The Chai Factor

by Farah Heron 

 I actually read the second book in this series first, and possibly enjoyed it a bit more. This one features Amira and Duncan– one is an Ismaili Indian and the other a red-headed, flannel wearing small town musician. (This is set in Toronto, Canada)

Amira is a bit…hot-headed. She seems willing to believe the worst of people on one hand, but then completely ignores her work-mentor’s issues on the other hand. She has a racial-profiling incident at an airport in her past that has caused her to be less willing to be a vocal and visible presence standing up for immigrant and Muslim rights, but has just finished grad school and is back living with her divorced mom, little sister, and grandmother as her work-leave ends.

Only things don’t go as planned. First of all, her the culture at her work place has taken a turn for the worse–in the form of a an older white Englishman who calls her “pretty little thing.”

Also her grandmother has rented the basement rooms to of all things, a barbershop quartet in town for a competition.

Heron’s portrayal of family ties (one of the barbershop boys is a family Ismaili friend who is gay and not out to his extended family) impacting relationships, the foods, the clothing, and Amira’s feelings as a visible minority are a perspective that makes this romance really interesting for me to read on one hand, and sad on the other.

Amira is definitely political, and some of the characters in this book portrayed as racist or sexist are a bit stereotyped themselves, including Duncan’s brother who does have a bit of nuance but ultimately is defined by his racist beliefs.

That is a small quibble, however, because Amira’s Barbershop boys are all kind of fun in their own ways, and while the steam level is confined to “low” for kissing and a bit of petting (all the fun stuff is left out off the pages, although Duncan tying himself up with his own suspenders does imply quite more than sweet romance) it is still quite a satisfying romance of “opposites attract.”

Very cute romance with some of the family-centered relationship emphasis I enjoy firmly centered in Toronto culture.