In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian-American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.
High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency.
While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….
Lillie Vale is the author of books for both teens and adults, including Wrapped with a Beau, The Decoy Girlfriend, Beauty and the Besharam, The Shaadi Set-Up and Small Town Hearts, an American Library Association’s 2020 Rainbow Books List selection. She writes about secrets and yearning, complicated and ambitious girls who know what they want, the places we call home and people we find our way back to, and the magic we make. Born in Mumbai, she grew up in Mississippi, Texas, and North Dakota, and now lives in an Indiana college town. Find her on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine, or visit her website lillielabyrinth.com.
HI, HELLO, this is my adult romantic comedy debut! 💍 THE SHAADI SET-UP (formerly THE SHAADI SCAM) is a love letter to the places we call home and the people we find our way back to, and I had so much fun writing this second-chance romcom!
Here's a bit about what you can expect:
💔 exes to lovers 👩❤️💋👨 forced proximity (!) ⛈ shelter from a storm 🔥 slow burn 🛠 girls good with tools 🐶 puppy cuteness and shenanigans 🍆 sexy banter and sex positivity 🥺 y e a r n i n g 🌊 island romance 🏠 house flipping 🚪"closed door" sex scene 🍳 foodiness 💍 subverting the meddlesome matchmaking trope!
I’m also sharing my Twitter thread here because I’ve seen some diminishing comments about Raj, Rita’s BFF, a character personal to me. Not everyone who uses multiple pronouns cycles through them all within a couple of months. If Raj’s pronouns are she/her, it’s because she’s outwardly presenting that way. Which is on-page how Raj requested her friends to take their cue, along with alternating between Rajvee (feminine) and Raj (masculine). The characters in the book are respecting her wishes. I hope we can all do the same. https://twitter.com/LillieLabyrinth/s...
I finished this book back in September and I am writing my review only now so I apologize it's not as detailed as I promised it would be.
I got The Shaadi Set-Up via Netgalley when it was first published and I was so excited to read it, but as you can probably assume, life got in a way and it had to go on hold until now when I finally have more time to read and review (and go through all of my review copies).
I will be honest, as time passed I wasn't as excited to dive into the story, but once I started reading I was swept away by how fun and good it was. I had such an enjoyable time reading this novel. This was a romance comedy in all it's glory and I wouldn't be surprised to see Netflix movie based on it. It would be a good movie, let me tell you that!
The Shaadi Set-Up features love triangle and maybe it was obvious how it would resolve, but still all the scenes with "the wrong guy" were pleasure to read and some of my favourite scenes were because of him.
This romance has miscommunication trope, so I get why some readers would be bothered by it. I personally didn't mind it.
I also want to state that this is own voices story and represents Indian culture.
Six years ago Milan broke Rita’s heart when he left her stranded at an airport. Now, their parents have pushed them to go into business together on a project to sell a house. Rita is not so sure about letting Milan back into her life, and to prove her point she signs up for a dating app with her boyfriend Neil to prove they are perfect for each other. Except Rita matches with her ex instead…
You ever read a book you expected to hate but ended up really enjoying? The Shaadi Set-Up is not a book I would normally pick up for myself (mostly because I don’t like the cover) but I received it in a book subscription box and wanted to give it a chance. And I read the first 100 pages in one sitting, it was so compelling and fun! I’m surprised by how many low ratings I see for this book because I thought it was a solid, enjoyable second chance romance. I think Lillie Vale is an excellent writer and would love to read more romances by her in the future.
This was my first book by the author and I enjoyed it! The cover is absolutely stunning, and is ultimately the reason I one-clicked this title via NetGalley without so much as reading the synopsis. Good thing it ended up being my kind of story. 😉 Personally, I found the elements of Rita's interactions and conflicts with her family and growth as a woman more engaging than the actual romance in the book, maybe because it felt clear from the beginning every step of the way what would happen and which guy she would pick. I don't really feel like I can call it a love triangle, because again, it's clear from page one from the FMC's signals which man she will end up with, but the romance was still enjoyable as well. If you like your romance closed door with a little sizzle, give this one a try!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
3.5 stars! The dogs totally stole the show for me lol.
This a South Asian second chance romance between high school sweethearts! Rita is currently in a relationship with a seemingly good guy and she believes that he's the perfect one for her. Her mom still tries to set her up with her high school ex though, so to prove that she’s totally over him and very much in love with her current boyfriend, she signs themselves up for a dating/compatibility website. Unfortunately, she actually gets matched up with her ex-boyfriend and high school sweetheart, Milan. Rita and Milan end up working together when Milan is having trouble selling a house – Rita is a furniture/interior designer so she helps him spruce up this house to sell.
