleasure of being a part of for 2 weeks while we get to discover the “true” India with them. Plus the addition of Arjun who is out to discover it too all makes you feel like you are on the journey with them. We are not on the outside looking in, we are on the adventure with them, on rickshaws travelling through the streets, to the sounds of the markets with everyone vying for your business and attention. To the breathtaking celebration of Vaisakha with the temple lit up by the lights at 4 am and then the dawn as the sun broke. Everywhere you look on the tour is bright and bursting with colours and this is definitely a book that will leave you with a smile on your face.

I learned so much with Marriage Unarranged, growing up one of my best friends was a Sikh and the other was a Muslim, and they tried to teach me so much of their traditions and how everything was set out for them. I found it, still do, so fascinating as it is not the life I have lived. Having to have parents permission today date someone and to have chaperones is something I can not comprehend.

I love this journey of growth and strength for Aashi. She is someone I felt protective of, but not too sympathetic because she would hate that! She starts a timid naive girl, but when confronted at the end by the douche Ravi, and his sister Narinder. The strength Aashi has in front of them shows how much she has grown into a confident young woman!

It’s hard to talk too much about the plot but Ritu has created such a pool of wonderful characters that I want to be back with them and I told her I needed a sequel. Good news there is one on its way! For a debut, the writing is strong and eloquent and you feel like you are there experiencing India with all the characters. The smell and sounds of the markets, the lumpy beds, the stunning and bright array of colours and the fear for your life on a rickshaw! It was just such a wonderful story to lose myself in. It made me smile and it is, to me, a love story with a difference. Especially with that ending!!! I can’t wait to find out more and soon!

I loved, loved and breathed Aashi story and I can’t wait to get back with the gang. Now I need to save my money to go on a trip to India and experience what they have done! It just sounds amazing!
May 24, 2022
Aashi is a British Indian living in Birmingham. She is engaged to be married to Ravi, a smooth-talking man whom nobody likes but they all grin and bear it for Aashi.

While their wedding planning is underway, Aashi stumbles upon a box of condoms at Ravi's home. His stammering explanations do nothing to help. Aashi is heartbroken and breaks off the engagement.

In a fit of pique, she decides to undertake the journey to India - one that they had planned before the wedding for trousseau shopping. Only, she wants to go alone. But this being an Indian family, her two brothers and her best friend tag along (God forbid an Indian girl travels alone!)

On the plane, she meets Arjun who is kinda hot but also has a secret. As the trip proceeds, Aashi and Arjun come closer yet are wary of sharing their secrets. Will these secrets ever allow them to get closer?

The Positives:
1. The representation - As someone who has plenty of NRI relatives (but has never been abroad), I can tell that the representation is on point. We expect the NRIs to have trendier lives than us but in reality, the first-gen immigrants are stuck in the 60s and subsequently, their children are too. Partying, drinking, and having sex before marriage is all taboo and the stigma of a broken marriage is almost too much to bear.

2. Arjun - He is a good person, sensitive and caring.

3. The final third - The final 1/3rd of the book was surprisingly good and kept me engaged. In fact, I am looking forward to the next part.

4. The romance - The romance seemed quite natural and not forced though I don't read many romance books so can't say I am an expert.

The Negatives:
1. The writing - The writing was very clunky. In parts, it felt like a series of diary entries. There is an over-explanation of all feelings and looks as if the reader cannot understand what's happening if it is not explicitly written on the page.

2. The India-dissing - I am not writing this point because I am an Indian living in India. The amount of India-dissing is tremendous in the book. The moment these UK people set foot at Delhi airport, the complaining starts. They complain about everything - the air, the sound, the traffic, the cows on the road, the food, the water, the people, the shops, the travel - you get the point. In fact, I was wondering, why they even came to India if they hated it so much. They go to Amritsar to the Golden Temple and turn up their noses at everyone drinking from the common pond there. Look, I get it, life in India is vastly different from that in the UK, but get over it. We don't need you to express your dislike on every page. This brings us to the next point...

3. The stereotyping - The Sikh mom in the UK has lived there for over 20 years but speaks broken English (like something we see in KJo movies). The lodge owner in Delhi says things like "Come, come, ji, to the cool air inside." Why?

4. The side characters - Kiran, Bali, and Sunny are all secondary characters and their development is quite stilted. Their interactions are clunky and what was happening with Sunny at the end?

5. The changing POVs - It would have been better if the book had been written with multiple POVs in different chapters. Instead, we are treated to multiple POVs in one chapter and it was quite disconcerting to see the same view reflected by someone else on the same page.

