Farah Heron has only released two books and she is already one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Farah's debut, The Chai Factor, is a work of art, and I was eager to pick up Accidentally Engaged. This book was just as joyful of an experience as The Chai Factor. You can tell that this story is a project that Farah Heron put all her heart into and I'm grateful that she decided to share it with readers.
At the center of Accidentally Engaged is Reena, a South Asian woman who is a little disgruntled at how her life is turning out to be and the pressure of her parents' expectations. She has a career in finance that she absolutely despises. Reena's true passion lies in cooking and baking, especially bread-baking. At the same time, her parents are trying to set her up with a "good Muslim boy" and their latest target, Nadim, also happens to be Reena's new neighbor. An opportunity to make her dreams come true arises in the form of a cooking contest, Reena and Nadim team up and enter a fake relationship. This not only provides her with a much-needed reprieve from her stagnant life, but it brings her a new friend and maybe love into her life.
I really like how Farah Heron writes her female protagonists. They are all such normal characters and it's easy to relate to them. I really adored Reena and related to her a lot. Both her connection and her discontentment with the South Asian community she grew up in rang a chord with me. Reena loves her culture, which the author weaves into the story really beautifully through the food and traditions, but there were also parts of it that she found suffocating. I like that Farah didn't shy away from showing the complexities and ups and downs of what it's like to grow up to South Asian immigrants. Reena's identity isn't the only layer of her character I liked. She starts off the book accompanied by low self-confidence and unhappiness at certain aspects of her life. We see a lot of her growth throughout Accidentally Engaged and it's very satisfying to someone who is rooting for her.
As much as I liked Reena, it was Nadim who stole the show for me, and admittedly, it's for a very selfish reason. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nadim had grown up in Tanzania. I think a lot of people are under the impression that there are no South Asian communities in Africa. I grew up in one of these big communities myself, so this book feels like the only representation I will ever see in a romance book. If I seem protective towards Nadim, it's because this is the representation of my dreams. Anyways, Nadim is an actual angel who oozes sunshine! He is a sweetheart, knows how to lay on the charm, and is gentle. I liked that his personality was in contrast to Reena, who is a bit of a grump. They balanced each other out really well and I could see why they started off as such good friends.
If you enjoy the fake relationship and friends-to-more tropes, I think you are going to have a grand time with Accidentally Engaged. The progression of their relationship is fun! The two get close as they shoot for the contest from Reena's kitchen and as Nadim falls in love with her cooking, he slowly finds himself falling in love with her too. Honestly, they were precious together and they also had me laughing quite a few times. The cooking show scenes, in particular, were terrific because they not only show just how much chemistry the two share but also just how comfortable they become around each other as they film more episodes.
Accidentally Engaged is a beautiful book that explores love, family, culture, and cuisine within a South Asian community. It's rich and complex and doesn't shy away from showing both the ups and downs of growing up in the desi community. Just make sure you have a snack while reading the book. You're going to need it. I loved this book and I hope you will too!
CW: mention of depression and anxiety
Relationship disclosure: Farah Heron and I are mutuals on social media.