Ayesha At Last

by Uzma Jalaluddin

The blurb says its a modern Pride & Prejudice, but only insofar as Khalid stubbornly inhabits a traditional orientation towards dress and arranged marriages inside his faith and Ayesha does have some prejudice to overcome both towards Khalid and her more flyaway, younger cousin.

The main problem besides pride on both sides, is that Ayesha pretends to be her younger, richer cousin (who coincidentally is meeting a series of young men before committing to an arranged marriage) Hafsa at a Mosque meeting to plan a modern conference for young folks where she meets Khalid. This mistaken identity causes confusion and hurt feelings later on, as it tends to do.

From a romance perspective, the attraction between the two main characters never sparked for me, but from a sociological perspective, it was super fascinating for Christian background me to read the thoughts of Khalid as he becomes more and more attracted to Ayesha despite her outspokenness, and to see standards of beauty when hair, for instance, is concealed under hijab.

The text is sprinkled with words like “rishta” (or arranged proposal process) that were always quite understandable within context, but due to the multi-lingual/ethnic background of the Islamic community in Toronto depicted here I didn’t know if that was a Arabic term or India-language term.

There was also (for a food obsessed person like me) a pleasing amount of reference to food culture such as Aunties grilling both Hafsa and Ayesha about their ability to fry samosa or Khalid indicating he thought Butter Chicken was boring and not suitable for a wedding banquet.

While not my preferred level of steam or sparky romance, this was such a sweet little romance with insight into a minority culture I think the USA desperately needs right now for perspective. I would read more by this author.