Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Contract by Zeenat Mahal : A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Contract *terms and conditions apply*
ISBN: 978-1-927826-15-7
AUTHOR: Zeenat Mahal
GENRE: Fiction/ Romance
FORMAT: Digital
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Naheed of Indireads for the digital copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
          “…We’ll get married, but I’ll pay you a monthly salary to behave and appear for all practical purposes as my wife…If you agree, the marriage vows can be taken on the phone on Saturday, since I have an hour free in the morning.”

          Shahira, a young, divorced mother of a seven-year-old son, wants nothing to do with men ever again. But circumstances have forced her hand, and Hussain’s unusual proposition leaves her secretly relieved. As per their contract, she’ll have his name, will be paid to look after his ailing mother and motherless daughter and will be left well alone by him. Perfect!

          Until her new husband decides to stop playing by the rules.

          Hussain is suave and rich. He is nobody’s fool…and is not about to be bested by the ex-schoolteacher he is married to. He has Shahira in his sights and she has to have all her wits about her in order to hold him at arm’s length
          Shahira, 30, is a single mother of an only boy, just out of an abusive marriage. She is a prim school teacher and takes a liking to Natasha, a motherless child who has an insanely rich, but very busy father Hussain, who has no time for his family. The child is in the protection of her grandmother, who also takes a liking to Shahira and insists that she marry her son and be a mother to her granddaughter.
          Shahira is shocked, both by the proposal, and the irate call she receives from Hussain who considers her to be a charming gold digger, wherein he warns her to stay away from his family. A sudden change of heart (not revealed why here) causes both of them to enter into a marriage of convenience, with a contract that specifies Shahira must take care of the daughter and the son and there will be no relationship between both of them. Shahira negotiates with the insanely rich man for the sake of securing a future for her son. (There is nothing indecent here)
          The marriage takes place over phone and Shahira moves into the new house with her son and lives a happy life with her mother in law and new daughter. She is happy as long as Hussain is not around and is comfortable. But clever planning by her mother in law brings Hussain into the house and he begins to fall for her since he first lays his eyes upon her. The scenes written are very visual, practical. Hussain’s ego is piqued by this woman who seems not to care for him and seems to be carefree and happy around everyone except him.
          He does everything in his power to contradict her and try to understand her. Just to peeve her, he takes her along with the children to a trip to Europe. He starts loving her for all her character quirks and her gentle, caring nature. He wants her to reciprocate. But Shahira is wary of all men and never wants to trust another man to the level of commitment that is required for a marriage.
          Whether or not Hussain wins her confidence and her heart forms the rest of the plot, which is simple in its brilliance. The characters and their emotions are clean, gentle and the story itself is short and relatable. Shahira manages to enrapture the readers in her simplicity and depth of character. Hussain shines in his suave, and adorably cunning (yes, it is not an oxymoron) methods to win Shahira over.
          Read this story for the brilliant language, portrayal of emotions and strong female character (that is an indireads norm, I guess). A very enjoyable, short read.
          The whole story, and the characters of both Shahira and Hussain, and the intimidating (yes, it is a joke) mother.
          Certain parts could have been edited better (would be understood when the story is read)
          Definitely a read worth for both a rainy and sunny evening!
RATING: 4.4/5
          Zeenat Mahal (@zeenat4indireads) is an avid reader and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and is currently doing an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University London. She won a BBC short story competition in 2001 and has been a regular contributor to local newspapers.

          Zeenat has eclectic tastes and an insatiable desire to learn. Her romances are a heady mix of the traditional and the contemporary, old world values face the challenges of a shrinking globe that impinge upon and help shape South Asian sensibilities.
          The Contract is Zeenat’s second published novella. Currently she is working on a literary novel with elements of magical realism, while continuing to write romances. She can be contacted on her FB page

          Zeenat currently lives in Kingston Upon Thames with her fabulous sons.
PRICE: Rs. 175 for Kindle edition.

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