Match Me If You Can

A Novel

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June 4, 2024 | ISBN 9780593909720

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About the Book

A young magazine writer in Mumbai must prove her matchmaking skills—and contend with growing feelings for her close family friend—in this debut desi romance.

“A delightful friends-to-lovers romance that will curb your sweet tooth and leave you feeling warm and happy!”—New York Times bestselling author Sarah Adams

Confident fashionista Jia Deshpande spends her days writing cliché-ridden listicles for Mimosa, Mumbai’s top women’s magazine. When she can, Jia dishes about the messy truth of real love on her anonymous blog, attends her family’s weekly game nights, and ignores her true feelings for her childhood friend. If that wasn’t enough, Jia needs to successfully set up a coworker with her perfect match to get the green light for her new matchmaking column. Thankfully, organizing meet-cutes has never been difficult for her.

 Local pub owner and cocktail genius Jaiman Patil can’t help but be enamored with Jia and her meddling spirit. He’s always been an honorary part of her family, but even more so since his own moved to America. Life with the Deshpandes is chaotic and loud, but it’s also more loving than anything he experienced growing up, and he wouldn’t risk losing that for the world. It feels manageable—until his pub begins to struggle and his long-hidden feelings for Jia grow deeper. 

When Jia’s attempts at office matchmaking go haywire, risking new friendships and her relationship with Jaiman, she must reevaluate her own thoughts on love. For the first time, Jia Deshpande realizes that love may be a lot more complicated than she thought. Luckily, happily-ever-afters are never in short supply in Mumbai.
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Praise for Match Me If You Can

“Swati Hegde is the voice of Desi romance that readers have been waiting for! Truly a delightful friends-to-lovers romance with a clever take on Jane Austen’s Emma that will absolutely curb your sweet tooth and leave you feeling so warm and happy!”New York Times bestselling author Sarah Adams

“Every page of this friends-to-lovers romance is deliciously joyful. A warm, witty and charming love story of matchmaking and missed connections made new again.”—Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of The Breakup Tour

“The strength of this bighearted debut lies in its warm depiction of friendship and family, the courage it takes to go boldly after dreams, and that sometimes what you're looking for has been there all along. You’ll root for Jia and Jaiman!”—Lillie Vale, author of Wrapped with a Beau and The Shaadi Set-Up

“Brimming with wit and heart, Swati Hegde’s Match Me if You Can is a masterclass in modernizing a beloved tale. Weaving the best elements of Jane Austen’s Emma into contemporary Indian life, Hegde creates an irresistibly clueless heroine whose journey toward a happily ever after transcends culture and generations. A true gem of a debut!”—Sara Goodman Confino, bestselling author of Don’t Forget to Write

Match Me If You Can blew me away with its wit, humor, and tender, heartfelt center. Swati Hegde is one to watch!”—Amy Lea, international bestselling author of Exes and O’s
 
“With its most delicious cinnamon roll hero, determined heroine, sparkling Mumbai setting, and nod to Jane Austen, Match Me If You Can swept me away. This adorable friends-to-lovers romance tugged on my heartstrings from the very first page.”—Sara Desai, author of To Have and to Heist
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Excerpt

Match Me If You Can

Chapter 1

Seven Signs He’s the One.

Jia Deshpande frowned at the blinking cursor, trying to ignore the voice in her head screaming, There is no such thing as “The One”!

Jia looked around discreetly at the other writers in the office typing away at their keyboards before switching to an Incognito tab and logging in to her WordPress account.

New blog post for Love Better with J

Title: There Is No Such Thing as “The One”

Save as draft.

“Hey.”

Jia jumped. She quickly switched tabs to the Mimosa India article she was being paid to write and spun around in her revolving chair to smile at her boss. “Hey, Monica,” she said, her voice as steady as she could make it.

Monica Shroff took a sip from her coffee mug and eyed the mostly empty Word document on the screen before returning her gaze to Jia. “I see you’re working on the One article.”

“Yes—yes, I am,” Jia said, chin up and a confident smile on her face, as an idea came to her that would increase the word count and cut her work in half. “I was actually thinking of getting some readers to chime in, too.”

“Hmm?” Monica raised a brow.

“Like this.” Jia turned back to her screen and typed out, #1: He also tries to keep the spark alive, so it’s not just you doing all the work. “And then we get a reader to talk about how her SO does this, and that makes the article all the more relatable to other readers.”

After a beat, her boss nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Get one of the marketing interns to put out an Instagram post asking people to DM their experiences, then. But that’s not why I’m here.”

“Oh?” Jia turned her chair around and faced Monica again. “What’s up?” Her heart thudded. Had somebody found out about her anonymous blog? No, that wasn’t possible. None of her posts had gone viral—yet. And besides, she wasn’t technically doing anything wrong, was she? She’d never named the magazine, herself, or any of her co-workers on it.

“I finally had time to go through your proposal for the new matchmaking column.”

“Oh!” She rubbed the side of her neck, hoping Monica couldn’t hear the racing of her pulse. Finally. Finally! Here was her chance to actually do something worthwhile and meaningful at Mimosa, instead of writing clickbait articles that only made lonely single people feel that much lonelier. Mimosa’s Indian edition had over a million readers, identifying as different genders and sexual orientations. Gone were the days when lifestyle magazines only catered to cis, straight women. The one thing that seventy-three percent of their most engaged readers had in common? They were all single. The “Mimosa Match!” column had the potential to set their readers up with their future partners and sustain their relationships. Jia had been dreaming of this moment since she first started working here, two years ago.

