“It was supremely basic to wax poetic about fall, but Kamila was happy to own her basic-girl status because September was so excessively idyllic. The warm sun. the hollow hum of cicadas and laughing children excited to be reunited with their friends after summer holidays. Foliage transforming to the exact tones that best complemented Darcy’s pale-beige and white fur and brown eyes. These picture would be epic, even unphotoshopped into Norway.”
Ok, so as a self-proclaimed Janeite, I had high hopes for this modern-day retelling of Emma. And let me tell you, Farah Heron surpassed all my expectations in this delightful, swoony, and funny story about matchmaking, romance and frenemies.
Kamila Hussain’s life might not be perfect, but, whew, it’s close. She lives a life of comfort, filled with her elaborate Bollywood movie parties, a dog with more Instagram followers than most reality stars, a job she loves, and an endless array of friends who clearly need her help finding love. In fact, Kamila is so busy with her friends’ love lives, she’s hardly given any thought to her own . . .
Fortunately, Kamila has Rohan Nasser. A longtime friend of the family, he’s hugely successful, with the deliciously lean, firm body of a rock climber. Only lately, Kamila’s “harmless flirting” with Rohan is making her insides do a little bhangra dance.
But between planning the local shelter’s puppy prom, throwing a huge work event, and proving to everyone that she’s got it all figured out, Kamila isn’t letting herself get distracted—until her secret nemesis returns to town with an eye for Rohan. Suddenly, it seems like the more Kamila tries to plan, the more things are starting to unravel—and her perfectly ordered life is about to be turned upside down.
Kamila Hussain is one of the most delightful characters I’ve read in a while. She’s faceted, difficult and has a heart of gold. She strives to be the perfect daughter, friend, and employee, but as we all know perfection is often hiding some dark spots. Kamila is delightful because she’s so darn real. Farah has crafted a character who seemingly lives a life of perfect privilege, but is overcoming emotional abuse, imposter syndrome and a crippling fear about losing her father, who’s her whole world. She is raw and emotional and the perfect modern-day heroine. She, like the original Emma, has a delightful personality: she is a whip smart accountant with a passion for accounting, but also a crazy dog lover (her beloved pup is named Darcy, naturally) who has a social media following for both herself and her dog. She also volunteers her time at the local dog shelter and is renowned for her over the top parties she throws for her friends. Basic, she may think she is, but Kamila is certainly not a simple woman.
Kamila and her longtime family friend Rohan are a sweet and spicy couple. Like Emma and Mr. Knightley that they are based on, the couple have friction and respect and watching them admit their feelings warmed my heart on a cold winter’s night. Rohan is the perfect gentleman for Kamila – he loves her heart, respects her intelligence, and quietly supports and champions her every chance he gets. The bedroom scenes in Kamila Knows Best are definitely quieter than Farah’s previous books but is much more in line with the story that this book is based on. It suits the book.
For me, a hallmark of Farah’s romances is her large cast of secondary characters that bring humour and emotion to the story. Like my other favourites by Farah, Kamila Knows Best was chock full of terrific friends and family (and food, so much delicious food). Kamila’s relationship with her father was a rollercoaster of emotion for me: he has some serious physical and mental health issues that Kamila is devoted to helping solve. Through the novel, we watch as Kamila overcomes some of her own demons and works to show her father that she is so much more than what he expects. It’s a brave act. My favourite relationship of Kamila’s, however, is with her frenemy Jana – the perfect scion Kamila has been compared to her for her entire life. Watching these two strong powerful women become vulnerable to each other was almost as emotional for me as the love story was.
With keen commentary on social issues, mental health and prejudices in the workforce, Heron modernizes Emma with her hallmark tone and wit. Kamila knows best is a feast for the eyes and heart, with subtle Austen easter eggs that will delight fans.
Thank you, Forever for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.