Finding out that an ex-boyfriend is getting married is enough a bummer. Now, imagine that same ex is also one of your closest friends—and he asks you to be his best man. That’s the situation Meghna, a 20-something teacher, finds herself in in Say You’ll Be Mine, a charming debut novel by Texas-based lawyer and author Naina Kumar.
When she hears that Seth, the ex she may or may not still have feelings for, is getting married, Meghna agrees to let her parents set her up with a potential match, deciding it’s finally time to move on. The first man who shows up at her doorstep is Karthik, a handsome but grumpy suitor with no intention of marrying anyone (but whose mother is hellbent on finding a wife).
The two devise a plan: pretend to be engaged so a) Meghna has a date to Seth’s wedding and b) Karthik can get his well-meaning but overenthusiastic mother off his back for a while. As the fake couple goes through the motions, they find common ground, grow protective of each other and start to fall for the traits they originally thought they hated. Along the way there are hotel reservations mishaps (two beds are initially a must), surprise cross-country visits and a steamy dance at a Miami club that catches Meghna off guard.
Though the premise doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, Kumar’s debut does feature more serious themes (including what happens when you’re terrified you’ll turn out just like your parent), representation of Indian (and Indian American) culture and characters you can’t help but root for. From start to finish, Meghna and Karthik, who alternate narrating, are stellar protagonists with an impressive amount of depth.