Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Year: 2018
Page Count: 368
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and who dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

Uzma Jalaluddin’s newest novel, Hana Khan Carries On has certainly made a splash, so I decided it was only proper to read her debut novel before picking it up! While this isn’t my new favorite romance novel, this is still a lot to like and I still would love to pick up her newest novel.

This is a Pride and Prejudice retelling which takes place in a Muslim community. This book follows Ayesha, who is a school teacher. However, Ayesha feels her real calling is poetry, and meets Khalid at a poetry night in a bar. Khalid is stuck up and snobby, belittling Ayesha’s faith because she goes to bars and doesn’t believe in arranged marriages. However, once Khalid becomes engaged to Ayesha’s cousin, she realizes maybe her feelings for him are more complicated than she thought.

Obviously, I loved the idea of this novel starring a cast of Muslim characters. The novel starts by showing Ayesha’s daily life, and doesn’t merely show her in terms of her religion or race. Ayesha and Khalid practice their faith differently, and I thought this was a good aspect to have, showing that not every Muslim practices their faith the same way. There were multiple scenes that took place at the mosque, and the author showed Ayesha and Khalid doing their prayers. The religion in this book took up the perfect amount of page time. While it was a big part of the novel, it mainly focused on the love story between Ayesha and Khalid.

Another big part of this novel was the way Khalid dressed. Khalid is always wearing traditional clothing (a long dress and beard). Khalid gets judged for this by almost everyone, including his boss, co-workers, and even Ayesha. The author explains why Khalid chooses to dress the way he does, and has a good narrative about the judgement he receives from it. However, I was a bit disappointed by the ending in regards to his dress, although I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers.

Like I mentioned, this is marketed as a Pride and Prejudice retelling although I don’t think it really came through to me. If I wouldn’t have known this was a retelling, I wouldn’t have picked it up. If you go into this expecting an exact replication of Pride and Prejudice, I think you will be disappointed. Rather, I would recommend to go into this with more of an enemies-to-lovers approach. I did think the enemies-to-lovers romance was believable enough, although this book does rely heavily on the miscommunication trope, which is one of my least favorites. It was a bit frustrating, knowing if the characters had just one conversation, so much drama would have been resolved.

While I think Ayesha and Khalid were developed well, there were some side characters who I just didn’t find believable, the first being Khalid’s boss, Sheila. Sheila is Islamophobic, and is just looking for an excuse to have Khalid fired, despite his excellent work ethic. I know that Sheila was included in order to have a narrative about Islamophobia in the work place, but the author just made it so obvious. Sheila felt like a stock character, and she just fell flat. The other villain in this story was Khalid’s mother, whose name I cannot remember at the moment. She has an obsessive need to be in control, even if she is hurting others in the process. While she was frustrating, I think Khalid’s need to impress her was even more frustrating. Any decent human being could recognize she had no good intentions, and I think the author needed to give her at least some good qualities to show why Khalid thought so highly of her.

As for the plot, I did feel like it was a bit drawn out. There were a couple sub-plots that just felt unnecessary (the Unveiled Hotties sub-plot). I felt like the author was trying to touch on every single issue, and this book just didn’t have the space for it. By the end, I was ready to move onto something else.

This review was really all over the place, but hopefully my opinions got across. While this wasn’t my favorite, I definitely understand the appeal and would read from this author in the future, especially considering how many great reviews I’ve been hearing for her newest novel!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

  1. ahhh i’m sorry you didn’t enjoy ayesha at last, because though i haven’t read it, i really loved hana khan carries on! i don’t really enjoy the miscommunication trope, and characters are a huge part of the story for me, so i don’t think i’ll be reading this, but i hope you enjoy hana khan carries on as much as i did, if you try it out! 💕💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I actually read and reviewed this recently too, and I agree with a lot of the points you made – I didn’t really feel the P&P retelling either, and the author was definitely trying to cram in way too many different subjects/topics and some of the subplots were totally unnecessary!! Regardless, I am hoping to read Hana Khan Carries On too!


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