8 South Asian Novels About Falling in Love
Sonali Dev, author of "Lies And Other Love Languages" recommends sizzlingly hot desi romance novels
My introduction to romance novels came when my high school crush handed me a book written by his mother’s friend under a pen name. It was all very hush hush, no one knew what the author’s real identity was, but he trusted me with this big secret (which might have been the first grand romantic gesture of my life). The book was set in colonized India with a British heroine and an Anglo Indian hero. I don’t remember much about the story but I do remember how it felt to read characters with familiar names in familiar places, who looked like me. It was an entirely unique experience to see those simple parts of me represented in a sweeping love story on the page. It didn’t happen again for a very long time and hungry for the experience of being desired and steadfastly loved for exactly who I was, I turned to Jane Austen and others who wrote characters somewhat less obviously like me.
For a large part of my youth, I remember reimagining Austen and Bronte novels in an Indian setting, with gossiping aunties and unbending fathers, and Bollywood heroes standing in for Darcy and Rochester.
These were the seeds for my writing journey: the need to use my life lens to understand relationships, my own worth, and the world we live in. I am often asked what it’s like to write Indian love stories. My answer is that I don’t: I write love stories. I am Indian. Those two facts coexist in my novels, as they do in the romance novels written by some of my favorite South Asian American writers. My favorite part of these books are the emotional intimacy, the humor, the angst, but also how the identity and heart of these writers dance like a Bollywood chorus on the pages of their stories.
The Singles Table by Sara Desai
No one else writes funnier romance than Sara Desai. Here she puts a twist on the classic “grumpy/sunshine” trope. Zara Patel, a carefree, filterless human rights lawyer and Jay Dayal, a brooding control freak marine who runs a security company meet at the singles’ table in the middle of wedding season. Neither of them has any intention of turning in their singles card to each other but that doesn’t stop them from getting into a deal where she’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But of course, the more time they spend with each other, the more they find that opposites attract for a reason.
Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma
Nisha Sharma’s novels are filled with a deep fondness for Indian American culture. Dating Dr. Dil is a clashing of romantic ideologies and life beliefs that’s also a nod to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Kareena Mann is determined to find an epic love like her parents had, and she has the support of her late mother’s best friends to help her in her quest. Dr. Prem Verma, a cardiologist with a radio show and a disdain for romance, is forced to date Kareena after her disastrous appearance on his show goes viral. Sure he’s doing it to avoid looking like the heartless heart doctor he is, but could there be something more to their sham romance?
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai
Rai’s romances brim with emotional intelligence. Romantic tension and deeply buried pain dance beneath the surface in this heist caper. Mira Patel is trying to live a nice boring life, away from her dysfunctional family of criminals. Naveen Desai is trying to salvage his grandfather’s failing do-gooder law practice. A matchmaker sets them up, but despite serious fireworks, she unceremoniously dumps him. Their unlikely reconciliation is set in motion when they’re kidnapped in Las Vegas and have to escape and unearth long-buried secrets to save their lives. A breathless romp with a hot beating heart.
A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
Is it just me or does everyone dream of falling in love at a wedding? This novel is for anyone fantasizing about finding the one at a big beautiful Indian wedding. Niki Randhawa has always chosen stability over passion, whether that’s in her career or her romantic partners. When at the cusp of 30, she finds herself unemployed and unanchored in life, she decides to be impulsive and take a spur of the moment trip to Mumbai for her friend’s wedding. There she meets Sameer Mukherji, a musician who is wild and fearless in his pursuit of his art. The pair embark on a whirlwind romance during the festive Diwali season. As she immerses herself in her roots and the land of her ancestors, Niki finds the hidden parts of herself blossoming. A heartwarming, uplifting holiday romance that seamlessly folds in an artist’s journey to empowerment and self-discovery.
Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder
Snyder writes a singularly smart and gritty dark fantasy romance set in a dystopian world filled with a myriad species at odds for power. Joe Peluso is half-man half-wolf, and finds himself in dire straits after being accused of a heinous crime. Neha Ahluwalia is the human lawyer tasked with proving his innocence, until the tables turn and he will burn everything down to protect her. A hotly pulsating drama that manages to be both thrilling and tender.
Never Meant to Stay by Trisha Das
A classic Bollywood-style romcom set in modern-day New Delhi that will make you yearn and laugh and feel embraced in the warm hug of family. Samara Mansingh is a free-spirited photographer who’s grown up all over the world as the daughter of an emotionally absent diplomat. Sharav Khanna is the oldest son who had to take on the role of the head of his family when his father died too young. She’s craved a family all her life, he’s sacrificed his youth and freedom for his. This book epitomizes how reading romance can heal your heart with the belief that love is powerful enough to transform your life.src=”https://bookshop.org/widgets.js” data-type=”featured” data-full-info=”true” data-affiliate-id=”269″ data-sku=”9781538733332″>
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
I won’t lie, this novel reveals some ugly parts of immigrant Indian life, but it also shows how individuals choosing to do the right thing can break those oppressive social structures. Liya Thakkar is fierce and unabashedly sexy and determined not to let the judgment of her family and community stop her from living her best life. This includes running for her life when her parents try to set her up. But what she didn’t expect was for the guy she ghosted to appear in her office as the new lawyer. Sparks fly as they’re stuck together in a race to save the company.
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Food and romance always make a delectable combination and Heron spins a heartfelt and whip-smart tale about a pair who pretend to be engaged to enter a couples’ cooking contest. Even more delicious than their baked goodies is the spin on the arranged marriage story. Reena Manji is determined to defy expectations by not marrying the Muslim man of her parents’ choosing, but when the match they found is swooningly perfect and British, things become a little more complicated.