The romance is super cute and I'm always a sucker for fictional (and real) dogs. I could feel the longing between these two, especially from Milan! You could tell how much regret there still is and how much they still want each other. I enjoyed the romance, though it wasn’t perfect – if you're not a fan of the miscommunication trope (the reason for their break up years ago was honestly kind of dumb) you'll probably struggle a bit with this. But I had so much fun with the present day romance that I didn’t mind it that much!
I was so excited for THE SHADDI SET-UP when I first heard about it and, though it started interesting, though not very strong, I still managed to have pretty high hopes.
Hopes that were rather quickly, and dramatically, dashed.
I don't really know how this crashed so quickly for me but nothing really fit? We are meant to believe our MC is interested enough in her boyfriend to come up with this convoluted scheme to pair up on a Desi marriage site, in order to get their parents to -- independently, not as a couple -- stop hassling them to marry but we're repeatedly shown she barely tolerates the guy she's with. So, what gives? Why bother? Why do we spend 50% of the book cycling through this process, long after we are confronted with the long-ago love who broke her heart and she's obviously going to end up with?
That drama aside, I just found the MC -- and the idiot boyfriend -- pretty insufferable, annoying, and just not likeable; which made sense for the boyfriend but less so for the MC. The best friend seemed delightfully quirky but has so little page time, and later just acts too weird when she does pop up, that it doesn't work as a fun distraction from the rest.
Of course, when we finally get all the on-page time between the MC and her ex, we drag out any kind of closure for ages, and then when things are explained it's just.. really? Is that it? Which, is at least sorta addressed on-page, but overall it's just not quite satisfying.
This is also right around the time that the ARC, which has the fairly common formatting weirdness, started getting really weird. Scenes seemed to jump around, feel oddly placed, details didn't line up, and as we started to come to the big resolution moment, nothing seemed to jive properly. Whether that's a combination of rushing the scene and just a rough draft, I don't know. But it was very jarring.
I found in general some dialogue to be strange, too; exchanges where instead of exposition all the explanation was done in dialogue even though the conversation didn't call for it. In a similar vein, this started out with some very adult stuff on page, which surprised me because it was like.. chapter two, maybe? I could be wrong, and then it disappears completely except for random tingles, a bunch of fade to black, and then random references to sexual acts that were performed. This felt strange and inconsistent and like the author themselves didn't know how spicy to make this.
This could've been so fun but no fun was had. For those who might want to pick it up, this'll what you'll find : a second-chance romance (admittedly, not my favourite), but make it Desi, some forced proximity and slowburn, and enough house renovating and flipping and designing and thrifting to make you nostalgic for saturday afternoon binges of Trading Spaces and Love It or List It (or maybe these shows still exist, I don't know, I don't have cable); but honestly this inevitably just felt like a bunch of tropes thrown together without actually considering how all the pieces fit or how the characters fit into those pieces to make the story, the history, the angst, and the reunion, actually work.
I believe this is the author's debut, or adult debut at least, so I imagine a lot of my issues could just be growing pains, but I didn't come out of this with enough enjoyment to try the author again, sadly.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
11.03.2021 i know I'm super late but that cover eeep, look at those dogs! and the angsty vibes are real. 15.07.2020 i have a soft spot for matchmaking stuff hehe and anything lillie vale writes is on my list but ALSO I GET HAPPY SEEING DESI WORDS IN TITLES!
I was really excited to read The Shaadi Set-Up because, duh, Indian girl here! But the FMC really gave me not like other girls vibe from the very first paragraph with a hatred for every other female character so far introduced.
"Most girls would try to squeeze in a morning cuddle with their hunky boyfriends as soon as the alarm goes off, but I launched out of bed this morning before mine could hit snooze."
Her current boyfriend's mom calls him everyday in the morning and she just can't handle it. So she goes alone to this yard sale or whatever in the morning
"But if he just reject the way he used to, I wouldn't be out here at the asscrack of the morning, wincing at the sheer audacity of the sun streaming directly into my eyeballs, despite my sunglasses"
Oh don't even get me started on her distaste for two neighbors who are Instagram famous. This is all from the FIRST TWO PAGES of the book. Such an annoying and unnecessarily angry character. Definitely unlikable and from what I've seen from other reviews, the first boyfriend was also pretty much unlikeable and their relationship didn't make any sense whatsoever. So why this unnecessary drama?