6. The length - The book could have done with some good editing. It was too long and there were quite some side-tracks which had no resolution either way.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. However, the last part gave me some hope. Hopefully, the next part will be better. I'd also recommend the author to actually visit India with an open mind to see us. Movie India is very different from real India - Hollywood India even more so.

2 stars.
Profile Image for Robbie Cheadle.
Author 30 books139 followers
June 14, 2020
Marriage Unarranged is a delightful and feel good romance with the additional interest factor that the main characters are all people whose parents or grandparents originated from India and are of the Sekh faith, but who have grown up in Britain. The young people who feature in this story come from Birmingham in the UK and are the products of an interesting mixture of the modern British influences around them in the schools and work places and the traditional influences of their families and communities. I have often wondered about this dynamic and thought it might be confusing and difficult for the younger generation but that was not the case in this story. The youngsters were able to retain the best features of their families and faith, including respect of the elderly, and successfully combine this, on the whole, with their English surroundings. The author did introduce a young woman who had not been able to do this successfully in the form of the temptress, Nishi, and also a young man, Ravi, who fell by the wayside in the face of modern sexual behaviors.

Aashi is a sweet and innocent girl who is engaged to be married to Ravi. She does not know him that well as the Sekh customs is for a girl to get engaged before the couple can really spend much time together. The Sekh attitudes towards romance and courtship are old fashioned, but quite protective of the reputation of the woman. Unfortunately, the culture does not necessarily lend itself to an engagement that goes wrong and is broken off. When Aashi discovers that Ravi has been having an affair with Nishi, she is devastated and torn between the not wanting to face the personal humiliation of a broken engagement and the embarrassment to her parents and family and her own hurt and disillusionment caused by Ravi's behavior.

A trip to India has been booked for Aashi and her mother, ahead of the wedding, to purchase the many traditional items and clothing required for the marriage service. Aashi decides that a change of scenery and a trip to India is just want she needs and persuades her parents to let her go ahead with the trip, accompanied by her two brother and her best friend.

During the plane trip, Aashi ends up sitting next to a young Indian man, Arjun, who is making his first trip to India. Arjun fits in very well with Aashi's two brothers and when they arrive in India, they invite Arjun to seek a room at their hotel and join up with their party. Arjun does this and Aashi starts on her path of getting to know this good looking and interesting man a bit better. She senses that there is more to Arjun than meets the eye but can't put her finger on exactly what it is he is hiding.

This book is a dual romance and this aspect is very sweet and enjoyable. The descriptions and depictions of life in India, differentiating clearly between life for the poor and life for the wealthy is interesting and entertaining. I also learned a lot about the Sekh faith which I found fascinating.

This is a lovely and feel good and I recommend it to people who enjoy a good romance with a happy ending and also people who are interested in learning more about India, Punjabi and the Sekh faith.
Profile Image for Sally Cronin.
Author 22 books161 followers
March 11, 2020
What a lovely story and one I enjoyed very much.

This is a romance and an exploration of life in families where parents are striving to maintain cultural traditions, as the younger generation adapt and engage in the environment they were born into. For Aashi's parents and those of her fiancee Ravi, the drama that unfolds is unthinkable, but love and a realisation that losing face in the community is not the end of the world, opens the door to a new beginning.

With the support of her brothers Sunny and Bali, her friend Kiran and a fellow traveller Arjun, Aashi finds the strength to move on.

The central part of the story is set in India where the five friends set out to discover their roots without the guiding hand of parents on previous visits, and for Arjun for the first time. Simple pleasures such as watching a Bollywood movie in an authentic Indian cinema with all the trimmings and exploring the colourful markets. Then taking the train to Amritsar to celebrate the harvest festival of Vaisakha along with thousands of pilgrims, and on a more emotive visit to pay their respects at Jallianwala Bagh garden the site of the infamous Amritsar massacre.

A the end of the two week trip which has been a mixture of business and pleasure, and with a deeper sense of family and tradition, love is also in the air. As the group leave India and return to Britain, it is clear that life will be different for them all.

The author has created characters that are engaging and memorable. The story is told from each of their perspectives and this enables the reader an opportunity to get to know them better and to witness their growing awareness of their strengths and how their futures will unfold.

