To be honest, I was trepidatious starting this book. I wasn’t sure I needed ANOTHER Pride and Prejudice retelling. I love P&P as much as the next English major, but depending on how faithful the retelling is, it can make books predictable. Luckily, AYESHA AT LAST was a breath of fresh air, and I was utterly engrossed from page one.
As I mentioned, AYESHA AT LAST is a loose P&P re-imagining. In this story, Elizabeth is Ayesha, a Muslim woman at a crossroads in her life both professionally and personally, and Mr. Darcy is Khalid, a traditional and conservative Muslim man set in his ways and viewpoints. The Pride and Prejudice correlations were at times obvious, but Ms. Jalaluddin gives the reader plenty of twists to them on their toes.
This is Uzma Jalaluddin’s debut novel, and I could feel the hard work she put into creating the vibrant and diverse Muslim community portrayed in the book. I was never lost reading about the multitude of characters with boisterous personalities and opinions. Khalid and Ayesha have a quiet and nuanced romance. Their chemistry was palpable and the slow development of their relationship was subtle and expertly executed. At times I was holding my breath hoping they would just brush fingers.
Khalid might be one of my favorite heroes of 2019 so far. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a Judgy McJudgerton sometimes (he wasn’t modeled after Mr. Darcy for nothing), but his conviction and upright character completely won me over. Nice guys don’t finish last, especially when they’re willing to grow, listen, learn, and stand up for themselves when necessary, which is what Khalid eventually learned.
The many conflicts in this book could have quickly become convoluted and messy, but instead added layers of intrigue that had me turning pages faster and faster to find out what would happen next. Between mistaken identities, secret sisters, workplace discrimination, and family drama, I was regularly on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next bombshell. It was never exactly what I expected either. I will say the identity confusion caused me extreme secondary anxiety, but I see how it was necessary as a plot device.
One of my complaints about this book is the lack of actual page time between Ayesha and Khalid. They’re probably only on the page together for maybe 25% of the book, if I’m being generous. While that made me treasure the small, stolen, and sometimes volatile moments between them, I really wanted more of their growing connection. Especially at the end of the book, which ended relatively abruptly. There were also abrupt POV switches that pulled me out of the story a few times.
Overall, this was a sweet and entertaining romance. I’m going to go recommend this book to everyone I know so I can discuss it further! There are so many things to unpack. This would be an excellent book club book.
**I received an ARC of this book in order to provide an honest review**
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