During the OLA Super Conference this year, I was lucky enough to receive a signed ARC copy of The Chai Factor by Farah Heron. The cover definitely attracted me and I was doubly sold when I learned the story was a romantic comedy written by a Canadian author living in Toronto.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.
As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.
This novel was perfect for my mood: a light-hearted story that made me smile; and a story that describes a protagonist that finds love unexpectedly.
Amira is a determined young woman who is very sure of what she wants in life and in love. She reminds me of so many young women who want to put themselves first and are not in a rush to marry. She wants to focus on her studies in order to graduate with her Masters; she wants to advance in her work; and she wants a man who is of the same culture as she. But life does not always work out the way that you want it to – as Amira soon finds out.
What I enjoyed about this story is that it does not only focus on the love aspect of Amira’s story. We read, as well, about her relationship with her mother and grandmother; and we learn a bit about her work and her relationship with an admired colleague. During the story, Amira comes to some realisations about her life – realisations which help her accept the changes that could happen to her. The Chai Factor, however, is not a story in which the man saves the day. Instead, it is a story about a woman’s personal growth which eventually leads to her accepting that her life can embrace some changes (and one of those changes happens to be a relationship).
As I was reading, I caught a hint of the Pride and Prejudice scenario – though this book is not a retelling of Austen’s classic – in the description of Amira. She is proud of who she is – proud of her culture, her brown skin, and what she has achieved in her life thus far. She also makes certain assumptions about Duncan (a white musician), assumptions which indicate her prejudice. Slowly her prejudices are shown for what they are and it is this clarity which helps her develop as a character.
While reading Farah Heron’s novel, I embraced the description of a culture that is not well-known by me. Hints of this culture are subtly woven into the fabric of the novel and added another dimension to the story for me. The story is set in Toronto and I smiled at any venue mentioned as I could see exactly where it is in my mind’s eye.
I enjoyed reading Heron’s debut novel. It is a relaxing read that depicts the story of opposites attracting – opposites not only in personality, but also in culture.
I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019
(This novel was the 44th in my book pledge for 2019)