The novel is well written and flows with a wonderful sense of humour.  Bhathal also offers the reader an opportunity to participate in the multi-cultural world we live in, a privilege and a reminder of how our lives are the richer for it. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for M.J. Mallon.
Author 15 books196 followers
February 9, 2020
Well, I loved Marriage Unarranged so much I read it twice. Lol. It’s quite a long book!

I read it for the first time as a beta reader with an ARC and then again for this review. Everything about this engaging romance appealed to me: the characters, the cultural aspects, the little touches of humour, the Asian family dynamics, the beautiful and informative descriptions of India, (I’ve never been, but it has always been forever on my bucket list,) This story transported me there, and I especially loved the detail in the Gurdwara scenes in which Sikh’s come together to worship and share simple community tasks. Oh, how I would love to visit!

I found it particularly relatable as my mother is from an Asian background and the first thing she says to me in the morning is ‘What are we having for dinner!’ The lovely cooking scene between two of the characters in the book, sums this up so much. Food is of prime importance in Asian culture and can be a great ice breaker.

I also loved how Aashi ‘s character changed as the story progressed, retaining all her admirable qualities (and she has these in abundance,) but becoming more confident. To begin with she is cossetted by her family and her brothers, Sunny and Bali. But, away from home, her trip to India with her brothers and her best friend Kiran does wonders for her flagging self-esteem after Ravi’s selfish treatment.

All the characters in the story are well crafted. I especially have a soft spot for: Aashi, her best friend Kiran, (who fights her corner like every best friend should,) her feisty brother Bali, and Arjun, the potential love interest otherwise known as ‘Pillow.’ Even the subsidiary characters such as the fashion designer Milan are well crafted and entertaining! And, Ravi well he’s a rat!

The fledgling romance unfolding between Aashi and her ‘Pillow’ was just so lovely, especially after all the heartbreak she experienced with a broken engagement.

The reveal towards the end of the story regarding Arjun was an interesting addition and I loved the humorous ending!

I better not say anymore for fear of spoiling the story for you.

My recommendation: Go get a copy! My rating 5 stars.

Profile Image for LJ (ljwritesandreviews).
734 reviews33 followers
June 9, 2022
Rounded up from 3.5

Aashi finds out her fiance has been cheating on her just weeks before her wedding. To get away from the shame and gossip cancelling the wedding caused, she journeys to India with her best friend Kiran and brothers Sunny and Bali. Once there, she gets freedom to explore like she's never had before. She meets the handsome Arjun who Aashi likes a lot, but she feels that he's keeping secrets. Can Aashi find the happiness she deserves?

Marriage Unarranged is a book all about self-discovery with a bit of family drama and romance thrown in there to spice things up.

The characters were all likeable, apart from Aashi's cheating fiance, of course. It was lovely to read their journeys through the course of the book. I loved seeing Aashi transform from the timid, shy girl who was intent on being the perfect wife to the more confident woman who puts herself first.

The setting of India was vividly described, and I almost felt like I'd journeyed there myself. The characters also gave insights, showing the culture shock between Britain and India in a typical British fashion; half awe, half moaning about the weather.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book was all the phrases, food and Sikh traditions included in the book infuses it with culture. I also learnt a few things along the way.

My main issue with the book was there were a few too many perspectives for my taste, I always have trouble keeping the who's who in my mind, but it didn't spoil my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Marriage Unarranged is perfect if you love family drama with wonderful characters and bags full of charm.
Profile Image for Laila Nelke.
316 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2021
It was such an incredible new experience of a rainbow! I absolutely loved Aashi, Kiran, Bali, Sunny and Arjun's journey from UK to India and back to UK. I have to say that I've been a fan of Bollywood since many years ago and thought I know a lot of Indian culture, traditions but what I didn't know is that there were quite huge blank spots in my 'knowledge' that has been now filled with colours, smells, sounds, feels and taste of FOOD(!!!) of REAL India and Indians living both abroad and in India by talented author Ritu Bhathal and her first book Marriage Unarranged! Thank you, Ritu, for giving me this wonderful experience I so missed.

