Desert Isle Keeper
Radha & Jai's Recipe for Romance
Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance is a simple, sweet novel about two teenagers who share a passion for dance and manage to fall in love while tackling their worst insecurities. Teenagers will love it and adults who enjoy sweet romances will likely be swept away by it too.
Radha dreams of becoming one of the world’s best competitive Kathak (a classic form of Indian dance) dancers, and she is on the verge of reaching her long-held goal when she hears two fellow competition-mates gossiping that her mother has been sleeping with the judges for years – even while she was married to Radha’s father – in order to ensure Radha gets good scores, an accusation her mother can’t deny. Heartbroken, furious and humiliated, Radha quits competitive dancing and her mother moves her from Chicago to New Jersey so she can start anew, and agrees to pay for her enrollment in the Princeton Academy of the Arts if Radha agrees to keep dancing. But Radha is besieged with doubt and anxiety over the true level of her talent.
After interviewing at the school, she meets Jai and instantly develops a crush. Jai is a member of the Bollywood Beats, one of Princeton’s dance clubs, and he excels on the floor just as thoroughly as Radha does. He dreams of joining a pre-med program at Columbia University, something his family can’t afford – and anyway, he thinks they’d rather he stay home and help run the family store.
Together, they will become friends, then a couple. But can they battle their fears over the future to forge a pathway all their own?
Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance is a sugar-sweet slice of romantic comedy that’s the right kind of tropey. Fun, with genuinely moving character-driven moments and meditations on grief and avocation, it manages to strike a nice balance between the developing romance between our hero and heroine and some serious family-driven character development. I like dedicated, joy-driven Radha and responsible yet fun-loving Jai. Their families and friends are equally vivid, and I loved the way Rada’s cooking lessons become a focal point of her attempt at getting closer to her dad. Jai’s family, too, is sympathetic and warm, and the book’s expression of their monetary struggles is quite relatable.
It’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that there are a lot of wonderful references to Bollywood romance tropes here, and there’s a beautiful sense of being wrapped in the comforting arms of a honey-sweet romantic drama. That doesn’t mean the book is over-the-top sugary, but it definitely believes in the happy ending it’s prepared to deliver.
And the best thing about Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance is that it is fearless in giving teens what they want. A perfect summertime beach read, it’ll likely remain memorable to them long after they finish it.