This is my very first book by Lillie Vale! While I enjoyed the premise of The Shaadi Set-Up, there were a couple of elements that I didn't enjoy including the use of the miscommunication trope as well as an unnecessary love triangle. 3.5 Stars
The Shaadi Set-Up focuses primarily on Rita who is attempting to make things work with her boyfriend by getting them to match on a Desi dating website. In doing so, the two won't feel the pressure from their parents regarding their relationship. At the same time, Rita is faced with dealing with her high school/college sweetheart who seemingly abandoned her and broke up with her without just cause/reason. There were some really interesting elements of this book including the cultural explorations of the dating website as well as intricate conversations regarding arranged marriages and familial expectations. I absolutely adored the inclusion of home renovations/real estate because it served as common element that brought Rita and Milan together. The two characters have great chemistry and it's clear why their relationship worked so well in the past. Nevertheless, there were a few elements included in this book that prohibited me from giving it higher than a 3.5.
Quite frankly, I thought that the inclusion of the love triangle was unnecessary. Readers are led to believe that Neil and Rita have a certain relationship that doesn't really exist. When I began to realize that, I began to feel as though there really wasn't a reason for Neil or the relationship between Rita and Neil to exist. I'm also not a huge fan of the miscommunication trope, so when Rita and Milan finally begin to interact with each other and attempt to figure out what went wrong with their relationship, I instantaneously became disengaged. There relationship literally ends over something that could have been solved with 1 or 2 sentences. This doesn't detract from the chemistry the two shared; however, I just couldn't get over the reason why the ended up not speaking to each other for 6 years. Also, I think that the way in which they attempted to reconcile their relationship brought out a certain level of immaturity in Milan. I really enjoyed him overall, but when it came to rebuilding their relationship, I became frustrated with him and felt as though Rita let him get off a little to easily.
Overall, this was a solid romance book. I did enjoy the characters and a host of other elements; however, I think that books that have the miscommunication trope are books that I don't really enjoy.
Honestly: a perfect book. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I love Rita so much - she's relatable and cool and just plain fun! I love the descriptions of her job and her collaborations with Milan, her love for food (omg SO MUCH FOOD PORN IN THIS BOOK i was constantly hungry I want to try every dish multiple times), her determination to live her life and be happy. My two favorite things were: 1) the prose. I think I laughed at every sentence? Lillie Vale is just such a talented, engaging storyteller. 2) the second chance relationship with Milan. I'm a fan of second chances, and this was one of my favorite executions ever. I especially appreciated how what went down between Rita and Milan was revealed in layers, slowly showing both parties reasoning. I actually had a "Wow Milan, you a-hole" moment towards the beginning, but the more I learned about him the more I was like "Noooo I'm sorry I love you and understand you!!" I just LOVE IT when authors make me feel for the characters so much! Also 3) (I know I said 2... I can't count) the secondary characters. The friends, the families... I just loved everyone. The relationship between Rita and her mom/her mom and dad's marriage, and the way it evolved, was so poignant. (Also: AJI <3) In short: perfect book, everyone should read it, cannot wait to buy a copy, I'm going to buy the author's YA book bc I NEED MOAR.
(ALSO OMG I LOVED THE PUPPIES SO MUCH TOO FREDDIE 4EVAH)
I was trying to pinpoint what my ish was with this book, and I came to the conclusion that it made my bones feel creaky.
Though the characters were in their late twenties, they often read like they were still their 15 to 20-year-old selves, from their emotional expression to their decision making. Rita and Milan's original conflict—and their ongoing response to it six years later—were particularly "That's...it? Really?" Granted I am no longer in my late twenties so maybe I am a know-nothing hag (so the kids on r/SkincareAddiction tell me), but so many beats of this felt like a YA novel. This is Lillie Vale's adult debut, and she has previously written YA, so I am unsurprised there were some YA barnacles clinging to the side of the boat.
Vale also doesn't seem sure about what the spice level of this book should be. There are plenty of adult content cues early on that would lead one to believe there would be on-page sex, but it's fade-to-black (which is strangely followed by a recap the next day peppered with explicit details... very odd approach). Edit: in her review from author Vale does state up front it's closed door in her emoji-bulleted list of what to expect from the book, so there's that. But I would still argue that there are some confused signals in the text, and maintain that it is strange to slam the door only to give a play-by-play in the next scene about all the positions the characters utilized the night before.
