REVIEW: Matched by Masala by Mona Shroff
He cooks for their customers…but he’d rather cater to her heart!
One impetuous, slightly drunken kiss has turned up the heat on chef Amar Virani’s feelings for Divya Shah. He’s been in love with the sexy pastry chef—his sister’s best friend!—since they were teenagers, but a painful tragedy in his past keeps Amar from revealing his true emotions. As they work side by side in Divya’s tiny food truck, she realizes there’s more than just business simmering between them. For the first time, she’s tempted to step outside her comfort zone and take a chance on Amar—even if it means risking more than her heart.
CW – death of parents, Cancer, death of a teen from cancer
Dear Ms. Shroff,
After the MCs of this book were introduced in “The Five Day Reunion,” of course I wanted to see what would happen with them. Oh, and read some more about the fabulous Indian cuisine they can both produce. Yum. I’m so glad I couldn’t eat it via reading or I’d have put on 10 pounds at least.
Divya Shah and Amar Virani, along with Amar’s sister Anita, have been friends since childhood. Living across the street from each other, their parents were also great friends and after the tragic death of Mr. and Mrs. Virani, Divya’s parents stepped in to help Amar and Anita cope.
Now Anita is married (again) and Amar is trying to recoup from losing his job because he tried to make the boss’s bland food taste better. Divya, a talented pastry chef, has a solution. She’s getting plenty of catering requests for her sweets but people also want savory. Amar isn’t sold on it but when she ropes him into working with her and Anita decides to force the issue of having a new commercial grade kitchen installed in their old house, Amar finds his food in high demand. If only Divya didn’t make decisions by the seat of her pants.
But there are lingering issues for both of them that not only threaten their working partnership but also the growing personal relationship. Can they work through what is holding them back?
As I said, reading this book is full-on yummy Gujarati Indian food. The two main characters are passionate chefs who love to not only deliver traditional food but also play with and create new variations. For both of them, cooking was a family thing: Amar’s parents taught him at home and cooking was a wonderful bonding activity. For Divya, creating sweets with her mother took her mind off her cancer treatments. Her best friend Anita also helped by treating Divya as a normal teenager rather than as “the sick kid.”
To pay back and help children currently undergoing treatments where she did, Divya puts aside her (almost PTSD) gut reaction to the cancer ward and makes weekly visits to engage the patients with fun activities. Amar is forced to deal with reminders of the loss of his parents when Anita has the kitchen in which he learned to cook renovated. I thought the scenes of them both processing the emotions that come with these activities, as well as helping each other through them, was well done.
I enjoyed seeing the closeness between the Shahs and the Viranis as well as how nicely Anita’s husband, Nikhil Joshi, is fitting into the family. There is history there too (covered in the first book) and both Amar and Divya are withholding final approval of Nikhil because of that. This seemed totally reasonable, given how close Amar and his sister are after the death of their parents and that Divya and Anita are besties. Nikhil comes through with flying colors and even impresses his brother-in-law with some mad cooking skills then helps with something that will doubtless become a family heirloom. I loved the relationship that the Shah parents, Veer Uncle and Kalpana Auntie, have not only with their beloved daughter but with Amar and Anita whom they view almost as their own.
Divya’s approach to running her business was a bit haphazard for me as well as Amar who is Mr. Planning Ahead whereas Divya is Ms. We’ll Make It Work. Though it riled her, and Amar, the recap of how this came back to bite her was something that a businesswoman growing a new endeavour needed to have. But she learned from that. Amar also gained a new perspective on his past issues which was well integrated into the plot. What I felt was almost too much was one last crisis involving Divya. It isn’t totally out of the blue but it felt like an unnecessary pile-on.
I’m not that much of a fan of epilogues but having one here was a good choice. Plus yay, the possible third book that I sensed for the series is gonna happen. And it will have more food! I’d better start watching what I eat right now to be ready for the temptation. B