Clean romcom, amazing story, well developed and colourful characters, lots of humorous momments with giggles, history, culture and traditions. Loved how author merged modern tendencies with still strong traditional Indian culture both influencing younger generation.
I'm so glad knowing that there would be more books to enjoy!
Okay, now go and get your copy of this amazing book!!!
Profile Image for Lizzie Chantree.
Author 14 books341 followers
June 16, 2020
If you are looking for a wonderful romance read full of flavour and contrast, then take a look at this book. The characters are beautifully written and you are transported into their world at every turn of the page. This is a love story with lots of twists and turns, heartbreak, unfaithful relationships and ultimately, happiness. The story is rich in culture, heritage and family expectations. Perfect for those who love a romantic novel to add to their bookshelf.
Profile Image for Kitty Wilson.
Author 7 books97 followers
September 10, 2022
I truly enjoyed this book and let out a huge sigh when I finished it so am very pleased to know there is a second on the way. That’s a sign of a good book, when you just want to keep on reading forever.
I love romantic fiction, the escape, the will-they-won’t-they, and this book delivered all of that in full, and I was fully willing on Aashi from the minute Arjun is introduced to us.
However, this book had so much more to it than a simple love story, it taught me things. It taught me a little more about Sikh culture (the novel is jam-packed with domestic detail that gave it such warmth, for example - mustard oil on the doorframes) and as the characters travel from Birmingham to India, it taught me about their destination in a way that made me want to explore in a lot more depth.
Two things really stood out for me, the insightful, wise way that the author wove the family relationships, the love between these characters and the pressures that expectations can bring. I loved all the relationships in this book, parental-child ones, siblings, best friends, community – all were written in a way that you could really relate to and that drew you in.
The second was the way the author described her settings. At points I felt like I was in India, experiencing the chaos and the colour of the Bangles market, travelling to and visiting the Golden Temple complex and the gardens of Jallianwala Bagh, learning about the massacre that occurred there. It was all so evocative, all my senses were stimulated at the vivid descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes. I found myself racing to read this, to take myself back to the world that the author created and I am very much looking forward to the next in the series.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 4 books145 followers
April 27, 2020
'Marriage Unarranged' by Ritu Bhathal is an uplifting and enlightening tale about one woman's journey towards self-discovery. Encompassing the themes of friendship, family, finding courage within and letting go of the things that are no longer good for you, this is a wonderful take on what happens when life doesn't go exactly as you planned, and how, with the help of those who care about and love you, you can overcome even the most unthinkable of situations.
In Bhathal's 'Marriage Unarranged', readers are introduced to Aashi. With preparations underway, Aashi is preparing for the biggest day of her life. She's soon-to-be married to Ravi, the man of her dreams, and with the honeymoon destination still to be decided, Aashi heads over so that they can decide together, as a couple. Only, upon arrival, Aashi is taken aback to discover that Ravi's work colleague is there. She's not entirely sure why, and the rushed excuse provided by her soon-to-be-husband doesn't really help her anxieties about the situation. When she finds the empty condom box, her worst fears come true.
Aashi's story spirals from this devastating moment, and the perfect, happy future alongside Ravi she has always imagined ceases to exist. Rather than planning her wedding day, Aashi is now faced with the mentally draining challenge of un-planning it, and finding out what it means to let go of something she once believed was meant for her.
Bhathal is a wonderfully descriptive writer and she really brings the settings within this book to life. I particularly enjoyed the scenes in India, the descriptions of the food and scents wafting from the street vendors absolutely delicious. I felt as if I was right there, inhaling deeply, oh-so-tempted by the delights on offer. Bhathal writes with heart, and it shows in the pages. Her characters are friendly and funny, a pleasure to meet and travel alongside during their time in India. I really enjoyed the whole family-feel to this book, and Bhathal captures the culture of Aashi's Sikh family perfectly. It felt warm and inviting, and completely lovely to watch as Aashi's family rallied around her to ensure she remained on her feet and capable to continue with her life, albeit not a married one.
I really enjoyed the travel aspect to this story, it opened up Aashi's world in a way like never before, and provided with her with the necessary opportunities to expand her friendships and experience. I loved watching Aashi grow and develop as a person throughout the progression of the plot, and I felt that Bhathal captured the essence of becoming a strong and independent woman perfectly. I felt proud of Aashi, and was thrilled that she'd made the right decision, regardless of what of anyone would think or say about it, which is such an important message to send out to readers.
Overall, 'Marriage Unarranged' by Ritu Bhathal was a fabulously funny, warm and encouraging story about finding oneself and discovering inner-strength. With a wonderful bunch of entertaining characters and a trip to remember, this is a great book that provides a whole lot of escapism for the reader. With thanks to the author for the reading copy of this book which in no way reflects my giving a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Kristine Brown.
Author 2 books4 followers
February 10, 2020
Marriage Unarranged is probably one of the best "Getting Over a Breakup" stories I've ever come across. Culturally rich and emotionally captivating, it's a story that inspires us to find and refine our best qualities, to get back up off scraped knees when life knocks us down. From the first sentence, I was hooked. This novel, though written in lush prose, reads quickly, and deserves to be re-read in years to come.