Semi-related question: how late in an adult contemporary romance novel is it acceptable to have the first kiss? Because I don't think it's the 79% mark unless the tension is absolutely exquisite (narrator: it was not). This isn't a 90-minute romcom from 2002 where the couple smooches as "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" swells right before the credits start to roll. If I am reading adult contemporary, the arm grazes and tender eyefucks better be goddamn electrifying if you're going to burn that slowly (narrator: they were not).
And sigh. There were a bunch of other things. The book spends way too much time on Rita's soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, Neil, when it's abundantly clear that she barely tolerates him. There's a few too many Author is Extremely Online tells e.g. "shipping" as a verb said out loud in a conversation unrelated to naval activity, comparing characters to other fictional characters or actors, writing out all the emojis in a text conversation (and yes, this pet peeve is perhaps hypocritical of me given the content of my reviews but PUBLISHED FICTION IS DIFFERENT THAN MY GARBAGE REVIEWS). Vale is a huge fan of multi-hyphenate adjectives, to the point it was distracting (I started highlighting them on my e-reader. There are ten pages worth of highlights. Ten. My favourites: "Instagram-wellness-peddler-pretty-at-eight-a.m. moms" and "glossy black hair untouched by her cosmic Violently-Violet-#9-to-hot-pink-ends ombré").
That's not to say there was nothing of value here. The sense of history between Rita and Milan is vivid and immersive. Often books focused on tropes like friends-to-lovers and second chance rely on backstory to do the heavy lifting but don't put the work in to make the backstory feel enriching and relevant to the story in the present. This did. There was lovely specificity in terms of the detail.
One of my gut check questions when on the fence between a two or a three-star rating is: "Was there enough here to encourage me to pick up another book by this author?" And the answer in this case is actually yes. Overall I did like a lot of things about Vale's writing style, even if there were a lot of things to pick at. I would probably enjoy another (more ruthlessly edited) book from her. So this is three stars, but a weak three. Three point zero on the dot.
And honestly, this book deserves the round up just for featuring a bistro named Little Shop of Hors D'Oeuvres.
The Shaadi Set-Up was one of my most anticipated reads. I mean, any book that features brown characters falling in love is automatically at the top of my list! Plus, there are DOGS!! While there’s a sweet second chance romance here, it was the main character and her story arc that stole the show for me. I am unofficially naming myself the president of the Rita Chitniss fan club.
WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT I’m a big fan of unapologetic main characters who know exactly what they want, so it was a no-brainer that I would immediately fall for Rita. At the start of The Shaadi Set-Up, she’s in a casual relationship with Neil, the son of a family that her parents have beef with. Neil is a mommy’s boy and wants to make things more official and Rita decidedly does not want that. When she realizes that her mother is attempting to reconcile her and her old relationship with Milan, she and Neil come up with a plan to match with each other on a desi dating website, MyShaadi.com. Only Rita ends up matching with the man she actively wants to avoid. Bring in a business venture and Milan and Rita are suddenly forced to interact, re-examine their budding feelings for each other, and try to understand what went wrong in their relationship.
WHY RITA WAS MY FAVORITE For most of The Shaadi Set-Up, Rita is understandably guarded with her feelings. It’s obvious that her break up with Milan affected her on a deep level. This whole book is really just about her learning that maybe opening up her heart is not such a terrible idea. She’s very fiercely independent and knows exactly what she wants out of her life in departments other than the romance department. This might be an odd observation, but I liked that Rita was so sexual. It’s almost taboo in some brown communities to embrace your more sexual side, so it was refreshing to see Rita being so unashamed. Hence, why I liked her so much as a character.
She’s also not afraid to put her family in place when they get overly meddlesome. I respected that about her. Rita’s furniture refurbishment business is a big part of her personality and I was entirely fascinated by her whole career. In desi communities, you are typically encouraged to go down certain “prestigious” career paths. So, I loved that Lillie Vale showed something different here with Rita. Her job was a big source of joy for her and I thought her passion came through really well throughout the book.
MILAN AND THE SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE For me, Milan never quite lived up to Rita. Don’t get me wrong, he was a decent character and his connection with Rita was obvious. That being said, Rita completely stole the show for me so I didn’t particularly find Milan memorable – I’m already struggling to talk about him. It was also hard at times for me to understand his motivations and where he was coming from. I think The Shaadi Set-Up could have benefitted from his POV.
