Today I am SO excited to have had the opportunity to invite Priyanka, the wonderful author of THE LOVE MATCH (out 3rd January 2023!) over on Misty Realms.
When I first heard about THE LOVE MATCH, I fell in love. A Bangladeshi main character, mother-daughter relationships, meddling aunties, a tea shop, a Desi love triangle, and the best part (in my opinion) the most adorable bearded dragon to ever exist? I cannot express how feral I am for this book.
So without further ado, I would like to share the interview I took of Priyanka where we talked all things THE LOVE MATCH!
The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Pride and Prejudice in this delightful and heartfelt rom-com about a Bangladeshi American teen whose meddling mother arranges a match to secure their family’s financial security—just as she’s falling in love with someone else.
Zahra Khan is basically Bangladeshi royalty, but being a princess doesn’t pay the bills in Paterson, New Jersey. While Zahra’s plans for financial security this summer involve working long hours at Chai Ho and saving up for college writing courses, Amma is convinced that all Zahra needs is a “good match,” Jane Austen style.
Enter Harun Emon, who’s wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and…aloof. As soon as Zahra meets him, she knows it’s a bad match. It’s nothing like the connection she has with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the tea shop, who just gets Zahra in a way no one has before. So, when Zahra finds out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as she is, they decide to slowly sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping Amma happy while catching real feelings for Nayim.
But life—and boys—can be more complicated than Zahra realizes. With her feelings all mixed up, Zahra discovers that sometimes being a good Bengali kid can be a royal pain.
Find and pre-order The Love Match on:
Interview with Priyanka Taslim
Hi Priyanka! Thank you so much for joining me over here on Misty Realms. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey till now?
Hi, Kashvi! My name is Priyanka Taslim, and I’m a Bangladeshi-American author and educator. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life and actually wrote a lot of fanfiction as a teen, but though becoming an author myself was a lifelong dream, I grew up with so many people not knowing Bangladesh even existed and thought it’d be impossible for someone like me to get traditionally published, especially when writing about Bengali characters.
For the longest time, I wrote all or mostly white casts, thinking this was the way I’d get to see my name on a book cover. Not only that, but thanks to the media I was exposed to, I wondered if those characters were the only ones who could have rich and interesting lives people would be fans of. It wasn’t until I went to college that I started writing characters I connected to more. It was a few years after I graduated that I decided I would finally get serious about finishing a book and querying it. It took another couple years before I signed with an agent, and then almost two more years before I sold my debut YA romance, THE LOVE MATCH.
It’s been a real labor of love and patience to make my dream come true, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to compromise my dream of writing Bengali rep to get where I am.
Pitch your debut novel, The Love Match in a short sentence!
A Bangladeshi-American teen fake dates the “perfect Bengali boy” her mother sets her up with to keep their parents out of their hair…then accidentally falls for her cute new coworker from Bangladesh, compromising her heart.
What inspired you to write The Love Match and how has it evolved since?
THE LOVE MATCH was inspired by my visit to a tea shop in January of 2020. I really wanted to write a book that involved one, and also one set in my hometown that celebrates my diaspora experience. Then, the pandemic hit, and this fun story about love and loss and growing up—plus, some swooniness—became my escape. I loved getting to write a heartfelt, movie-style romance for a working class Bangladeshi-American girl. Although the plot has changed in many ways over the course of the project, the heart of it has truly stayed the same. I hope readers pick it up and know that regardless of their circumstances, they deserve to be main characters and have their epic love stories—if they want them.
Can you describe Zahra Khan for us in a few sentences? Which character would she be best friends with from any other book/ movie/ TV show?
Zahra is smart, snarky, and fiercely protective of her family and friends, because her life hasn’t been easy. Thanks to this, she’s also practical…but still can’t help wishing for a fairy-tale happy ending. I feel like she and Lara-Jean Song-Covey from TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE would get on like a house on fire.
Without spoiling much, what is your favourite scene/ dialogue/ chapter from The Love Match?
In the book, Zahra and one of her love interests decide to fake date. I enjoyed writing all the shenanigans involving these dates. There are quite a few of them and I hope readers enjoy them, too. I also liked getting to write some of the Bangladeshi cultural events that take place in my hometown, which has a large Bangladeshi diaspora.
I am literally obsessed with some tropes in books, so what are your favourite tropes that you may or may not have included in your upcoming debut novel?