Ritu Bhathal's debut novel is flavorful, spunky, and smart. You're bound to identify with one of the many characters who grace its pages, whether that's boisterous Bali, unbridled Kiran, sensible Mohinder, the illustrious Milan, or a handful of memorable others. Sit back with a cup of chai and immerse yourself in the splendor that is Marriage Unarranged.
445 reviews9 followers
May 15, 2022
A great easy read of a real mixture of characters.
The story is based around a UK based Punjabi family.
The main characters Aashi, Bali, Sunny and Kiran head India to visit various religious establishments. On the flight over they make friends with Arjun.
Brilliant detail went into the descriptions of sacred festivals, historical incidents and of street dwellers. Love, friendships and broken dreams form a major part of the story.
A cross-culture book which I believe readers will enjoy.
52 reviews2 followers
June 7, 2022
Wow. Just wow. From the graphic description of the surrounds to the character's it felt like you were a part of the book.
670 reviews7 followers
May 29, 2022
Chick-pea-lit has been growing in popularity over recent times and this story has all the markings for a great new series in this fun, flavoursome, flirty, feel-good, fearless genre.
I absolutely loved the period while they were in India, so descriptive that it gave what could have been a light, easy read, a good amount of depth.
Some tough topics such as cheating, family relationships, death and single parenting. All of this among the very rigid belief system of the Indian families involved meant that this wasn't your usual romcom.
Some really sweet moments and acceptance of modernity and alternative familial units.
Great characters, lots of fun. I'm excited to see where this series goes.
253 reviews7 followers
May 18, 2022
I enjoyed this and got a better understanding of the Sikh faith which crosses over in so many ways with Hinduism, of which I am more aware.
A lively tale of love lost and found and a journey of self discovery through the eyes of a young Sikh girl, who’s been betrayed and had to endure watching her love life dragged through her community for all to pick at and analyse. She takes advantage of a chance to visit India and to repair the damage to her fragile sense of self. Does she return with a new outlook on life? You’ll have to read it, to find out.
On a side note, each section/chapter of sorts was separated by the name of each character and supposedly focused on them, which seemed a little pointless to me, as it wasn’t really needed.
Profile Image for Frankie.
942 reviews65 followers
June 7, 2022
Firstly look at that cover…go on scroll up, take a look and the gorgeousness of it, I’ll wait here…..

Seen it? Isn’t it so pretty?

It was that and the title which caught my eye instantly and once reading the synopsis I knew that I needed to read this book and by Jove am I so pleased that I did, I am complete love!!

This is the first book I have read by Ritu Bhathal….why, oh why have I not read her work before now? Well, that will certainly be resolved, I can’t wait to load my Kindle with more of her gorgeously feel-good and wonderfully witty stories.

Aashi is about to be married to Bollywood star; Ravi, but she soon comes to realise that Ravi isn’t all that he appears to be, she finds some rather incriminating evidence of his personality and before they say their ‘I Do’s she breaks off the engagement. Good for her, I say! But, not so good for her as she understands more than most that her actions could bring huge embarrassment and scandal to her family.

Aashi is a wonderful young woman, she is a little naive and far too innocent for this big bad world but I really liked her loyalty to her family and friends, it’s heartening and speaks to me. She worries and stresses for them, but she also must make the right decision for herself and that pushes her towards a trip of a lifetime, one that will open her eyes and her heart to wonders and experiences which will change her completely.

I loved that instead of wasting the honeymoon or cancelling it she chose to go on honeymoon herself along with her two brothers; Bali and Sunny and her best friend; Kiran they all head off to India. I am in absolute love with the colourful and vivid descriptions of this beautiful country, I’ve never been personally, but I have a few friends who have been who have had the most magical of trips, and India has always appealed to me; whether it’s the actual country, the people, the buildings, the food – who knows! Reading this is as though we the reader are beside Aashi steps out of her comfort zone and has the adventure of a lifetime, I loved learning about the culture, the traditions even the sights and the aromas it’s so wonderful and…well, colourful.

I really liked that at the beginning of the book there is a reference page which has a list of Punjab terms which will appear throughout the book, it’s incredibly useful and once you start absorbing yourself into the story and getting to know the family you soon fall instep and forget all about the reference list.

