Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.
Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.
Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s novel is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.
"A fresh new voice...Deeply-felt emotions that will keep readers turning pages. A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR has it all."—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times bestselling author
"Deeply romantic and emotional, with characters I fell in love with, A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR is simply unputdownable. It's sexy, it's dramatic, but most of all, it's a sweet, hot love story that made me sigh and smile and want to read it all over again as soon as I turned the last page."—Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author
"An impressive debut and a charming contemporary Indian fairytale...Vibrant and exuberantly romantic, Affair is chock full of details that reflect India's social and cultural flux." —NPR.com
"As intricate as a henna tattoo and as sweet as gulab juman... this witty confection is sure to delight...Captures all the glamour, mix-ups and humor of a classic Bollywood film." —Shelf Awareness
"Dev's heartfelt debut novel is rich in scenes and images illuminating Indian culture, leaving readers with a greater understanding and appreciation of Indian traditions while beautifully capturing the struggle between familial duty and self-discovery." —Booklist
“A delightful debut packed with complex characters, deep emotions and just the right touch of humor. A tale of love, loss and second chances.”—Shobhan Bantwal, author of The Dowry Bride
"In this enthralling tale of romantic complications Sonali Dev not only entertains but provides new insight into the human condition. A must read."—Mingmei Yip, author of Peach Blossom Pavilion
“It is a true joy when a fresh new voice enters the genre, so make note of the name Sonali Dev! Based on this marvelous debut, Dev is set to become a star. Filled with warmth and completely unforgettable characters, this occasionally poignant story explores what happens when best laid plans go awry. An absolute winner from beginning to end, this spellbinding tale grabs your heart and never lets go!” —RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK
"This tasty Indian American confection will satisfy female readers of any age...A contemporary, transcontinental romance told with a light touch and lots of sizzle.—Library Journal
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A Bollywood Affair
By Sonali Dev
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Sonali Dev
All rights reserved.
All Mili had ever wanted was to be a good wife. A domestic goddess-slash-world's-wife-number-one-type good wife. The kind of wife her husband pined for all day long. The kind of wife he rushed home to every night because she'd make them a home so very beautiful even those TV serial homes would seem like plastic replicas. A home filled with love and laughter and the aroma of perfectly spiced food, which she would serve out of spotless stainless steel vessels, dressed in simple yet elegant clothes while making funny yet smart conversation. Because when she put her mind to it she really could dress all tip-top. As for her smart opinions? Well, she did know when to express them, no matter what her grandmother said.
Professor Tiwari had even called her "uniquely insightful" in his letter of recommendation. God bless the man; he'd coaxed her to pursue higher education, and even Mahatma Gandhi himself had said an educated woman made a better wife and mother. So here she was, with the blessings of her teacher and Gandhiji, melting into the baking pavement outside the American Consulate in Mumbai, waiting in line to get her visa so she could get on with said higher education.
Now if only her nose would stop dripping for one blessed second. It was terribly annoying, this nose-running business she was cursed with—her personal little pre-cry warning, just in case she was too stupid to know that tears were about to follow. She squeezed the tip of her nose with the scarf draped across her shoulders, completely ruining her favorite pink salwar suit, and stared at the two couples chattering away over her head. She absolutely would not allow herself to cry today.
So what if she was sandwiched between two models of newly wedded bliss. So what if the sun burned a hole in her head. So what if guilt stabbed at her insides like bull horns. Everything had gone off like clockwork and that had to be a sign that she was doing the right thing. Right?
She had woken up at three that morning and taken the three-thirty fast train from Borivali to Charni Road station to make it to the visa line before five. It had been a shock to find fifty-odd people already camped out on the concrete sidewalk outside the high consulate gates. But after she got here the line had grown at an alarming rate and now a few hundred people snaked into an endless queue behind her. And that's what mattered. Her grandma did always say "look at those beneath you, not those above you."
