The Takeover Effect
The Takeover Effect is a big, fat, luscious chocolate truffle of a book. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s heartbreaking, it’s romantic; it luxuriates in the playgrounds of the rich while giving us down-to-earth people to root for, and it’s grounded strongly in a central family that provides a lot of entertainment as their tale spools out. The whole book pops and sparkles like a firecracker, and dazzles just as much.
Deepak Singh has built an empire with his bare hands. In thirty years, the fifth son of a fifth son has founded Bharat Inc., an image processing and recognition software company that’s made him a billionaire. Deepak and his wife, Rose, have three sons, each different, each special to them in a different way. It’s with Hemdeep, his oldest, that Deepak has the most difficulties – he hasn’t spoken to the jet-setting lawyer since an argument over Rose and Deepak’s meddling in Hem’s engagement tore them apart.
Hem has been trotting the globe for a year and a half, working out kinks in his new firm, trying to gain clients and develop trust with them. He still blames Rose and Deepak for two things: encouraging the company to go public against his wishes (which it seems has caused it to lose money), and putting so much pressure on his fiancée to rush their wedding that the engagement fell apart. Thus he’s been avoiding them and the States ever since. When his middle brother Ajay calls him with news of their father’s heart attack, it’s accompanied by the announcement that WTA Digital is attempting a hostile buy-out of their company, Hem quickly flies back home to participate in the upcoming vote over the takeover – and to visit his recalcitrant father.
Lawyer Mina Kohli lives in a world dominated by men. Her mother died in an accident when Mina was a teenager, and she’s determined to regain a partnership in the family law firm her mother built from the ground up but was screwed out of by the brothers she gave up her youth to raise. She’s considering consenting to an arranged marriage with Virat Aulakh, son of the managing partner at J.S.S. Immigration Law, which would give her an equity partnership position and merge her family’s company with his, creating the largest South Asian run law firm in America. Unfortunately, Mina is not attracted to Virat at all, so she’s dithering about the decision.
Her uncle Sanjeev, who runs the law firm engaged to oversee the merger, brings Mina on board as part of the impartial committee, but puts pressure on her to ensure the deal goes through, insisting that unless she sabotages her due diligence review – a criminal act – he’ll fire her or force her to marry Virat. Naturally she feels compelled to comply.
When Mina and Hem meet, sparks fly. Hem is immediately attracted to Mina’s looks and effortless confidence, and she finds Hem’s strong presence and assertive behavior intriguing. Hem tries to work out something with Mina, but she plays hard to get – in more ways than one. But Hem is nothing if not persistent, and soon they end up tangled together in matters legal, business, and romantic. They try to stay away from one another to ensure Hem can salvage the family business – and Mina doesn’t end up having to cash in the chips on her devil’s bargain.
The Takeover Effect works for a lot of reasons, and chief among them is how entertaining the romance between Mina and Hem is – and how good the familial relations of the Singh family are to follow.
Hem is the sharp sort of aggressive and possessive that won’t work for some readers, but will make him a perfect hero to others; for me he worked quite well, because Mina was as strong as he was and pushed back at him just as hard. Hem’s relationship with his mom is sweet, adorable and respectful, his relationship with his dad just as sweet if more complicated, and his playfully combative relationship with younger brother Zail was a riot; when you add in Ajay, it’s a veritable gang of wise guys trading witticisms in each other’s directions.
Mina is practical, sassy and funny; missing her long-gone mother, she’s bent on revenge against her brothers, but victim to the beat of her heart. I loved her friendship with Raj, who is stuck in a loveless arranged marriage and is determined not to see Mina follow in her footsteps.
It’s the balance between Hem and Mina that makes them such a great couple to root for. They aren’t perfect, but they when they get drunk together for the first time, he doesn’t shame her for throwing up all over his shoes, and that says a lot about the relationship.
Sharma’s way with words is amazing. Her character work is great but her way with a phrase is head-turning and imagination-catching in a unique way that easily engages the reader, such as the scene in which Hem teaches Mina how to appreciate the taste of whiskey, which is just as sensual an act as anything that happens in the bedroom. And I hope both Virat and Raj will surface as protagonists in future books in the series (Raj seems to be a lock for the next volume).
With all that said, there were a few things that prevented me rating the book a DIK. The expository set-up for the business portions of the story and the legalese is a bit dry and take an achingly long time to get out of the way of the romance. Also, the way Mina judges Hem’s ex-fiancée for not accepting expensive gifts from him after years of dating was a bit presumptuous – which she admits – but it felt a little judgmental and unpleasant. Lisa (the ex) hangs over the romance in a ghostlike fashion that will irritate some readers, especially given Hem’s tendency to compare the two women with Mina always coming out favorably on top. And then there’s the fatphobia – Sanjeev’s being overweight is often equated with his being evil, and often with his messiness and sloppiness, which is unfortunate and uncomfortable; there are plenty of reasons to hate him without continual references to his weight. The romance moves a little fast – Hem goes from taking care of Mina while she’s drunk to kissing her to buying her lingerie to calling her hiriye all within a week, and he leans toward being possessive frequently. On one hand the heedless plunge is fun, on the other Mina feels a bit too level-headed for such a headlong rush to lust. But in the end, there’s a lot more to enjoy than the opposite, and none of those criticisms stop The Takeover Effect from scoring a high recommendation from me.