Ayesha At Last// A Spectacular Book Not To Be Ignored

04 April 2019

Published: 4th April 2019 (UK)
Source: Netgalley (but you know I’m buying it)
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
My Rating:
A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn't want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid… How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?

As for Khalid, he's happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can't he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They're far too different to be a good match, surely…
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I have been in somewhat of a reading (and blogging) slump of late and had put off reading any arcs until I tackled that issue.

I'm an idiot.

If I’d decided to read my arcs a little sooner maybe I have would have discovered this fantastic read and kicked my reading into gear (or descended into another slump since there is certainly the potential for the with a read as awesome as this one). Sometimes you come across a book so good you want to slap people around the face with it to force them to read and this is one such book.

I was hesitant but intrigued about this one I first saw it. Retellings of Pride and Prejudice always have alarm bells ringing for me as I adore the book and it has a special place in my heart for me as my nan is the one who introduced me to it as she was eager for me to read any and all classics. This was never her favourite (I think that title belongs to Little Women and for my shame I've still not read the book… I've owned a copy since I was 11, but I digress) but I know she was happy for me to show interest in reading classics and we had a memorable day together when I wasn't at school watching the BBC adaptation. So, like I said, retellings have me a bit wary. But I as soon as saw the cover had a woman in a hijab on it I knew that it wasn’t going to be your typical retelling. In fact, I’d hardly label it a retelling at all, that’s doing the book a disservice thinking it needs to be attributed to another fantastic book when there’s a wholly original story within these pages. If you must say anything about Pride and Prejudice you may say this book is an ode to it.

The whole book centres on two people, Ayesha and Khalid, and their friends and extended families. It’s spectacular.

Ayesha is a Muslim woman living in Canada who doesn't know what she wants. She has a large Indian family and she is finding her way learning who she is whilst also wanting to meet her families expectations. I instantly liked her and knew I could respect a woman who hid in the toilet on the first day of her new job questioning if she’s doing the right thing (I’ve returned from the first day of a new job crying saying I don’t like it… I can relate). She felt real in that she had nothing sorted and was fumbling through life trying her best, but she also totally needed to be called out by her friends and family because she was scared and needed a push to get her shit together. As I met her family and friends I grew to like them and care for them too. As the book progressed I became more and more invested and found myself shouting at folks who were mean and shouting at Ayesha for being judgemental of Khalid and accusing him of things she has done herself. I was totally in the story and didn’t want to look away from the page for a second in case I missed something.

And then there was Khalid. He came across as boring at first, almost as if he didn’t have the backbone to stand up for himself and instead allowed his mother to dictate for an easy life. I thought I might not like him.  Even if he was staring longingly at Ayesha out of a window if he couldn't follow through and speak to her I wasn't gonna like him. But then we had racist Sheila and then I was there with Carla wanting to smack that bitch down and telling her not to be racist ass whilst keeping my fingers crossed she would get her ass fired. I came to understand Khalid more after that. I had to respect a man who was as devoted as he was to his beliefs and overlooked dicks like Sheila who judged him without knowing him. Dude had to put up with a lot and if he could do that and still be a nice guy (who put his foot in it a lot and came across like a judgemental asshole) good for him. I would be angry as hell and fighting folks… I’d probably be arrested. But seeing Khalid and his progression throughout the book to be a good person but also a person who recognises his flaws and acts accordingly to do better, well damn, I want to be more like Khalid. Even if Khalid was a little quick to judge Ayesha before he had even spoken to her, he more than made up for that error within the book. The man grew and learnt from his mistakes and I adored him for that.

And the romance between Ayesha and Khalid is the best kind of slowburn! I love me a slowburn romance and theirs was brilliant. They went from hate (on Ayesha’s part), to colleagues, to friends, to a wonderful confusing area of something more and hopped around until finally, the romance happened…. right as the book finished. It was great. And there were sparks flying between the pair throughout the book. Even when one of them claimed to dislike the other (again, Ayesha) they still have scorching chemistry. And considering the pair barely touched it’s amazing how strong the romance game in this book was. It definitely shows that sex is not everything when it comes to romance, romance is just as strong when it’s just a small touch or a longing look. Seriously, romance game was strong.

Honestly, the book itself is spectacular and that’s not just because Ayesha and Khalid are such strong personalities, but because every character is distinct and stands out. There was not a single secondary character whose name I was confused by. Each time a name was mentioned I instantly knew who it was and that is a rarity. And each character, no matter how minor their role, had a good storyline. They were not throw away characters but had their own side story, from Clara and her many quests to help folk (from Ayesha to Khalid) to Amir and his many issues (which do not excuse him for being a dick, but who I forgive because he was genuinely a good friend to Khalid).

Honestly. It was not just a brilliant retelling it was just a brilliant book. I loved that there were obvious scenes inspired by Pride & Prejudice, I was grinning from ear to ear each time I spotted one, but the book never felt like an off shoot of it. It always felt its own.

Have you read Ayesha At Last? Wasn’t it spectacular? And if you haven’t have I convinced you? What’s your favourite Pride and prejudice retelling?
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