The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli may be described as a multicultural romance, but it’s the protagonist’s meddling but well-meaning grandmother who will steal your heart by the end of this book.
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it–or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina’s side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she’s ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn’t know won’t hurt her…
As Raina’s life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother’s dreams.
The Matchmaker’s List was not exactly the light-hearted rom-com I had been anticipating based on the publisher’s synopsis. While it certainly had plenty of light, humorous moments — and Raina was, ultimately, looking for love — the focus on the book had a lot more to do with Raina figuring herself out, both what she really wants out of life, and how she fits into her Indian-immigrant community.
Raina’s a people-pleaser, and there’s no one she wants to please more than her grandmother — but as a result, Raina suffers for it. Hung up on an old ex-boyfriend (who isn’t exactly terrible, but clearly doesn’t have plans of taking their relationship any further, despite Raina’s hopes and desires), Raina lets her grandmother believe she’s a lesbian for the sake of avoiding further blind dates with prospective husbands.
Raina realizes almost immediately that this is a huge mistake, for several reasons — not the least of which is how incredibly insensitive and insulting it is to the LGBTQ+ community. (That said, major points to her grandma, who turns out to be the most sweetly supportive and progressive Indian-immigrant grandmother you could possibly imagine. My heart soars for Nani!) This disastrous decision of Raina’s spills out into the rest of her life, as the rumors spread and have repercussions beyond just avoiding a few blind dates.
I’ve seen some readers mention walking away from this book after hearing about this plot point. And while part of me wonders if the story could have been made stronger without it, the problematic nature of Raina pretending to be a lesbian IS fully addressed within the text. It’s honestly a major part of the plot of the second half of the book, as Raina faces surprising consequences for her deception.
Having expected a true rom-com, I’d been hoping for a little more interaction between Raina and her potential paramour (and more romance in general), but this was still a lovely story about finding love in unexpected ways, told through an authentic own voices narrative. The Matchmakers List is in stores now.