This is all about self-discovery, it’s about family and friendship with a lovely hint of romance. There is so much emotion laced through the pages, but most of all I felt incredibly happy while reading it, I was smiling throughout and was left wanting more colour in my life – which for someone who lives in black says a lot 😉

It’s cheerful and charming, a definite must read and I can’t wait to read more from the series.
Profile Image for Colleen Chesebro.
Author 12 books73 followers
February 9, 2020
Aashi is getting married! She envisions herself dressed in different bridal outfits, and she feels like a princess… until she turns up at Ravi’s house. The door is answered by Nishi, a drop-dead gorgeous co-worker of Ravi who leaves abruptly with Aashi’s arrival.

Aashi is a lovely young woman, the kind any man would be thrilled to marry. She’s a bit naïve, but still gives Ravi, the man of her dreams, the benefit of the doubt… until she discovers the empty condom box. His betrayal is a stab to her heart. She’s got nothing left except to explain to her parents and family the depth of Ravi’s betrayal.

Aashi battles the humiliation of a broken engagement by embarking on a new adventure to India accompanied by her brothers and best friend, Kiran. When the mysterious Arjun shows up, Aashi discovers a certain attraction that just won’t go away. Where will their relationship lead?

“Marriage Unarranged,” is a Hindi love story like no other. I found myself emersed in the culture of India, learning new Punjabi names for friends and family, including religious and cultural traditions. Did I forget to mention the food? How about the clothes? I was swept away by it all!

However, this book isn’t only about a young woman’s passage into adulthood. The author broaches many cultural taboos: broken engagements, children born out of wedlock, and homosexuality, all explored with kindness and acceptance.

Aashi’s parents (Harjit, her mother and Mohinder-ji, her father) only want what is best for their children. Are they equipped to go against cultural norms, all for the love of their family?

“Marriage Unarranged,” played out in my mind like a movie on the big screen. I smelled the incense, prayed at the Gurdwara with Aashi, caught the sparkle from the bangle bracelets for sale in the market; and I fell in love with the characters. I can’t wait to find out where the author takes us next!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the author. It was such a good read, I had to share my thoughts.
Profile Image for D. Peach.
Author 23 books139 followers
November 9, 2020
This is a light, romantic jaunt from England to India and back again. When Aashi finds a used condom in her fiancé’s bathroom, the wedding is suddenly off. Her family is angry and embarrassed, but they support her decision. A trip to India, originally to purchase a wedding gown, becomes a vacation for Aashi and a chance to unwind and heal. Her two brothers and her best friend Karin go along.

The romantic story is fairly straightforward, and it unfolds at a leisurely pace. What held my attention was the story’s immersion in India’s rich culture and setting, specifically the bustling city of Delhi. The main characters are England born and raised, so the influences of their dual cultures were interesting to see played out, and the details of life in India were fascinating. Bhathal clearly incorporated a wealth of personal experience into the narrative.

The characters are all likeable, except for the cheating fiancé, though I felt a twinge of sympathy for him by the end. All in all, this story was about family, culture, self-esteem and independence, love and friendship. Recommended for readers of romance and women’s lit.
February 23, 2020
Perfectly riveting

This book was amazing. I felt transported into this amazing story. I do not have any experience with India besides Indian food in America and interactions with wonderful people from there. With that said, I feel immersed in the culture. I could almost smell the incense, taste the tea, and see the sights of not only Birmingham but India. All of the characters felt real. I want to be friends with Aashi and Kiran, I want older brothers like Bali and Sunny... Arjun is a dreamboat... The tension between all the couples was fantastic and I was really rooting for just about everyone I read about except our delusional villain. I hope he becomes redeemable in some fashion later, though he certainly deserves to stew in the karma he brought upon himself. Please write more about these wonderful characters! Especially... Milan's love interest!!! Can't help it, they are so cute! Anyway I never like multiple POVs but this was written so well that I WANTED the author to clue me in on what the others were thinking! This never happens to me, usually I see multiple POVs and immediately put the book back on the shelf. All the characters were separate people and I could tell. It was refreshing to be able to read the different POVs and know they were different people and that their personalities remained contestant throughout the POV changes and the book. Seriously take the time to read this, you won't be sorry!
Profile Image for Pete Springer.
140 reviews6 followers
April 2, 2020
Marriage Unarranged by author, Ritu Bhathal, is the story of a young Indian girl, Aashi, who finds herself in the most difficult of spots after she discovers that her fiancee, Ravi, has been cheating on her. Aashi doesn't want to believe it to be true, but all of the evidence is clear that Ravi is a liar and cheat. She is afraid to divulge this secret to her more traditional Indian parents, whom she knows have their hearts set on Aashi marrying Ravi. She musters up the courage to tell them with the support of her best friend, Kiran, knowing how upsetting this may be for her family.