I’m such a sucker for fake dating and excited that I got to write it about two Bangladeshi characters. I’m also excited that I got to write an all-Bengali love triangle. I used to write lots of coffee shop AUs when I was a fanfic author and THE LOVE MATCH is essentially one big coffee shop AU—except it’s a tea shop. There are lots of other tropes, but I’ll leave you with these three for now since the book releases a while from now (January 2023).
How would you describe the relationship between Zahra and her mom? (p.s: Her mom seems so cool!!)
It makes me so happy you’re interested in that relationship! The bond between Zahra and her mother is probably the most important in the book, cute boys aside. They’re both actually very similar people and just want to protect each other after a loss in their family. But being too similar makes them butt heads because they have different ideas of what’s important, so their relationship is somewhat rocky in the book. Even so, I hope that Zahra’s mom reads as a nuanced character and doesn’t fall into the one dimensional, Asian Tiger Parent stereotype.
Could you tell us more about Zahra’s friends? What are their names? How would you describe the friend group’s dynamic?
I also loved writing about Zahra’s friendships! I always say THE LOVE MATCH is a love story in more than just the romantic sense. Zahra has two best friends, Dalia and Dani, who are twin sisters and the daughters of her boss. They work together in Chai Ho, a Pakistani tea shop. Their friend group also includes Dani’s girlfriend Ximena who frequently visits the shop. They’re all deeply loyal, but because they have a certain amount of privilege that Zahra doesn’t, they don’t always understand her struggles, especially about stuff like affording college. With these girls, I wanted to show that there are many acceptable ways to be girls, to be Muslim, to be South Asian, to dream, etc.
How would you describe the dynamic between Zahra, Harun and Nayim. This is one love triangle I’m dying to read about !!!
Ahhh, thank you! Zahra’s relationship with each boy is very different. Because there aren’t many young adult novels featuring Bangladeshi boys, one thing that motivated me to write a love triangle was that they each got to be unique. Harun comes off as very broody and Mr. Darcy-esque, but like Mr. Darcy, he softens up around Zahra eventually. Then there’s fellow artist Nayim, who becomes something of a muse for Zahra and makes her realise she should keep dreaming even if things are tough.
drawn by @nishinowhy
Does Zahra enjoy working at Chai Ho? How does she drink her chai? Does she have a favourite customer?
Zahra enjoys getting to work with her best friends at Chai Ho, but at the same time, she needs the job to help her family and that’s a complicated thing. All three of the Chai Ho girls love when their other best friend Ximena pops in, and there’s actually a very steamy, heated (literally!) scene where one of the boys makes tea Zahra’s favorite way in the book. As an avid fan of tea, however, she takes it several different ways throughout the book.
Here’s one of my personal favourites: rong cha. Rong means color in Bengali, so this strong black tea is very dark. You make it with ginger, salt, and other spices, sweetened with something like honey, and it’s a great remedy for when you’re not feeling well. No milk!
What do you hope readers take away from your debut novel, The Love Match.
As mentioned above, I really wanted readers to feel that they’re worthy of being main characters. Zahra has a lot of obstacles in her path. She’s from a struggling, working class family, she’s dealing with loss and its aftermath, she’s not even sure she can afford college, and on top of that, she’s a Bangladeshi teen in a world that counts that against her (though I purposefully chose not to touch on racism much). I wanted to write a book where she could shine in spite of all these challenges. Although no group is a monolith and no representation is perfect, I hope that readers who are Bengali, South Asian, or otherwise see some of themselves in her and the other characters in the book.
That was it! Thank you so much for your time Priyanka, it was so so lovely having you over on my blog, and I cannot wait to read The Love Match and fall in love with it! Is there anything you would like to add?
Kashvi, thank YOU so much for your enthusiasm and for featuring me on your blog! I’m excited for you and other readers to get to meet the characters of THE LOVE MATCH soon! They can follow me under the username @bhootbabe on Instagram, Twitter, and various other social media if they’re interested in updates!
Before we end here’s some fan art made by yours truly of Rabeardranath my favourite bearded dragon in the whole wide world!!
Priyanka Taslim is a writer, teacher, and lifelong New Jersey resident. Having grown up in a bustling Bangladeshi diaspora community, surrounded by her mother’s entire clan and many aunties of no relation, her writing often features families, communities, and all the drama therein.
Currently, Priyanka teaches by day and tells all kinds of stories about Bangladeshi characters by night. Her writing usually stars spunky Bengali heroines finding their place in the world…and a little swoony romance, too. THE LOVE MATCH, out January 2023 from Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is her debut YA novel.
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Thank you so much Priyanka for taking your time to do this interview for Misty Realms, I had a delightful time chatting about The Love Match !!!