If one word could be used to describe My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari, it would be “unconventional.” While the title might evoke the formulaic romance of a Hallmark Christmas movie, the plot is anything but.
Although the story does center around a love triangle, it is not the usual “he loves her, but she loves someone else” drama. Instead, we are introduced to Simi Desai. Her husband, Nirvaan, is dying of cancer, and she would do anything to make him happy. However, what he wants most is for Simi to move forward with her life, and to do so with his best friend, Zayaan, by her side.
The three friends share a complicated history. They grew up in India together and as teenagers they shared many wild times. From the moment Simi met the two boys, she knew her life would never be the same. As they teased and flirted their way through adolescence, Simi seemed destined to end up with one of the two boys forever. Zayaan was the first to seriously profess his love to her when they were just teenagers. But after a dark family secret drives a wedge between them, Simi finds unexpected solace in a life with Nirvaan.
Does True Love Ever Really Die?
However, for better or worse, Zayaan will always be the third presence in Simi and Nirvaan’s marriage. The three remain close friends as adults, and when it becomes clear that no treatment or surgery will save Nirvaan from the tumor infecting his brain, Zayaan moves in to assist Simi as caretaker during Nirvaan’s last days. While the first few months of their new arrangement may seem to serve as a means of reliving their glory days, cancer is not the only threat that looms over their happiness.
Despite Simi’s attempts to fight the attraction she still feels for Zayaan, Nirvaan tries to shove the two closer together. It’s complicated enough to be pushed into the arms of another man by your dying husband. It’s even worse when that man was your teenage boyfriend—and the first great love of your life. Though Simi forced herself to believe that part of her life was behind her, the lack of closure in their relationship still haunts her. Zayaan still believes her family wanted them to stay apart, but the truth is actually much more complicated than that.
Simi knows she has a lot of choices to make about her future, but she still can’t seem to imagine a life without her husband in it. Even if that new life might still include Zayaan. The relationship between the three is at times playful and platonic. Other times it is as sexually charged as their hormone-fueled teenage years. But no matter what, it is clear the love the three share is genuine.
Romance Novels Are Only as Compelling as Their Characters
Kothari adds an extra layer to the story by providing rich backstories for each of her three main characters. The classic themes of love and loss are offset by a backdrop of Indian culture and an exploration of what it means to call a new country your home. Simi, Nirvaan, and Zayaan are the Indo-American characters we need to see more of in mainstream romance novels. The kind whose culture does not exist as another plot point, but as the perfectly normal background that it is.
I felt conflicted at the beginning of the book about how I wanted this love triangle to end. It is a testament to Kothari’s writing that she created equally compelling characters, each with a genuine and complex love for Simi. However, it is Simi’s happiness above all else that I found myself rooting for. I don’t think any readers of Kothari’s novel will be disappointed.
If you are looking for a romance novel to curl up with by the fire this winter, definitely pick up a copy of My Last Love Story. Just make sure you grab a box of tissues along with your mug of cocoa. You will need them.
My Last Love Story hits shelves January 23, 2018. Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? You can find pre-order options here.