Mili turned from the newlywed couple in front of her to the newlywed couple behind her. The bride giggled at something her husband said and he looked like he might explode with the joy the sound brought him. Mili yanked a handkerchief out of her mirror-work sack bag and jabbed it into her nose. Oh, there was no doubt they were newlyweds. It wasn't just the henna on the women's hands, or the bangles jangling on their arms from their wrists to their elbows. It was the way the wives fluttered their lashes when they looked up at their husbands and all those tentative little touches. Mili sniffed back a giant sob. The sight of the swirling henna patterns and the sunlight catching the glass bangles made such longing tear through her heart that she almost gave up on the whole nose-squeezing business and let herself bawl.
Not that all the longing in the world was ever going to give Mili those bridal henna hands or those bridal bangles. Her time for that had passed. Twenty years ago. When she was all of four years old. And she had no memory of it. None at all.
She blew into the hankie so hard both brides jumped.
"You okay?" Bride Number One asked, her sweet tone at odds with the repulsion on her face.
"You don't look too good," Bride Number Two added, not to be outdone.
Both husbands preened at their wives' infinite kindliness.
"I'm fine," Mili sniffed from behind the hankie pressed to her nose. "Must be catching a cold."
Both couples took a quick step back. Getting sick would put quite a damper on all that shiny-fresh newly weddedness. Good. She was sick of all that talk over her head. Being just a smidge less than five feet tall did not make her invisible.
The four of them exchanged meaningful glances. The couple behind her smiled expectantly at Mili, but they didn't come out and ask her to let them move closer to their new friends. The couple in front studied the cars whizzing by with great interest. They weren't about to let their position in line go. The old Mili would have moved out of the way without a second thought. But the new Mili, the one who had sold her dowry jewels so she could go to America and finally make herself worth something, had to learn to hold her ground.
There's a difference between benevolence and stupidity and even God knows it. Her grandmother's ever-present monotone tried to strengthen her resolve. She was done with stupidity, she really was, but she hated feeling petty and mean. She was about to give up the battle and her place in line when a man in a khaki uniform walked up to her. "What status?" he asked impatiently.
Mili took a step back and tried not to give him what her grandmother called her idiot-child look. Anyone in uniform terrified her.
"F-1? H-1?" He gave the paperwork she was clutching to her belly a tap with his baton, doing nothing to diffuse her fear of authority.
"Oy hoy," he said irritably when she didn't respond, and switched to Hindi. "What visa status are you applying for, child?"
The flickering light bulb in Mili's brain flashed on. "F-1. Student visa, please," she said, mirroring his dialect and beaming at him, thrilled to hear the familiar accent of her home state here in Mumbai.
His face softened. "You're from Rajasthan, I see." He smiled back, not looking the least bit intimidating anymore, but more like one of the kindly uncles in her village. He grabbed her arm. "This way. Come along." He dragged her to a much shorter queue that was already moving through the wrought-iron gates. And just like that, Mili found herself in the huge waiting hall inside the American consulate.
It was like stepping inside a refrigerator, pure white and clinically clean and so cold she had to rub her arms to keep gooseflesh from dancing across her skin. But the chill in the room refreshed her, made her feel all shiny and tip-top like the stylish couple making goo-goo eyes at each other on the Bollywood billboard she could see through the gleaming windows.
She patted down her hair. She had pulled it tightly into a ponytail and then braided it for good measure. Today must be an auspicious day because her infuriating, completely stubborn curls had actually decided to stay where she had put them. Demon's hair, her grandmother called it. Her naani had made Mili massage her arms with sesame oil every morning after she combed Mili's hair out for school. "Your hair will kill me," she had loved to moan. "It's like someone unraveled a rug and threw the tangled mass of yarn on your head just to torture me."
Dear old Naani. Mili was going to miss her so much. She pressed her palms together, threw a pleading look at the ceiling, and begged for forgiveness. I'm sorry, Naani. You know I would never do what I'm about to do if there were any other way.
"Mrs. Rathod?" The crisply dressed visa officer raised one blond eyebrow at Mili as she approached the interview window. The form she had filled out last night while hiding in her cousin's bathroom sat on the laminated counter between them.
"It says here you are twenty-four years old?" Mili was used to that incredulous look when she told anyone her age. It was always hard convincing anyone she was a day over sixteen.
