Not Too Sweet

I recently read the last book in the Tamanna trilogy, Time Will Tell, which didn’t make complete sense to me (obviously) but I liked the ease with which Andaleeb Wajid wrote and her sense of humour. I know what you are thinking. I read the last book because it found its way to me first and couldn’t bother waiting because this was my first book from the author.

I had read an excerpt of A Sweet Deal online and was hooked. I thought to myself, I ought to get my hands on her other books soon, notably The Crunch Factor and More Than Just Biryani. Yes, I am a foodie and I have a sweet tooth. Go skewer me!

In A Sweet Deal two friends leave their drudgery filled corporate jobs and invest all their savings in a cafe, Not Too Sweet, taking on the challenge of running it by themselves. 

Rumana is hot headed, jealous and jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts. Then looks at her actions, in hindsight, with a twinge of regret. That is, if she is not in denial mode. She has a cool as cucumber partner in Neharika, who balances out the craziness unleashed by her moodiness. Slothful Vinod also helps in running the cafe. He does odd jobs whereas the baking part is completely left to the girls.

One fine day Vinod waltzes in with a flyer with the news of a new patisserie  opening next door and all the hell breaks loose.

Enter Daniyal. The rich and suave owner of the patisserie next door. He has studied in a fancy culinary school abroad. And he has many people working for him, whereas Rumana and Neharika only have themselves to manage the food.  He is charming and has everyone eating out of his hands.  If that wasn’t infuriating enough, he worms out Rumana’s life story and her Nani’s recipe of delectable carrot cake, from her within minutes. She is furious and makes up her mind to do whatever it takes to stay ahead of him.

In reality there’s no competition but Rumana gets this thought into her head since she heard about the patisserie opening next door. They cater to different niches and could have amiably coexisted but she feels threatened. More so, because theirs is a new cafe and they are yet to break even.

Initially, Daniyal enjoys sparring with her and has fun riling her up but ends up feeling more than he had bargained for.

Let’s talk about the meet cute. The woman is in her bed clothes, hair wild and the man looks like a worker on a deadline, slaving away to complete a paint job. It also involved a shouting match. It’s a rocky start from the word get go.

Rumana’s parents want her to get married before she hits thirty. They are least bothered that the cafe is new and would require most of her time. (Why doesn’t that surprise me?) The parental pressure to get married and settle down (so that they can fulfill their duty) would ring true for so many working women, who are unwilling to settle down before they figure out where their life is headed.

In a scene in the book, we see how women have to deal with unsavoury men in the corporate world. Men who ogle and make you uncomfortable, but don’t cross the line per say for them to lodge a formal complaint, is sadly a reality for most women.

The plot twists could have been better and appeared somewhat far fetched.

Rumana and Neharika’s cafe should have been described in a better manner; I had a hard time picturing it. Andaleeb Wajid doesn’t waste many words on the setting assuming we know the places she is talking about, which is a bit odd.

Do adults behave like hormonal teenagers when they are in love? More than love it felt like lust was in the air. I had a major quibble with this behaviour.

The challenges of running a cafe is hinted at. We get a sneak peek into the life of these entrepreneurs, but I wanted to know more.

The parts where the book reads like a harlequin romance (I hated being told again and again about Rumana and Daniyal’s physical attributes.) was off-putting at times, but Andaleeb Wajid’s effortless writing and her trademark sense of humour make it a breezy read. I quite liked the warring cafe owners angle and would have loved to see more of that.

A honest to good love story is sometimes the guilty pleasure you need to indulge in, to deal with the bleakness life throws at you.

I finished the book in one evening. It ends where all traditional love stories do, with a happily ever after when real life begins, which we aren’t privy to. Exactly where a sequel could start.

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