Book Review

The Marriage Game

The Marriage Game

  • Author: Sara Desai
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: June 9, 2020
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • Series: Marriage Game #1

CONTENT WARNING: domestic violence, gaslighting, mention of alcoholism (off-page)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he’s forced to share his space with the owner’s beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

This is one of those amazing series where each book works well as a standalone, yet they all tie together in a cohesive way. I started with book 2, then read book 3, and finally my library hold came in for book 1. However, reading them out of order gave me a chance to meet and fall in love with the side characters who are featured in other books. I’ve listened to all 3 as audiobooks, and it was such a great experience. I loved Soneela Nankani’s narration, especially the lyrical and beautiful accents used for certain characters.

Layla is a quirky and fiercely independent woman trying to rebuild her life after a massive fiasco in New York. She decides to uproot her life and return home to San Francisco, since as she says, when you’ve hit rock bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. I love her quick wit and sunshiny nature, which features prominently in this story. But it’s clear that she’s kind of a hot mess, although she did manage to pull herself back together in this story.

Sam is struggling with guilt over a past occurrence, and working hard to prove himself worthy in all areas of his life. He’s the grumpy character, and I loved the sunshine/grumpy trope so much that I found myself wondering why I don’t read more romances with this trope! He’s snarky and hilarious, and meets Layla’s witty banter at every opportunity.

Even though both characters are dealing with major issues (family health problems, family dynamics, guilt, and career concerns), the story still manages to remain a fun and hilarious read. As the characters reluctantly fight over a single office, they create a wager and go through a list of potential matches for Layla. The sheer amount of ridiculous men that the two of them encounter is hilarious, as well as how each of these men act and the responses of Layla and Sam to them. It’s clear that they’re meant to be together, and the anticipation was KILLING ME!

I loved everything about this story—from the weight of the past, family responsibilities, and worrying about the future—and found it incredibly relatable despite how different the character experiences were from my own. I was able to view Desi family dynamics and social expectations in a way that felt firsthand, and loved how they all worked, as well as the way that people with disabilities are represented in the story. The wide range of side characters were all so vividly created and fun, making this one of my new favorite series. I’ve also added on a new favorite author to my list, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series, and can’t wait for Desai to release another book. This even made me cry happy tears at the end, which rarely happens to me. 

What are some good sunshine/grumpy romances to pick up next?

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