Inseparable yet strained

April 9, 2023

Sara Naveed’s new novel primarily revolves around relationships and the aftermath of their breakdown

Inseparable yet strained


he Cold Heart by Sara Naveed primarily revolves around relationships. Naveed, one of Pakistan’s few English romance writers, has established herself with her previous works: Undying Affinity, Our Story Ends Here, All Of My Heart and The World Between Us. Despite not being a romance fiction enthusiast, I welcome the book for making a significant impact in a country characterised by a scarcity of authors, declining readership and a bleak publishing landscape.

The book’s cover differs significantly from what we are used to seeing on Naveed’s covers. The combinations of white and red provide a clue to the plot. The white conveys the peaceful and Zen-like nature of the characters in the first half of the book; the red serves as a striking contrast, symbolising the romance, danger and murder that are central to the plot.

The story revolves around two sisters who have grown distant from each other over time. Zaira, a literature student at a university, dreams of achieving fame as an author; Zoha is passionate about fashion. Zaira has been lonely in the absence of a close-knit family. Zoha, the elder sibling, has not communicated with her for several years. One day, Zaira receives an unexpected message from Zoha, expressing her desire to meet and start afresh. Despite some reservations, Zaira agrees to the meeting. The subsequent events are soon beyond Zaira’s control. With the demise of one of the principal characters, the novel turns into a thrilling tale of suspicion and the search for the murderer.

Each chapter of this part of the book introduces a character who can be a suspect and adds some dark twists and turns to the plot. The tale takes the readers on a rollercoaster ride, featuring elements of romance for which Naveed is well-known, as well as investigative suspense, murder mystery and psychological thriller. The lines between the good cop and the bad cop become blurred, making it all the more intriguing. As the story progresses, the clues become more challenging to decipher, and the readers are left on the edge of their seats, eagerly turning the pages in anticipation. The book has everything – it will make you feel shocked, sad, sorrowful, happy, hateful, manipulated and excited.

Naveed avoids using flowery language and exquisite descriptions. Instead, she employs subliminal language and tonality throughout the book. 

The author has ventured into uncharted waters by delving into a new genre. This is a courageous move considering she is a regular romance writer. Few writers take such a risk and leap out of their comfort zones. Writing can be a solitary and stifling profession, and seeing someone daring to explore new territories is refreshing.

Naveed avoids flowery language and exquisite descriptions. Instead, she employs subliminal language and tonality throughout the book. While I find the characters solid and bold, I have some reservations about their development. As a thriller, the book is a bit underwhelming.

The novel explores some sensitive themes, such as women making significant life decisions based on their love lives. The idea that the characters were driven solely by love felt unrealistic.

The book provides a realistic portrayal of how women are often drawn to men who display “red flag” behaviours. It strongly emphasises the dangers of enabling and romanticising such men in relationships. It shows how this can harm everyone involved.

For those following Sara Naveed’s work, The Cold Heart will be a delightful surprise. Naveed’s previous books have captivated a significant number of Pakistani readers. I hope that her latest offering will receive an equally enthusiastic response.

The Cold Heart

Author: Sara Naveed

Pages: 306,


Price: Rs 895

The reviewer is a journalist based in Karachi. She can be reached at

Inseparable yet strained