She started to nod again, but decided to speak up. "Yes. I am, sir," she said in what Professor Tiwari called her impressive English. The ten-kilometer bike ride from her home to St. Teresa's English High School for girls had been worth every turn of the pedal.
"It also says here you're married." Sympathy flashed in his blue eyes, exactly the way it flashed in Naani's eyes when she offered sweets to their neighbor's wheelchair-bound daughter, and Mili knew he had noticed her wedding date. Another thing Mili was used to. These urban types always, always looked at her this way when they found out how young she had been on her wedding day.
Mili touched her mangalsutra—the black wedding beads around her neck should've made the question redundant—and nodded. "Yes. Yes, I'm married."
"What is your area of study?" he asked, although that too was right there on the form.
"It's an eight-month certificate course in applied sociology, women's studies."
"You have a partial scholarship and an assistantship."
It wasn't a question so Mili nodded again.
"Why do you want to go to America, Mrs. Rathod?"
"Because America has done very well in taking care of its women. Where else would I go to study how to better the lives of women?"
A smile twinkled in his eyes, wiping away that pitying look from before. He cleared his throat and peered at her over his glasses. "Do you plan to come back?"
She held his stare. "I'm on sabbatical from my job at the National Women's Center in Jaipur. I'm also under bond with them. I have to return." She swallowed. "And my husband is an officer in the Indian Air Force. He can't leave the services for at least another fifteen years." Her voice was calm. Thank God for practicing in front of mirrors.
The man studied her. Let him. She hadn't told a single lie. She had nothing to fear.
He lifted a rubber stamp from the ink pad next to him. "Good luck with your education, Mrs. Rathod. Pick up your visa at window nine at four p.m." Slam and slam. And there it was—APPROVED—emblazoned across her visa application in the bright vermillion of good luck.
"Thank you," she said, unable to hold back a skip as she walked away. And thank you, Squadron Leader Virat Rathod. It was the first time in Mili's life that her husband of twenty years had helped his wife with anything.CHAPTER 2
This was what Samir lived for. Drinking himself senseless with his brother was a thing of such comfort that Samir couldn't think of a single other situation in which he felt so completely and wholly himself. Samir took a sip of his Macallen and scanned the crowd divided equally between the glass dance floor suspended over the swimming pool and the bar that overlooked it. He'd much rather be at one of his regular city bars with his brother, but when the wife of one of Bollywood's biggest superstars invited you to her husband's "surprise" fortieth birthday party, you showed up. And you acted like you wanted to be here more than anywhere else in the world. Especially when you needed the birthday boy to act in your next film.
The good news was that the hideous parts were over. The stripper had jumped out of the cake, the champagne fountain had cascaded down a tower of crystal flutes and been consumed amid toasts, tears, and flashing cameras. Now the frosted-glass hookahs were bubbling at tables and the smell of apple-flavored tobacco mingled with the smell of weed and cigars. Samir actually enjoyed this relatively mellow part of the evening, when the pretense was mostly over and everyone was too high to care about how they looked or how quotable what came out of their mouth was. Plus, the combination of the sapphire-lit pool shimmering beneath the glass dance floor and the blanket of stars above was quite beautiful. Not to mention the fact that his brother was here with him to enjoy it. He took another slow sip of his drink, leaned back on the low lounge-style sofa and let out a deep sigh.
Virat threw his head back and laughed. "Bastard, you're sighing. I swear, Chintu, you're such a chick."
"Shut up, Bhai. That was a man-sigh."
"Is that like one of those 'man purses' you carry?" His brother pointed his all-Indian Old Monk rum at the Louis Vuitton messenger bag leaning against a plush silk pillow next to Samir.
Samir shrugged. Given that he was a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton, he could hardly carry anything else. It was the only modeling gig he did anymore. The money was fantastic and he liked the rustic flavor of the campaign. Truth was he had never enjoyed modeling. Too static for him. But thanks to his half-American genes and the white skin that had made his childhood hell, assignments had fallen in his lap far too easily to turn away. India's postcolonial obsession with white skin was alive and well. And modeling had led him to the camera so he couldn't begrudge it. Even after ten years, bringing a film alive from behind the lens still gave him his best hard-on.