The romance still worked for me though because it’s a trope I love so much. I think the author handles Rita’s hesitancy especially well, so the two had to really work on their friendship first before they gave in to their attraction. The growth in their relationship felt realistic to me.
Also, I have to mention how much I appreciated that Neil wasn’t an a-hole. Their breakup scene was handled with a lot of care and maturity.
All in all, The Shaadi Set-Up was a good romance debut from Lillie Vale. I look forward to reading more romance from her!
Content notes: tense family relationships
Relationship disclosure: Lillie Vale and I are mutuals on social media
Gah!! The Shaadi Set-Up was a fun and addicting read. As a South Asian, I am low key obsessed with stories that incorporate Indian/Eastern culture and how an author will intertwine that with modern day Westernized romance. I LOVED the idea of Rita and Milan finding their way back to each other again and the hijinks and drama that occurred in this second chance romcom.
This was a fun and quirky romance. There was a definite slow burn feel. While I loved the idea of Rita and Milan getting their second chance, I couldn't really feel their connection. It felt somewhat rushed and when it came time to delve deep, it was kind of brushed off. I did enjoy the banter and the feels however. Overall, this was a solid debut but I hoped to see and feel more romance in this author's books in the future. 4 stars! ~Ratula
I loved this book. Everything was so well done, the tension, the yearning, the angst! It is definitely one of my favorite romances I read this year. The Indian rep was also well-written. If you're looking for an entertaining second-chance romance, give this one a try!
Content/ Trigger Warnings- Sexual content, Toxic relationship, Alcohol, Panic attacks/disorders
Note- I have tried to include all the content warnings that I noticed, but there is no guarantee that I haven’t missed something.
DISCLAIMER-All opinions on books I’ve read and reviewed are my own, and are with no intention to offend anyone. If you feel offended by my reviews, let me know how I can fix it.
How I Rate- 1 star- Hardly liked anything/was disappointed 2 star- Had potential but did not deliver/was disappointed 3 stars- Was ok but could have been better/was average/Enjoyed a lot but something was missing 4 stars- Loved a lot but something was missing 5 stars- Loved it/new favourite
3.5 stars This book has it's issues but it's pretty cute and emotional in some parts. I didn't like the pacing sometimes and the writing felt glossed over for scenes. The heroine also does a lot of emotional cheating on her current boyfriend for her ex boyfriend. So yeah. But overall, a good romance.
neil’s annoying and all that yes yes but the main girl? plain unlikable. just. plain unlikable
the romance wasnt all that, milans fine, if not a lil boring, (i thought neil has more flavor than the main hero lmao so i never skim the h & his interactions, even if it was just them fighting… nay, especially bcs theyre fighting. so entertaining) i was too annoyed by the h to look deeper into the romance
personally stopped @ 60%
but would still rec this to ppl. the writing’s enjoyable, its the characters j had problems with
The Shaadi Set-up is a delightful contemporary romance featuring a multifaceted heroine and an engaging hero, a beautiful setting, and a delightful resolution. It is an all-around terrific book but what really pushed it over the top for me was the description of masala mac and cheese. How could I not love a book that put this meal in my brain where it lives to this day?
It is a testament to the skill of author Lillie Vale that mac and cheese is not the only reason I highly recommend this book.
Our heroine, Rita Chitness, is in her mid-twenties and making a career restoring furniture. She is very much over her high school sweetheart, Milan Rao. So over him that she doesn’t bat an eye when her mother tricks her into having lunch with him six years after he broke her heart and pushes her into helping Milan stage a house he needs to sell. (That is actually not true. She does more than bat an eye, she slams a door in his face.) Good thing she has a (somewhat) great relationship with her boyfriend, Neil.
In order to get her matchmaking mother off her back and Neil’s mother off of his, Rita sets up an account on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site. She engineers her profile so there is no way she will match with anyone other than Neil.
Except it isn’t his profile that pops up as her match. It’s Milan’s.
The second-chance romance that builds between Rita and Milan is a slow burn, thoughtful exploration of how much we change in the space between adolescence and adulthood. Rita and Milan are not the same people they were six years ago – except for when they are.
I adored Rita. There is real depth to her character, a woman who insists on pursuing a risky career and is honest enough to admit her ambivalence about her professional life. She has a genuine, wry sense of humor that works especially well when she’s dealing with her family and their expectations. Readers will love the Desi representation in this romance and Vale’s engaging take on the pressures of today’s second-generation Indian community to both appease and break away from their parents and grand-parents. Which traditions do you honor and which do you let slowly fade?
