REVIEW: Haveli by Zeenat Mahal
“Abandoned by her father, C. is brought up by her domineering, intractable grandmother, whom she privately refers to as ‘The Broad’. Raised in the closed environs of a haveli in Jalalabad, C. is rebellious, quick-witted and a self-proclaimed cynic.
So, when The Broad presents her with the ‘suitable’ Taimur as a possible husband, C. isn’t too happy with the arrangement, no matter how gorgeous ‘Alpha Male’ may be. As it happens, the feeling is mutual. Or is it?
And when C.’s long lost father enters the scene, things get really complicated…”
Dear Ms. Mahal,
I love your voice here! Our readers at DA have been very receptive to books set in South Asia and I was delighted when Indiereads got in touch with Jane and offered some of their books for review. Though I started out a little bit lost with all the terms – which I intend to look up – C’s smart aleck-y personality reeled me in from the beginning. Chandni is a smart, gorgeous heroine who has a little growing up to do and an Achilles heel in the form of her smarmy father. Though she doesn’t initially realize it, her tough as nails grandmother has raised C in her own image and I truly feel sorry for anyone who gets on their collective bad side.
The women of this family are anything but subservient. If I had any notions of weak willed Pakistani women, this novella put paid to them. “The Broad” decrees and the family (usually) falls in line posthaste – including the men. The exception? Chandni of course who thinks she knows who she’s in love with and who is disconcerted when someone sees right through her efforts to snag him. The someone? Taimur or “Alpha Male” as C derisively calls him. He only oozes the most testosterone of any man C has ever met.
Their battles of wits and cutting sarcasm are hilarious to read. I love that Taimur is the one who “gets” all of C’s literary references – even when she’s using her extensive education at his expense. But he doesn’t take her witticisms lying down and give as good as he gets.
The conflict arc is well set up and seems realistic. Will C yield to her grandmother’s wishes and agree to marry Taimur? Is he truly as indifferent and cocksure as he appears? And how will C react when faced with the father she’s longed to hear say he loves and misses her? I wasn’t too sure of the last minute “will” twist but at least those who love C have a way to ensure it doesn’t trip things up. C’s desire to reconnect with her father at the expense of all else is initially maddening but on second thought makes sense given her long standing feelings of abandonment. Even “The Broad’s” insistence that C publicly agree to the match seems more that her grandmother wants to be sure that Chandni will truly be happy in it rather than getting her pound of flesh back or bolstering Taimur’s male ego.
Overall, I was delighted with my first foray into Indireads. The setting, language, and characters all seem authentic. A complete story was delivered in novella length and a HEA wrapped everything up. I look forward to seeing what else Indireads has to offer. B