(Full disclosure: Links to specific books are affiliate links, which earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you, should you choose to purchase. I received a free audiobook file of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review).
From its cover, Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words looks like your typical romantic comedy, boy meets girl and they dance under the cartoon stars. And yes, this is a story about romantic love, but one that grapples with the complicated reality that love isn’t just about the one you’re with in a romantic sense.
Kiran had a sister, once. But because her sister fell in love and married outside her family’s cast in their Indian village, her parents made the decision to cut Kirti out of their lives forever. Kiran vowed she would stay the course and fall in love only with the right sort of man, so her parents would never have to lose their second daughter, too.
Nash, on the other hand, hasn’t had much of a family at all. His father left when he was young, and his mother struggled with addiction which eventually took her life. He doesn’t exactly trust love to stick around, so he isn’t quite looking for it when it shows up.
Theirs is a slow burn love story, both fighting the obstacles that leave them questioning whether they can truly open up to someone else.
I’ll admit, there were times when I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this book. For a romance, it doesn’t quite fit the usual mold, focusing a great deal on other aspects of each character’s lives outside of their love story.
There’s also the fact that I don’t love a dual perspective romance, and that I didn’t personally like the accent the narrator used for Nash’s chapters. This left me struggling to get into the book at first.
But as I settled into the understanding that this book wasn’t just about a meet cute and romantic love, but love in all its forms, I began to appreciate what Sharma has crafted in this book.
Kiran has so much love in her life before she meets Nash, between her parents back in India and the self-titled Chai Masala Club, her group of friends. Nash is an addition to her life, one that she is tempted and terrified by because of her family’s history. She struggles to know whether her life will allow her to keep all these forms of love together at once, given that Nash so clearly doesn’t fit her parents’ expectations for her future partner.
Even though he lacks a traditional family structure, Nash too is content with his life when he meets Kiran. He has a loving aunt, a fulfilling career, and a found family in his friend Brandon and his family.
I enjoyed seeing these two real, full human beings who happen to be the same age that I am now (one year short of the big 3–0), find love and ask themselves what they’re willing to do to keep it.
The people in their lives weren’t just side characters there to serve the plot, but were real, fleshed out presences in their own right. We see them struggle, give conflicting advice, and change their minds right along with our main characters.
This makes it all the more interesting to note that this book is subtitled on Goodreads as “Chai Masala Club #1,” suggesting we’ll be revisiting this cast of characters again soon.
The ending did feel a little fast for me, particularly since the middle section of the book seemed a bit long and dragged out. In all, however, this was a cute love story with some serious, real-life stakes thrown in the mix. Highly recommend to readers who enjoy a less predictable love story, where characters have more at stake than simply whether they will or they won’t by the end.
Thanks so much for reading and supporting Your Book Friend! If you want to stay up to date, give us a follow here, on Medium, and/or on Instagram. If you’re not a Medium member yet but would like to join, you can support me and YBF by signing up here.
Feeling extra generous? Consider supporting my book (and iced caramel latte) buying habit by throwing a tip my way via Buy Me a Coffee.