I received this book for free from Berkley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Published by Berkley on June 4th, 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.
I’ve been going through a reading slump lately and starting a book takes a lot more effort than I would like. When, I picked up Ayesha a couple days ago, I was really sad I couldn’t get into it so I put it down and continued binging Brooklyn Nine Nine. Because I had it for review though, I decided to pick it up again and push through. I ended up going to bed at 5:30 AM because I legitimately did not want to put Ayesha at Last down.
I first read P&P in 10th grade and watched the BBC adaptation alongside reading it. I thought the Colin Firth adaptation was the peak of P&P adaptations. Reading Ayesha at Last has made me completely reevaluate that opinion. This thoughtful, creative retelling really does bring its own charm to the OG story. I said this about Pride Prejudice and Other Flavors too but Ayesha At Last truly does go that extra mile to take those tropes and create something wonderful and new. You can see elements of Pride & Prejudice but you can also see a completely unique story that could one day be a classic too.
Ayesha and Khalid may have a lot in common but they are also opposites in many ways. Ayesha is confident and outspoken but isn’t really sure what she wants from her life. Khalid sort of knows what he wants from his life and is confident in his abilities but doesn’t know how to speak up for himself and also be true to himself.
After an awkward first meeting, they are pushed to work together on a conference that will help raise funds their mosque desperately needs to continue functioning. As they get to know each other better, they start reconsidering their misconceptions and slowly falling in love. I don’t know if I’d describe the romance as slow burn because they fall in love over a short period of time but it still felt just right?
“Your forgiveness for a kofta?”
Ayesha at Last is a Pride & Prejudice retelling so of course the romance is pretty central to the book but its a south asian P&P retelling so… yeah the MCs families play a huge role in the book. Ayesha at Last doesn’t just confront the misconceptions Khalid and Ayesha have about each other, it also confronts the misconceptions they have about their families. Whether it is Ayesha learning to let go a bit when it comes to her cousin to Khalid realizing his mother is not the perfect person he paints her to be. There are also good friendships and many amazing supporting characters overall.
I’ve wanted to read Ayesha since it came out in Canada over a year ago and the wait was honestly worth it. I really hope that P&P fans and romance readers in general will gather around this book and show it the love it deserves. I am so happy south asian P&P retelling are now a thing and I cannot wait to read what else Uzma Jallaludin has in store for us!
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