Aussie Book Review: Arranged to Love by Elizabeth Dunk

arranged Arranged to Love by Elizabeth Dunk

ebook

Review copy provided by publisher

Escape Publishing, February 2013

 Synopsis- All her life, Madhuri Singh has been sure she’ll make an arranged marriage with an Indian man. But when the opportunity arrives at the same time that a past lover returns to her life, Maddie finds herself torn between her culture and her desire.

All his life, Jack Faulkner has been obsessed with being the one his father chooses to take over the reins of Faulkner Publications. When it seems it’s finally within his grasp, he finds himself face to face with the one woman who can make him forget everything.

What will win out—the dreams they’ve always held for their futures, or the passion that even after seven years apart cannot be contained. Will they remain blinded to the truth—that they will only be happy if they can be together?

Review- Madhuri (Maddie) Singh has just started out in journalism when she falls for Jack Faulkner, the probable heir of the largest publishing company in Australia, Faulkner Publications. Working hard to pay back the dowry she spent on her studies, Maddie has always planned to marry an Indian man and for her prospective husband to be chosen by her parents. It’s clear that this is not a ‘forced’ marriage but one that is ‘arranged’ and Maddie respects and values her Indian heritage and traditions. But one night with Jack and she risks her whole future, her family’s reputation and her marriage prospects so she applies for a transfer and believes she has dodged the charms of Jack Faulkner once and for all. Until he turns up 7 years later at the Nowra Gazette as the head editor undertaking a ‘challenge’ to become his father’s heir. He’s in competition against his brother and sister who have headed up other papers across the state and Jack is determined to win.

He arrives the week she has applied for urgent leave to fly to India to meet an Indian man, Raja who her parents have chosen as a suitable husband. Maddie is a little surprised by the sudden desire for her parents to see her married but she agrees to the meeting. However, Jack comes along and denies her the leave as she is one of the best journalists at the paper and he needs her to help him win. This causes quite a kafuffle with her parents and the Chaudry’s (Raja’s family) who’ve arranged the match. With Maddie and Jack working together again their attraction is reignited and once again Maddie is tempted by Jack’s charms. Initially Jack is focussed on winning the challenge but the more time he spends with Maddie and understands her culture he realises that he also wants to win over the Indian beauty who has gotten under his skin.

I love reading about stories set in India or about the Indian culture and after visiting the country last year I saw just how diverse their culture is. So when I was asked to review Arranged to Love I just couldn’t turn it down. I was also really interested to read a contemporary romance by Nicole Murphy’s alter-ego, Elizabeth Dunk. Arranged to Love has an intriguing premise of a young, educated Indian-Australian woman who wishes to wed an Indian man via an arranged marriage, only to fall for an Australian man whom she believes she doesn’t have a future with. This aspect of the story, the struggles that Maddie faced in keeping her Indian values as well as living as an independent Western woman was quite a strong conflict in the story. Dunk succeeded in showing this conflict and initially provided two pictures of Maddie, one as the Indian woman in her personal life and one as the Western woman in her professional life and then eventually as one Maddie who incorporates both of these facets of herself.

When Maddie and Jack reunite, the gradual romantic development was also well set up. However, there are some aspects of the story that to me, felt weak. The beginning didn’t really work for me. 19 year old Maddie takes Jack home and forgets about her Indian values for one night and I just found this unbelievable. It was argued throughout the story that she was young and naïve, but I just didn’t believe that the feelings between the couple were really that strong. It wasn’t until they both head home after work and Jack hits on her that Maddie’s feelings for Jack are revealed. If it was hinted at earlier then it would make more sense to me why she would take that next step with him. But it felt like she just had so-so feelings for him and decided on a whim that she would sleep with him and then the next morning she remembered that her virginity was valued in an arranged marriage and decides she won’t do it again.

At times I found Maddie quite frustrating as a character because she seemed to make decisions quite quickly and it made her appear flippant, which really contrasted with the dedicated, rational journalist that she is presented as in her professional role. There’s an evening when Jack and Maddie who are 7 years older are reunited and she is adamant that she is going to be the pin-up respectable Indian woman and then moments later she is caught up in a passionate interlude with Jack. I just couldn’t connect with her emotionally because I didn’t really understand or believe some of the decisions she made.

When the arranged marriage to Raja falls through, the problems that arise with his father Mr Chaudry add another layer of conflict for Maddie who realises her father has made an agreement to marry her to this much older, creepy man. When Maddie decides to go to India to face him and become the pin-up woman for the Western world so that he won’t want to marry her it backfires and she is forced into an engagement with him. This was another aspect of the story that I found difficult to believe. Not so much the forced marriage or the situation, but the choices Maddie makes. Leaving Australia to go to India to face a powerful man who will stop at nothing to marry her didn’t sound like a very smart move. Then the strong, smart Maddie becomes quite passive and all but goes along with the engagement. I understand she wanted to protect her father but I doubt legalities of the contract would’ve stood in Australia. A father cannot sign a contract to marry off his adult daughter without her consent in Australia. Why wouldn’t Maddie as an educated woman working in the media have sought out legal advice? Why would she go to India where the contract could possibly be enforced? These technicalities were eluded to later in the story when the conflict is being resolved but it seemed a little late for Maddie to consider it at this stage. I found this part of the story quite frustrating because I was thinking, there’s no way that would happen here. I am well aware that arranged marriages take place in Australia, I’ve worked with many young women who have had both good and bad experiences in these situations and I also have an understanding on Australia’s stance on forced marriages and young brides being sent overseas. And though I have no qualms with the idea of arranged marriages as long as both parties have consented and aren’t under duress it’s not something that I would want for myself. So it’s not so much the situation that Maddie found herself in, but the decisions she makes regarding this. I understand that reputation and looking after one’s parents is important in the Indian culture but I couldn’t believe that a 26 year old Indian-Australian woman would go through with this marriage… especially when the obvious (and approved by her parents) alternative was to marry someone she actually loved who was just as powerful and wealthy, Jack Faulkner.

Anyway, I’ll stop my ramblings. Obviously there were parts of the story I found frustrating and difficult to believe, but there was also a lot about the story that I really enjoyed and I couldn’t have been happier when Maddie and Jack resolved their differences in the end. Arranged to Love has all the elements of a contemporary love story and if you can overlook the details I struggled with then you’ll find it’s a pleasant read.

Overall Rating

3/5

“It was okay”

Arranged to Love can be purchased from Escape Publishing and other leading ebook retailers

Top 10 Books to Read When You Travel to India

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

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