“And what did you think of the proposal?”

A small smile stretched across Monica’s burgundy lips. “It’s an interesting concept. I love the idea of roping in our YouTube videography team too. You’re totally right, our YouTube stats suck, and this might get us more subscribers.” Her mouth puckered. Just as Jia was about to do a celebratory dance in her head, Monica added, “But I don’t know if you have enough credibility to pull this off, Jia. And even if I agreed, I wouldn’t be able to convince my bosses.”

Goddamn it. Jia should have seen this coming—after all, nobody at her office knew about the hours of hard work she put into her blog each week, helping her own readers understand the complexities of the dating world. In the proposal for “Mimosa Match!” she’d described in detail her two successful matchmaking attempts, but maybe setting up family members wasn’t enough credibility for a column like this.

“Monica, I—”

Monica’s smartwatch buzzed, and she cursed under her breath. “We’ll discuss this later. I have a meeting. Also,” she said, as her eyes slid to the empty desk between the writing team and the marketing team, “since our usual horoscope writer is taking an extended maternity leave, we’ve gotten someone new on board.”

“Of course,” Jia said, although she didn’t quite care right now about the prospect of making a new friend at work. All she wanted to do was prove to her boss that she was more than capable of helming the column. If only she could tell Monica about her blog and her three thousand followers, but given that half her post ideas came from debunking Mimosa’s content, it probably wouldn’t help her case.

“This new recruit, she’s very . . . knowledgeable, has degrees in creative writing and astrology, studies the law of attraction and manifestation and all that woo-woo stuff. Maybe she can help you with a love life compatibility quiz article or something. Whatever gets us more views.” Monica made a face. “Thing is, she’s new to Mumbai and doesn’t know anybody. And she hasn’t worked at a magazine yet. If you could—”

“You want me to mentor her?” Jia’s eyes narrowed. More work on her plate, just when she needed to put her head down and focus on her column. “When is she coming in?”

“Monday. It’s not a mentorship. Just make her feel at home, help her socialize.” Monica sipped the dregs of her coffee and added, “Your article is due Monday, too. Better get a move on it, hmm?”

“On it,” Jia replied, her voice chirpy, but once her boss returned to her private office, Jia’s shoulders sank. She looked at the first “sign” she’d typed out for her article. Keep the spark alive. What did that even mean? Jia had never felt sparks for anyone in her twenty-six years of being on this planet. Well, except for—

Her phone vibrated on her desk, and she rolled her eyes at the text. Speak of the devil. The clean-shaven, muscular devil with those twinkling big brown eyes.

Jaiman: Your dad said not to be late for dinner. I’m cooking, by the way

She bit her lip. Papa couldn’t go three days without inviting Jaiman Patil to their home. He may have been her favorite person growing up, considering how much time their dads spent together, but things were different now.

Jia: Tell him to text me himself instead of getting his lackey to do it

Will do lol. You in the mood for lasagna?

Sounds good

See you then


Jia’s fingers hovered over his profile picture before clicking it open. She’d taken that picture about two years ago, the day his pub officially opened to the public. His grin was warm and infectious as he stood behind the counter, mixing a cocktail for one of his first customers. The glint of the bulbs above the bar highlighted the curve of Jaiman’s biceps and the slight brown in his otherwise black hair. Jia wasn’t a good photographer in the slightest, but this was one photo she could look at for hours.

She shook off her thoughts before they could take over. That was dangerous territory. It was time to get back to that damned article.

Jia stretched her arms, flattened the creases on her pink pleated skirt, and had a drink at the water cooler. Then she strode across the room to the marketing department just a few feet away from her own desk. Her four-inch black Manolo Blahnik pumps clicked against the tiled floor, announcing her arrival, and different faces from the marketing team smiled and greeted her as she passed them. In the two years she’d worked at Mimosa, she’d befriended the whole lot. Miss Congeniality: that was probably what she’d win if she ever participated in a beauty pageant. Given she was only five foot three, Jia had no real shot at a modeling career. Although, she wouldn’t mind some world peace.

She stopped at Damini’s little desk and smiled at the intern who was riffling through some paperwork. “Hey, Dams. Got time to post something on IG for my next article?”

“You bet.” Damini pushed her glasses up her nose and grinned. Journalism students—at least the ones Jia had studied with in college—didn’t rank a lifestyle magazine at the very top of their list of dream jobs, and especially not in the marketing department. Damini had confided in Jia that she wished she’d gotten an internship with one of the big English-language newspapers, or maybe even a business magazine, because it looked better on résumés. Despite that, she was their best intern.

Damini typed out notes as Jia spoke about her requirements. “Okay, I’m on it. By the way, how’s”—Damini lowered her voice—“the blog?”

About the Author

Swati Hegde
Swati Hegde is a freelance editor, mindset coach, and self-proclaimed coffee shop enthusiast who lives in Bangalore, India, and can often be found at the nearest café with a hot mug of tea. She looks forward to a long career bringing Indian stories and voices to light. More by Swati Hegde
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