Virat shook his head as if Samir was a lost cause. "Seriously, you drink that fancy shit, you color-coordinate your closet, and you actually fucking know the names of things you wear. Did I teach you nothing?"
Actually, Virat had taught Samir everything he knew. His brother was just two years older, but he'd been a father to Samir, their real father having had the indecency to die without either one of them ever knowing him. The bastard.
"You tried, Bhai. But who can be like you?" Samir raised his glass to his brother. "You are, after all, 'The Destroyer.'" They said that last word together, deepening their voices like they had done as boys, and took long sips from their glasses.
"The holy triumvirate," their mother had called them—the creator, the keeper, and the destroyer. Their mother was the creator, of course. The boys had fought for the title of destroyer. Virat had gone to the National Defense Academy at sixteen and become a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force and Samir was writing and directing Bollywood films. There was no longer a fight about who was "The Destroyer."
"You boys don't look anywhere near done." Rima, Virat's wife, returned from her third ladies' room visit of the evening.
The brothers stood, weaving a little, and grabbed each other's arms to steady themselves.
"Are you tired? Do we need to leave?" Virat's rugged, big-man face softened to goop. He rubbed his wife's shoulder. Her belly was starting to round out just the slightest bit and the angles of her face had lost some of their sharpness, but the rest of her was as slender and graceful as ever.
Rima ran her fingers through her husband's hair and they shared one of their moments. The kind of moment that made Samir feel like a rudderless ship with no land in sight. Not that he was looking for what they had. Neha was on location for a shoot and he was actually relieved that he didn't have to share his time with his family with his girlfriend.
Rima turned to Samir, went up on her toes, and ruffled his hair. Virat might still call him Chintu, which meant "tiny" in Hindi, but at a couple inches over six feet Samir had a good half foot on his brother.
"We don't need to leave." Rima gave them one of her angelic smiles. "But I am tired, so I am going home. You two try to save some liver for later?"
"Don't be ridiculous. We'll take you home. Bhai and I can finish up there. The party's winding down anyway." Samir reached for the jacket he had slung over the couch.
"Yeah, we're not staying here without you, baby," Virat said before wrapping his arms around Rima and breaking into a seriously tuneless rendition of "I Don't Want to Live Without You." Usually Samir wouldn't mind anyone murdering that particular Foreigner song, but there were still a few journos hanging around at a nearby table and the thought of Virat and Rima's private moment mocked in some bitchy film magazine column made Samir positively sick.
Rima, genius that she was, stroked Virat's lips with her thumb, silencing him. Samir loved the woman. He mouthed a thank-you and got another angel's smile in return. "No. You boys continue. I'll send the driver back." She tapped Virat's chest with one finger and gave Samir a meaningful look. "Samir, he's definitely not getting behind a wheel like this, you understand?"
"Yes, ma'am," both brothers said in unison.
Samir watched Virat follow Rima with his eyes as she let the hostess air-kiss both cheeks and walk her out. "I'm a chick, Bhai? You should see how you look at her."
"A real man isn't afraid of love, Chintu." A line of dialog from Samir's biggest Bollywood blockbuster. And Virat pulled it off in an almost perfect impersonation of the hero's theatric baritone.
Excerpted from A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. Copyright © 2014 Sonali Dev. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A promising start for this debut author! I picked up this book because one of my very favorite authors—Nalini Singh—recommended it to her readers. The synopsis sounded very interesting and I had never read anything with an Indian/Bollywood influence so I thought I’d take a chance. A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR is a book that is full of culture, tradition, customs and love. The love of a husband who she’s never met. The love of a brother who would do anything for his own. The love of a husband for his wife. The love a mother/grandmother has for her child/grandchildren, and an unimaginable love between a man and a woman that defies all odds. The story takes us on a deeply heart-felt journey of circumstance and self-discovery. It is not just a love story; it’s about not letting your fears define you and dealing with the struggle to forgive even the most heinous of wrongs. I enjoyed the story and especially loved learning about the Indian culture. I thought the book was refreshing and original and I would definitely recommend it to any reader. This is a promising debut for Sonali Dev and I look forward to her next adventure. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.
