Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune
This delightful story is all about culture, romance, food, family, and a bit of magic. Natalie returns home to San Francisco after the death of her estranged mother. When she takes on the job of running her grandmother’s restaurant, she’s presented with challenges while simultaneously discovering things about herself and exploring her family’s past.
The Bride Test
This book has the best example of an interfering mother, who goes as far as Vietnam to pick a bride for her son. When Esme Tran lands in America, she knows she’s there to woo Khai––it’s the deal she made with his mother. But then she gets caught chasing the American dream and a father she never knew, but who has left a gaping hole in her life.
The Marriage Game
This book puts a twist on the meddling mother by introducing the meddling father. When Layla moves back home, her dad signs her up on a dating site and starts vetting potential husbands. This is such a hilarious book with an interesting look into an Indian family and their approach to dating and marriage.
Next Year in Havana
When Marisol loses her grandmother, she travels to Havana to spread her grandmother’s ashes and begins to discover the secrets her family has hidden for years. I love the way this book intertwines the history of Marisol’s family with the history of Cuba. It’s just such an incredible book.
Ayesha at Last
This thought-provoking retelling of Pride and Prejudice explores the emotional complexities within a family, among other things. An independent Muslim woman with dreams of becoming a poet, Ayesha wants to get married but doesn’t want an arranged marriage. She deals with her family’s expectations while trying to work through her feelings for the conservative and judgmental Khalid, who has family issues of his own.
Ties That Tether
My book definitely has its own familial drama as well. At twelve years old, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian man and preserve her culture, even after immigrating to Canada. Her mother has been vigilant about helping—well forcing—her to stay within the Nigerian dating pool ever since. But when another match-made-by-mom goes wrong, Azere ends up at a bar, enjoying the company and later sharing the bed of Rafael Castellano, a man who is tall, handsome, and…white.
When their one-night stand unexpectedly evolves into something serious, Azere is caught between her feelings for Rafael and the compulsive need to please her mother. Soon, Azere can’t help wondering if loving Rafael makes her any less of a Nigerian. Can she be with him without compromising her identity? The answer will either cause Azere to be audacious and fight for her happiness or continue as the compliant daughter.
As much as I enjoy reading about two people falling in love, I am always intrigued by the relationships that exist outside a budding romance––the connection between a character and their family. I want to know the issues that complicate these relationships––perhaps a complex mother-daughter dynamic, meddling relatives, secrets, or unwavering cultural expectations. Whatever the case, I have found that these issues are often key to understanding what drives a character. They also make stories a lot more interesting. So here are a few romance novels that give us a good dose of love as well as serious family drama—which hopefully ends in a happily ever after.
Featured Image: @taylorstinson/Twenty20