Bhathal is a talented writer who creates believable characters. Aashi has two protective brothers, Bali and Sunny, who would do anything to defend their sister's honor. After facing her parents, the family decides to call off the marriage, somewhat to the chagrin of Aashi's mother. Aashi, Kiran, Bali, and Sunny, choose to take a trip to India to help Aashi overcome her disappointment. On the airplane, they meet another young man, Arjun, who becomes their traveling companion.

What was perhaps the most fascinating element of the book for me was the merging of the modern and traditional Indian culture, and how this puts Aashi in challenging situations. The pacing of the book was a little slow for my taste, but things get ramped up over the last third of this entertaining read. The ending was satisfying and believable. I think young adults and older would enjoy this book.
June 5, 2022
In a nutshell, I loved this book and cannot wait to read more of this series and this author. I’m really hoping it’s a series about the same family/characters as I really want to know how things progress for everyone in Marriage Unarranged.
I enjoyed the cultural aspect and the family dynamics of this novel. It was interesting to see how Aashi’s parents and brothers dealt with the news of her relationship breakup and how much this aspect also affected Aashi. Her brothers and Kirin provided a great support network and I loved how they encouraged her to walk away and not look back.
India is a country on my list of places to visit and I really felt as though I was there with Aashi and co. Ritu Bhathal describes India with an insider’s perspective as opposed to a tourist and it was fascinating. I loved learning about what everyday life may look like and indulging in experiences such as seeing a Bollywood film in a cinema there. As well as Indian culture, there is also lots of reference to the Sikh religion which is another thing that fascinates me.
I enjoyed being part of Aashi’s journey and how she found her personality came out over the novel, with the help of her travelling companions. I was willing for her to have the ending that she deserved. I also enjoyed the different relationships developing amongst other characters too.
I cannot wait to return to this series and find out how everyone is getting on.
Profile Image for Ankit Gupta.
113 reviews3 followers
June 16, 2020
Look, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t too keen on picking this book as the theme didn’t seem deep enough. But I picked it because of the awesome reviews and because I wanted something super light and fun. And I am glad I did! The story had a very good pace with humour scattered all along. Some of the themes with Indians living abroad on their struggle and success to keep Indian culture alive in a foreign land /with their kids and their longing to go back to their roots, was brought out beautifully. (I can understand this even more now that I am living in Canada). The character building was very impressive, I could relate to them. The highlight of the book was the section where the bunch of characters head to Delhi and Amritsar for a vacation. I have lived in Delhi almost all my life and have also been to Amritsar, but the author made me experience everything again and so vividly- every aroma, every noise, rickshaws, beggars, masala chai, traffic, old Delhi, monuments, bangles, dresses, shopping, Bollywood, Chandni Chowk, parathas, Golden temple, the sarovar, shady hotels, cows, Connaught place, Palika Bazar.. and what not! I was there.. at every place.. with the characters. I just loved the incredible journey back to memory lane! Thanks Ritu for taking me through your characters in UK and India both! Can’t wait for the sequel.
Profile Image for Debbie Harris.
237 reviews24 followers
February 12, 2020
This was a great read! I have known Ritu as a blogger for years and enjoyed meeting her a few years ago at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in London, so it was always going to be a book for me to read, if only to support a fellow blogger! But it turned out to be far more enjoyable than I anticipated :) It's also been my first 5 star read for 2020 and I don't give them out willy-nilly!

The story was captivating, contemporary and realistic with the characters well drawn. I wasn't prepared for how much I would enjoy being taken into the Indian family way of life, and having travelled to India I could understand the issues and appreciate Ritu's descriptions of the food, colour, people and situations.

The story of Aashi and her family drew me in and i found I couldn't stop reading and wan ted to find out what happened. It was a love story and a family story, and reminded me a bit of an Indian version of Crazy Rich Asians but I enjoyed this one far more.

