Tastes Like Shakkar
Grade : C-

I love a story that takes me into a setting in detail, but the people who inhabit this setting have to be developed as well. So while I loved the big no-expense-spared New Jersey desi wedding in Nisha Sharma’s Tastes Like Shakkar, I couldn’t enjoy the incompetent wedding planner heroine or intermittent kinkster hero who put the event on.

Aforementioned wedding planner Bobbi Kaur and chef Benjamin ‘Bunty’ Padda are enemies following a misunderstanding (when Benjamin said that Bobbi was “not my type”, he meant ‘commitment-minded’, not ‘fat’), and after Benjamin’s refusal to consider catering one of her events costs Bobbi a major contract. But now their best friends (Kareena and Prem from Dating Dr. Dil) are getting married, so Bobbi will be doing the planning, and Benjamin will devise the menu, meaning that these enemies have to make a truce – one that is complicated by someone out to sabotage the wedding.

PSA: If you think someone might mess with your wedding, you call the vendors and set up a password. If a caller (or emailer or whatever) can’t provide the password, then the vendor disregards their instructions. The last wedding I was involved with was about seven years ago, and I know this, but Bobbi, of New Jersey’s premier desi wedding planning firm, apparently doesn’t. Consequently, she spends a lot of time trying to find a new cake baker (hers was cancelled), to rebook rooms (people were told to back out), to get a new outfit (the bride’s came in horrible colors) and to find a new mandap (it came with a clown on it). I was probably supposed to be impressed with Bobbi’s clever solutions to each crisis, but I was just annoyed that she was too stupid or ignorant to prevent them from happening in the first place. I was also annoyed that the author wrote a book in which the plot depended so heavily on the heroine’s ineptitude.

Benjamin seems to be a great restaurateur, but I wish we’d seen him at his actual restaurant more. My favorite scene in the entire book is when Benjamin prepares his staff for the arrival of a set of older aunties with extremely specific instructions: no ice in the water, extra alcohol in the margaritas, etc. When the aunts arrive, every single thing goes exactly as he predicted. It’s delightfully specific (he knows what Indian aunties would want) and deliciously competent (he makes it happen) – the complete antithesis of watching Bobbi fail at her job.

There’s kink in this book: Benjamin likes to tie Bobbi up for sex. I have read and enjoyed a lot of kinky books, so it’s not the kink itself that bothered me here, it was the fact that it feels so disconnected from everything else. Generally, kinky books have a sexually charged tone throughout, and this one absolutely does not. I suppose it could be intentional (making the point that kinky people have to please fussy restaurant customers, too?) but it felt more like ‘This book is warm, warm, warm, warm, OH SHOOT when I signed the publishing contract I said it would be hot, QUICK SOMEBODY PASS ME SOME ROPE.’

Bobbi and Benjamin also face family challenges. Bobbi’s uncle won’t give her the respect and authority she wants at work, and Benjamin’s dad keeps trying to pull him back to the West Coast and the family’s frozen Naan business. Of these two conflicts, Bobbi’s is more successfully resolved. Not well resolved is the resentment Bobbi has about Benjamin setting her career back. I also didn’t understand something that happened at the end that suggests some conspiracy to get the pair together, especially because it retconned the entire personality of a supporting character.

When it comes down to it, I didn’t connect to either of these characters, and I was annoyed or disappointed by most of the plot. I have really loved Nisha Sharma before, so I was very disappointed by Tastes Like Shakkar. Hopefully the author will return to form with her next book.

Grade: C-

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : August 1, 2023

Publication Date: 08/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. I read Ulrich’s book several years ago,it was excellent. American Experience on PBS did an adaptation of the book, it…

Caroline Russomanno

I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.

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