Love Comes Later by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An arranged marriage between Qatari cousins may not go on as planned when matters of heartache and rebellion come crashing into their mannered, conservative world. Abdulla--a widower still in mourning, is pressured by his family to marry his cousin, Hind, a young university student who has dreams far beyond what is acceptable for a Qatari woman of her rank and standing. Hind wins a stay to her "execution" by agreeing to marry Abdulla if she can at least finish her education in England. So, to England Hind goes, and in doing so she meets a young American of Indian descent, Sangita--a young women destined to change their lives forever.
The bare bones of this story are simple, and found in many a romance, the arranged marriage, the conflicted feelings, the budding love triangle. With that in mind, an author tackling the subject needs to be mindful to create a lively tale with characters one can root for.
Abdulla, could easily have been written as a villain, or as someone so dishwater dull he just asks to be flung over for another hunk. His story is written with grace, however, and he is portrayed as a decent, tenderhearted man still mourning the tragic death of his wife. Hind comes across initially as a snooty, prickly young princess, which in essence she is, but it is easy to sympathize with her fear of an eternity spent married to and breeding with a man she does not love with no option for a job or life of her own. A cage is still a cage, even if it is a golden one. When she meets Sangita, the two young women from seemingly different backgrounds, soon find the similarities in their conservative upbringing and hit if off quite well. Hind is constantly appalled or bemused by Sangita's brash American ways and Sangita has a curious fascination with Hind's privileged world.
The backdrop of large, controlling, conservative worlds is thoroughly covered here, with an authentic, and refreshingly balanced view of life as a Muslim. Sangita becomes the "cabbage head" as Hind is constantly reminding her that being Muslim does not exactly mean all the stereotypes a typical American would think. Still, the thrill of a young woman tasting freedom from her stifled, controlling family is tempered with the ever present cloud of being caught and destroying family honor. It's a theme that rang very close to me, and I think will resonate with anyone born into a tightly knit household, regardless of their religion. In fact, it goes a long way into showing just how similar the problems are for daughters born into these families.
There is no real condemnation however, of the conservative life. Rules are stretched but not snapped, and it falls upon the characters to find solutions to their own problems and hearts without shattering the walls around them. They become sneaky, resourceful, and discover their hidden strengths and weaknesses. As their lives become ever more entangled, I began to feel real worry for all three of them, as I realized I just wanted everyone to be okay!
All in all, I found this novel to be a satisfying, involving romance. It was not a lightweight tale by any means. Anyone up for a smart, classy read is in for a treat.
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