Summer is a time for iced tea and beachy reads. This time of year, I’m drawn to cheerful, feel-good stories to match the sunny weather. Romantic comedies make for excellent summer reading. I hope you like them, because my summer posts might trend heavily in the rom-com direction… First up, The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli.
In a moment of weakness, Raina promises her grandmother, aka Nani, that she will let her play matchmaker. When Nani writes out a list of eligible bachelors, Raina reluctantly undergoes a series of (mostly bad) dates. Meanwhile, Raina’s best friend is about to get married, and wants to set up Raina with one of the groomsmen. Secretly, Raina is not sure she is over her ex-boyfriend, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her Nani or her best friend.
There is much to commend in this book. Nani is absolutely delightful; probably the most complex and loveable character in the whole book. She has some traditional notions about marriage, but she is open-minded and modern in a thousand other ways. Her desire to find a match for Raina is misguided, but well-intentioned.
Raina’s half-hearted desire to find a match contrasts with her belief that she does not require love to be happy. At one point, Raina finds an online dating profile her Nani secretly set up for her. Though Raina agreed to the matchmaking, she is displeased when she finds the dating profile:
“I felt the bile rise in my throat. ‘In search of husband’. Is that all that mattered about me?”
At several points in the novel, Raina questions whether she needs a match. This element of the plot – recognition that marriage is not required for personal fulfillment – was refreshing. Ultimately, the fresh perspective was undermined a bit by the genre. It is, after all, a love story with a happy ending. Nevertheless, it was nice to read a rom-com that deviated, even slightly, from the usual literary devices.
Sonya Lalli attempted to include some deeper topics in this otherwise cute love story. For example, one subplot of the book touches upon discrimination and prejudice against LGBTQ+ characters by elder members of Raina’s Indian community. I was very happy to see some LGBTQ+ characters in the book. Though I thought this sub-plot was handled lightly, without any real depth. It’s a tricky balance to tackle serious issues in a genre that is inherently light and breezy.
I liked that this was not a stereotypical, cardboard cut-out romantic comedy. The premise was cute, and I appreciated that the traditional notions of marriage were somewhat challenged by modern ideals. Although I personally felt that the attempt to add some serious elements to the plot was hampered by the light tone of the novel, I enjoyed this book overall. It hit the spot for light, summer reading.