Review: The Shaadi Set-Up – Lillie Vale
by Lillie Vale
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian-American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.
High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency.
While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….
The adorableness of this cover! This is a tropey and cute book, full of second chance high school sweethearts and a bit of forced proximity, though not everything worked out for me.
“There’s something about old things, right? Comforting favorites. A place in time you want to return to, revisit, like an old friend.”
Rita and Milan have dated since they were fifteen, and now, after Milan’s first year of college, they’re finally getting to see each other again on their much anticipated summer trip to Paris. And then he dumps her via voicemail while she’s waiting in the airport. Six years later, Rita’s over it (or so she says) but it’s still a shock when her mother surprises her by inviting him to a family lunch. Milan’s a hotshot real estate agent who’s having problems selling a very unique house, and her family thinks Rita’s eye for design will help sell it. Unwilling to let him see how much being around him still affects her, she goes all in on decorating the house – and on her current relationship with her boyfriend who won’t even introduce her to his parents. Rita’s bright idea? Her and her boyfriend will register for MyShaadi, the premier Desi dating app, and when they inevitably match, that’ll be Rita’s in with his parents. Except instead of her boyfriend, she matches with Milan.
“It’s a little broken down, sure, but isn’t it worth putting it back together? Giving it another chance? Restoring it to how it used to be?”
I move to the door, putting my hand on the knob. Twist, release. “Maybe,” I admit. “Or maybe it’s better not to pin your hopes on lost causes.”
I’ll get what I didn’t like out of the way first. Rita spends a good chunk of the beginning of the book with another guy. She keeps trying to convince herself that he’s almost perfect, but, yeah, no. And, yes, it’s that relationship that leads them both to register for MyShaadi and for Rita to reconsider her current and past relationships, but she hung in there way too long with that guy. Which, honestly, it sort of Rita’s M.O. at the beginning of the book: she’s treading water with her business, afraid of expanding out, afraid of rocking the boat too much with her boyfriend or with her family.
“I’m scared to be the one who cares more, who cares too much. I might have been a girl who waited, but he can’t know that a part of me is waiting still.”
I thought the romance between Rita and Milan was excellent. It’s very slow-burn, as it takes a while for them to develop any sort of trust between them. While it seems they’d both like to pretend they’re over it, it’s obvious that both of them are stilling hurting. There’s a lot of navel-gazing on Rita’s part about the problems they had the first time around (hello, communication) and her frustration with the fact that Milan seems to just want to pick up where they left off. But that was six years ago and they’re both (hopefully) different people. But there’s still enough history (and attraction) between them for them to give friendship a try, and later a relationship.
The secondary characters are fun as well. I loved Rita’s two dogs and their hilariously different personalities. Rita’s relationship with her family (especially her mom) plays a big part in the book, and I thought it was lovely how all their conflicts were worked out. Plus, Aji was hilarious! Rita’s friend Raj was also amazing.
Overall, while the book has lots of that second-chance tropey goodness, there’s enough uneven parts that I’d give this 3.5 stars. I’ll be keeping an eye to see where this author goes next!
Content notes: View Spoiler »depression, fatmisia, alcohol « Hide Spoiler