Special thanks to Amazon Original Stories for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: The Wedding Setup
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Published: 11 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.
Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.
Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?
TL;DR: I’m honestly a little disappointed (in myself) that I haven’t picked up anything by Sonali Dev until this short story because I loved everything about this second-chance romance with hilarious and well-intentioned meddling BFFs, mothers, and aunties. Dev’s writing is humorous, heartfelt, and packed with emotion, and her characters were realistic and relatable. If this short story is a good indication of what her full-length romances are like then I’ve definitely been missing out and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Dev’s books asap!
The Wedding Setup is told from Ayesha’s perspective and I loved her character and her journey to finding herself again in this story. After losing her brother in an accident seven years ago, grief and fear changed Ayesha from being an outspoken young woman to a docile and meek woman, who does everything to please her mother and to ensure the status quo goes undisturbed. I may not be Indian, but being Asian, but there were so many moments that I related to in this, particularly about the cultural expectations as a young woman to settle down and have kids by a certain age, the well-intentioned but nevertheless meddlesome family members, but especially the perceptions and challenges couples in intercultural relationships face and experience. Grief changes people in different ways and it was heartbreaking but also heartwarming to see how Ayesha finally accepts the loss without letting it hold her back, and how she sheds her “new” skin and finds her old self again with the help of Emmitt and Amma. This may be a short story but it packs a heckuva punch and I got all the emotions, angst, and swoontastic vibes from it that I’d expect in any full-length romance.
Ah, how I *swooned* at Emmitt’s devotion to and love for Ayesha. The things that came out of that man’s mouth had me feeling those heart-eyes for days! 😍 My heart soared at their coming together, broke for their history, and absolutely melted at this reunion. I’m not sure if Dev’s full-length romances are closed-door but this short story was, and while I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get the steamy bits after the delicious build-up in tension (thanks, forced proximity), it obviously wasn’t a dealbreaker—I just wanted MORE of this couple! Their chemistry was explosive even after seven years apart and it was fire! The only thing I wished for was Emmitt’s perspective but that’s definitely a me-thing and not the-book-thing because I’m a fan of dual perspectives in romances.
Overall, this was a short story that didn’t feel like a short story and those are my favourite kinds. Whether you’re looking for a sweet second-chance romance with heart and depth or a quick “palette cleanser” read before moving on to your next, I would definitely recommend checking this out. I can’t wait to dive into Sonali Dev’s backlist now!
Have you read The Wedding Setup or is it on your TBR?