What set The Shaadi Set-Up apart for me is the richness of Vale’s prose when she brings you into a scene. Whether it is describing the delicious food that appears in every other chapter (yes, my mouth literally watered more than one time during this book), making you feel the ocean breeze on the island where Milan and Rita are working to rehab a beautiful old house, or in the colorful depictions of the art Rita makes, Vale’s writing shines.
The Shaadi Set-Up is a slow-burn romance with exes who find themselves meeting after 6 years. Now they are going to work together! closed quarters! forced proximity! Things are about to be INTERESTING.
The beginning of The Shaadi Set-Up caught my attention really quickly. It was so easy to get lost in the story! I loved how it started and how it introduced all the characters. Especially Milan's introduction. That scene was so funny and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The middle and ending became a little bit wobbly, and by the end, I felt like it didn't really deliver completely for me.
It had its cute moments FOR SURE. The doggies, the main characters Rita and Milan (who constantly blushes!!!! A CUTIE), Rita's family were a big plus, and the flipping houses/interior design business part of the book definitely made it an enjoyable read. But some things were missing for me.
Solid and entertaining, but I kept trying to figure out how this was New Bern, NC, because there were islands and stuff nearby and a relatively short ferry journey?
Second chance romances are always hard to do right, and I just don't know that this one nailed it, because these two had a lot of baggage to get over and a fuckton of miscommunication that needed to be straightened out. And they became landlords—renting out their dream home in order to afford living in it later down the road after flipping it to perfection and...okay, sure I guess?
I dunno. It was entertaining and I liked Rita's voice, but Milan was boring and their romance was kinda meh overall.
This is a gorgeous, charming love story about re-discovering someone you used to love and getting to know them again as the person they've grown into. I am obsessed with exes-to-rivals-to-lovers, so it's no wonder I'm obsessed with this book!
Rita and Milan used to be soulmates until a painful break-up. Years later, Rita is making her career dreams come true, being a dog-mom to the adorable Harrie and Freddie (Freddie has my whole heart), and dating...kind of successfully? Successful from the outside looking in? The truth is, she's not in the habit of feeling sparks, which is a problem when her loving but also very insistent family pushes her to get serious and settle down with someone.
Okay, not just someone...her ex, Milan, who gets shoved back into her orbit in all his grown-up, sexy glory, challenging the peace and stability Rita's made for herself.
This book is full of everything I love: hijinks, an emotionally mature MC, sex positivity, heat, delicious food, cozy spaces you never want to leave, and a LI who's challenging, full of banter, and still possesses a heart of gold.
One of my absolute favorite romance reads of all time.
Admittedly, I don't read many rom-coms, they aren't usually my thing, but I'm so glad I got to read an arc of this one. I was pleasantly surprised! This second-chance romance has well defined characters, two amazing dogs which totally hold their own, and all kinds of amazing food I now want to try. The writing is full of voice and I couldn't love it more with the house flipping aspect. Real estate and upcycled items/interior design smashed together? Umm yes. This is literally the icing on the cake, it's like HGTV meets Hallmark second-chance romance, if Hallmark was way sexier and with way more depth. Kudos to Vale for sucking me into a genre that isn't usually my first choice!
The setting was so wholesome and pastoral. I loved the complicated relationship between Rita and Milan. I loved their humor and their banter and I adored Rita's narration. This has Hallmark charm for a more refined, mature, contemporary age. Loved this!!
This adult rom-com had the perfect amount of heat and sweetness. I loved the second-chance romance aspect, the forced proximity, the fact that a character gets wet in the rain and has to strip. It was so very well done. But also, these layered characters are three-dimensional, feel so real and have true depth.
The voice, the setting, the dogs, the food, and the details about interior design and wood working... I just loved all of it. It was a beautiful read that was hard to put down—and yes, I shushed my children away more than a few times so I could keep turning the pages, but don't judge me.
Side note: I loved Small Town Hearts, also by Vale, and cannot wait for more of her stories to come!
Lillie's writing is so lush. Her worldbuilding, descriptions, and internalizations were on point. I loved reading the specifics of interior design and all the food dishes. And I enjoyed all the side characters. This story felt real and full of heart, just like her YA 'Small Town Hearts'. I adored 'The Shaadi Set-Up' and look forward to reading Lillie's future books <3 Rita and Milan have the kind of friendship and relationship that I envy. I loved every minute with them and their second-chance romance. & I'm so glad Lillie included an epilogue! PS: someone find me a French bulldog like Freddie, please and thank you.