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This short, beautiful book tells the story of a woman who returns to Bombay for an arranged marriage she’s resigned herself to and falls in love with a woman instead.

Dulhaniyaa by Talia Bhatt, a Desi lesbian romance, showing a pair of inked and bejeweled hands holding out flowersThe romance is delicious and well-paced, a slow-ish burn intermingled with some fantastic family and friendship dynamics. It really has a classic romance feel to me, with no rush to push the couple together but enough sparks early and often to make you hungry for the inevitable joyful moment.

The setting is richly but economically described, especially the food (OMG) and the city of Bombay itself, which come across almost as a character, or a part of the family.

The love interest is trans, but it’s only hinted at, never stated outright, and this aspect is handled perfectly. Similarly, the main character’s lesbian identity is a clear fact of the narrative but the words are never used. I loved this means of portraying queer identities in a culture that rigorously enforces cishetero norms but also understands that these norms are only on the surface. The arranged marriage and the associated preparations and activities are shown as part of a deeply rooted cultural process that’s not terribly different from the “chosen” marriages in other cultures, which are, as we know, often anything but. It’s a negotiated convenience, and while the main character hates it, she’s accepted the match and doesn’t rebel against it externally until–well, no spoilers here.

I should also mention the Bollywood themes–I’m not super familiar with the genre, but it adds a lovely, lively touch, and I’m sure Bollywood fans will go nuts for this one! I expect there are a few things I missed due to my unfamiliarity, but I also learned some things as well, so net win!

I do wish the book had been a bit longer, or that it had had a different focus in the last 20%. We spend an awful lot of time in a motorcycle chase, which would have been fine if we had more time to savor what happens afterwards. This is a romance, so of course the couple gets together, but I wanted a little more time with them united. Not to say I needed a love scene (I mean, I always enjoy those), but seeing the couple together in private, carefree moments, even in an epilogue, would have clinched the romance for me.

That said, it’s a delightful read, which I highly recommend, and I will absolutely be reading whatever the author puts out next!

The book comes out April 18, and you can pre-order at the button below!

 

If you like books with transfeminine characters written by transfeminine authors, read my review of The Calyx Charm by May Peterson!

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