‘The Marriage Game’ is a realistic, comical portrayal of marriage

Published by Penguin Random House in 2020, ‘The Marriage Game’ by Sara Desai is a story of love, betrayal, business interest, and exploitation. ‘Desai writes sexy romantic comedies and contemporary romance with a multicultural twist.’ She has been a lawyer, a radio DJ, marathon runner, historian, bouncer, and librarian. She lives on Vancouver Island with her family.

The book opens with an email by Nasir Patel holding the social profile or marriage resume of his daughter, Layla Patel. Layla lives in New York. When she comes home to Spice Mill Restaurant after yet another ‘disastrous relationship’, she expects empathy from her mother but all she gets is a crisp, emotionless dialogue.

Layla lost her brother Dev in a car accident and ‘the pain of losing him never faded’.

Layla’s father, Nasir, just wants to see his daughter married and settled. He convinces her to meet eligible bachelors on a dating site. Whist Layla has qualms about an arranged marriage, her mother removes the misconception telling her that in the modern world, the concept of an ‘arranged marriage’ was very different. Arranged marriage means the parents put two people in touch and give them the time to date and understand each other. It was not blind marriage, as in Layla’s parent’s case. It’s about devotion to one another person, caring, duty and sacrifice. ‘An arranged marriage is based on permanence’ says her mother.

‘And no love’ says Layla

‘Love shows up along the way’ says the mother

At her father’s insistence, Layla joins the HR department for the family restaurant. It is here that she comes across Sam Mehta. Sam Mehta has bought the lease for the restaurant. He is the CEO of a corporate downsizing firm.

As Layla encounters Sam for the first time, she throws a fit. Sam is at the same time taken aback and impressed by the woman’s daring. Something clicks between the two. Sam immediately takes a liking to this furious and beautiful woman.

Layla throws a tantrum, asking him to leave the office at once. Sam flirts with her to ‘soother her’.

Sam and Layla develop a strong friendship that will ultimately turn into love. Are Sam and Layla destined for each other? Will they end up together? Read the novel to find out.

The scene shifts to Nisha, Sam’s sister. She married Ranjeet on Sam’s insistence. However, Ranjeet was an alcoholic who would verbally abuse her, making her frightened. Sam cannot bring to forgive himself for ruining Nisha’s life. He has only one goal in life – to seek revenge on Ranjeet. Nisha, unable to handle the grief, ends up in rehab. She has an accident and becomes crippled.

Meanwhile, Layla’s Father suffers from a heart attack and just wants Layla to meet the suitors he has chosen for her.

From suitor 1 to suitor 10, the experiences Layla has are funny. Layla asks Sam to be her chaperone for the meetings. Hasan, the scammer, Dilip, the firefighter, Faroz, the delusional, Harman, the body builder, Baboo, the psychologist who wanted a virgin, Salman, the restaurant owner, Sunny, the yoga instructor, and the CIA officer; Layla goes through an entire list of candidates.

How many suitors will Layla have to meet? Who will she decide in favour of? Or will no one meet her standard?

Desai writes with a humour and spontaneity that thrills the reader. Her choice of diction is simple and perhaps that is the reason the book is an easy read. The reader can relate to the predicament of Layla and her parents. It is very relevant to the desi society and culture.

Yet Layla is in idiosyncrasy. She is not the typical domestic woman. She isn’t beautiful in the traditional sense of the world. It is her wit, intellect and casual demeanor that wins the heart of the eleventh suitor. Who is the eleventh suitor? I will not ruin the suspense!

In the subplot, Sam is shown as a villain. His self-interest in getting vengeance from Ranjeet spoils his relationship with Layla. Will Layla forgive him, or will she choose to punish him?

The romance between Layla and Sam is a fire that ignites like flame and drowns with water.

The book is a realistic and comical portrayal of marriage. A light and entertaining book that sends the reader into squeals of laughter. A must read!

‘A hilarious, heartfelt and steamy enemies to lovers’ romance’. (Sarah Smith, author of Faker)

‘The most delicious read’. (Alexa Martin, author of Intercepted)

Beenish Mahmood has a double Master's in English Literature with almost a decade of experience in magazine journalism. She is passionate about South Asian Fiction and environmental issues. She can be reached through email at address-beenishmhmd@gmail.com.