Romance readers are no strangers to wedding bells; happily ever after is practically preordained. Lately, however, there’s a common twist on the marriage trope: depictions of arranged marriage within South Asian and Muslim cultures.
Written by women with intimate knowledge of this particular happy ending, these books offer a corrective to misconceptions about the tradition.
For starters: “There is a difference between forced marriages and arranged marriages, and I think a lot of people get those two things confused,” author Nisha Sharma said during a recent interview. Sharma, a first-generation Indian American and the author of “The Takeover Effect” — who was in a semi-arranged marriage after seeing the success of her parents’ union — argues that love and arranged marriage are not mutually exclusive and that books can offer “texture” to readers outside the culture who may want to understand it more.
Arranged marriages have been a staple in romance novels for a long time — even if they weren’t always depicted in particularly nuanced ways.
“I think readers like marriages of convenience and arranged marriage plots because they effectively and quickly pair the protagonists together in a way that is sure to generate conflict,” said Elle Keck, an associate editor at Avon and William Morrow Books. “The sparks can fly and, in a romance novel, turn into a terrific love story.”