Published by HarperAvenue on June 12, 2018
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Romance, Own Voices, Diversity, Contemporary
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Pride and Prejudice
with a modern twist
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.
Pride & Prejudice + Muslim Remix = Perfect Romcom!
Ayesha at Last was sweet, heartfelt, uplifting, and just perfect. I love the nods to Pride & Prejudice, while staying true to the character’s Muslim heritage. The family interactions were so touching and beautiful, and the slow-burn romance was absolutely adorkable. All in all, this book was a major hit, and I highly recommend it to romance lovers!
Meet Khalid: works a steady job, comes from a wealthy family, and is super devoted to his religion.
Meet Hafsa: started a job she’s not quite sure about, spinster who is said to be too outspoken, and places her thoughts and feelings on paper through poetry.
He first sees her from across the street and is delighted by her clumsiness. She first sees him at a lounge where he is snobbish and judgemental. Despite their rocky start, they end up working together at their local mosque to plan a conference that could possibly save it. Surprisingly enough for both of them, they enjoy the other’s company and a hesitant relationship starts forming.
Have you ever wondered, Hafsa, what it would be like to spend your life with someone like me? Have you ever wondered, beautiful Hafsa, what it would be like to open your heart to something unexpected, someone wholly unanticipated? Because I am starting to wonder.
However, obstacles abound in the story. Khalid comes from a wealthy family, but he hasn’t seen his mysterious sister in around twelve years, since she was kicked out of the house. His mother is extremely domineering, and he usually just follows along whatever she commands – including the subject of his wife. Originally, he was content with marrying the girl his mother picked out for him – until he starts developing feelings for Hafsa. Hafsa, on the other hand, is discontent with her own life. She’s starting a teaching job because that’s the good Muslim daughter thing to do, but her passion lies within her poetry. She is too old to be called on for arranged marriages (at a whopping twenty-seven), and finds herself okay with that fact… but maybe a bit dissatisfied with her lack of love life. Of course, this changes when she meets Khalid.
Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.
Throw in a suspicious conference manager, a super pretty yet immature cousin, a racist boss, and family histories that could tear their reputations apart, Ayesha at Last makes for a hilarious and moving novel. Both characters were exceptionally flawed, but that was what made them endearing. Khalid was a bit too traditional at times – almost to the point of passivity where his mother was concerned, while Hafsa refused to compromise at times. I adored Khalid’s quiet strength and sensitivity, as well as admired Hafsa’s outspokenness and actions against the status quo of her community. Both learn to meet each other at the middle though, striking a delicate, balanced relationship.
Ayesha at Last was just so heart-warming and lovely. I can’t gush enough about it, and I really recommend it to romance lovers. I think the only problem I had was the length – it was a tad long, but every word was worth it! While it is a romcom set in contemporary times, the Pride & Prejudice themes were wrapped expertly into the story. Readers looking for a sweet and fulfilling story with endearing characters should definitely pick this one up!
Trigger/Content Warnings: discrimination/racism
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you Berkley and Netgalley for the review copy!