Well done Ritu, you may have taken years to get it written but it was well worth it and I'm so glad you finished it! Now looking forward to the next books to find out what happens next.
Profile Image for J_McA 251.
997 reviews8 followers
August 28, 2022
Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal is part rom-com, part travelogue, and mostly entertaining. What makes this book unique is that the protagonist is Indian and all of the usual rom-com tropes are tempered with a healthy dose of traditional Indian expectations and responsibilities. To me, the book became more interesting when Aashi, her friends, and her brothers arrived in India so she could “find herself.” (My words, not hers). I thought the author did a great job of describing the landscape and atmosphere. However, there were moments that felt uncomfortable. Some of the descriptions of the people seemed to verge on stereotypes, and I mean both the UK and Indian perspectives. Stereotypes are born from reality, so maybe this is an accurate depiction. The chapters were confusing due to structure. This is the first in what looks to be a series. For more details, please visit Fireflies and Free Kicks. This review was written based on a digital copy of the book from Spellbound Books.
Profile Image for Lucy Mitchell.
Author 3 books25 followers
February 9, 2020

If you are looking for an uplifting romance plot, a great cast of characters, a good sprinkling of humour and a glimpse of true India – this book is for you!

My heart went out to the main character Aashi. Her broken engagement is heartbreaking to read and I wanted to reach inside the book and hug her.

The trip to India with her best mate and her brothers is inspired as its during this trip Aashi starts to find herself. This book is crammed with vivid descriptions of true India and I thought it was a refreshing setting for a romance book.

Ritu has done a fantastic job on bringing the smells and sounds of the markets, the rickshaw journeys and the kaleidoscope of colours to life.

I will say this – the romance in this book will make your heart flutter!

I received an ARC for this book.
Profile Image for Soulla Christodoulou.
Author 11 books38 followers
March 13, 2021
A colourful and entertaining read

Where do I start? The earliest chapters had me totally invested in the main character's life and as the story unfolded I really enjoyed the relationship between her and the secondary characters. I particularly liked the chapters set in India as so many of the descriptions reminded me of my own trip to India three years ago. However, some parts of the story felt a little overwritten, too drawn out, which slowed the otherwise lively pace but I read until the end and I'm glad I did. This is a wonderfully warm, real story which, for the most part, kept me entertained. Well done Bhathal on a very good debut novel.
Profile Image for Philippa Mckenna.
394 reviews7 followers
April 12, 2023
Well what a little gem this book is! After reading this, I'm really looking forward to more from this author and the next in the series.

This is a book about heartbreak and healing, relationships between best friends and family, and a whistle stop tour of the best India has to offer. But I really enjoyed the learning and deeper understanding I got about Indian and Western cultures and how the two can conflict and combine.

Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Shonnie.
443 reviews14 followers
February 28, 2021

The overall story was ok. However, I liked the cheating ex-fiance better than the main characters. His story was more interesting and entertaining.
Profile Image for S.C. Skillman.
Author 5 books35 followers
February 17, 2020
This story provides a fascinating insight into the close network of Indian Sikh families in the UK (Punjabi Birmingham). Our heroine Aashi, betrayed by her fiancé, breaks off her marriage plans and then has to face the challenge of the varied reactions of her parents and family, her fiancé's parent and family - and the rest of the Sikh community so closely connected to them via the local Gurdwara. Written in a breezy, light tone, this is a delightful story which follows Aashi, her 2 protective brothers, and her best friend Kiran off on a holiday to India, where Aashi had originally planned to embark on a shopping trip to gather all the special clothes and jewellery she will need for her wedding celebrations: but must now use the time instead to recover from her broken heart.

I loved the account of the Indian trip: having visited India myself I recognised much of what the author describes in Delhi and was intrigued to discover that the reactions of English-born Indian people are much the same as my own, to the cows wandering through busy traffic, anarchic driving, toilets that leave much to be desired, begging children, and a not entirely reliable drinking water supply.

I found myself looking up google images to remind myself of exquisite Indian brides (and handsome Indian men) and to revel in the gorgeous colours and ornamentation. I remember being given a ride by an Indian driver, to take me to the Taj Mahal, and being directly guided to his brother's shop to buy marble inlay souvenirs - and being rather grateful to him for his helpfulness. It made me smile when the author describes her characters' visit to Amritsar and similar encounters there. I loved her descriptions of exquisite Indian fashions, as she weaves an Indian fashion designer into her story.

This story made me reflect anew on cultural differences and upon the English attitude to arranged marriage. Personally I think the system has much to recommend it: (especially when compared to the high divorce rate among those who always had the luxury of 'free choice'); but only if everyone involved is loving and caring. And, with human nature being what it is, that is where the complications and the tragedies arise. Ritu Bathal weaves a cross-cultural tapestry which I thoroughly enjoyed and which is highly emotionally engaging; and from which we may also learn a lot.

Highly recommended.
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