Did I basically pick up this book because I saw Bollywood and that it was a book about Indians? Yep. Did it disappoint? Not at all (thankfully). This was a fresh and captivating, full of culture, and I loved it. Mili was married at the age of 4, and hasn't seen her "husband" for twenty years. She longs for the day when he will come and claim her. She's already dreamed of the life they will have, even claiming to love him, and is doing everything to make herself into the perfect modern wife. Unbeknownst to her, her husband has married another woman, thinking that his first marriage was annulled many years ago, after child marriages were declared illegal in India. Except, his wasn't. His player of a brother, Samir, is sent to America to find Mili and force her to sign the divorce papers. I liked both of the main characters in this one. Mili is timid, just wanting to get through school and waiting for her husband to claim her so that she and her grandmother can live a good life. Choosing to go to America and go to school was a bold choice. The girl barely had any food to eat, and yet she was so intent on this. Some might say that she was very narrow-minded, only focusing on her husband coming to claim her, but that's all that she has had drilled into her for twenty years. I think she definitely goes through some growth and change, coming into herself and learning what she wants and not everyone else. Samir definitely had a lot of sides to him. He definitely has his demons, due to his mother and grandfather, and he does allow them to rule his life. Never getting close to anyone, nothing more than flings here and there. Except for his family, of course. But he lets us see a different side of him when he's with Mili, and he was definitely swoony. I mean, the man cooks. I have nothing to say about the supporting cast, though, because let's face it: I didn't really like any of them. There was never really a point when I was bored. It did take me a bit to get into it at the beginning, but from then on I was hooked. It was a wonderfully weaved story that enthralled me. There is a juxtaposition between Mili's naive views on love, and Sam's cynical ones, and I think they definitely put forth some questions to think about. It was a very deep story, but not in a serious-ruins-all-the-fun sense. It was a great story, as well. And, of course, the culture. I loved it. But I also loved how the author brought in different parts of India as well. One of them even says something along the lines of how their Indias were so different, even though it's all the same country. And I liked how she showed that. From Mili being a small village girl, to Samir's big city self, even to her North Indian roommate marrying a South Indian and the differences/why it was such a big deal. And come on guys, the food. So much food. I was definitely hungry. This was a beautiful story, one that I loved for both its characters and its culture. It was deep, moving, and just all-around intriguing.
Set in India and Michigan, the story of Mili and Samir is unique in its setting, plot, and drama. She is a child bride, a custom, although illegal, still practiced in many places in India, and he needs something from her that only she is capable of giving. Really a great read!
This book introduces us to Mili, a small town girl who has yearned her whole life for the love of a husband she’s only met once as a child. She was married off at the age of four and has spent her life preparing to be a good wife, but her husband hasn’t come to claim her. She goes to America to gain an education that will make her worthy of being an officer’s wife. Samir is her husband’s brother—a Bollywood writer who has lost his muse. He goes to America to convince Mili to sign annulment papers, but he doesn’t realize that Mili has been raised to consider herself married and is dedicated to her husband. I really loved getting both perspectives in this book. It would be easy to see Mili as being naive or strange for holding so tightly to a marriage that took place when she was four, but her POV helps us see why she would feel that way. Why she holds her family’s position and traditions in such high regard. But we also see the world through Samir’s eyes—he grew up in a very different India than Mili did, and he doesn’t see the world the same way. This cultural clash helps us see both sides of the story. This book was entertaining and gave me insight into Indian culture, and I really enjoyed it. It did have a few flaws, though—the whole basis of Mili and Samir’s relationship is that she has a sprained ankle and wrist and he ends up helping her. But she comes off as a bit helpless, and she basically needs him to save her all the time. And of course Samir doesn’t just tell Mili why he’s there (because then we’d have no book), but this sort of deception feels a little cliche (not to mention uncomfortable when things heat up between the two of them). Still, overall, I enjoyed this one. I’d give it 3.5/5 stars.
I really enjoyed it. The book was well-written and I liked the characters and their backstories. I don't know much about Indian culture so it was fun to learn a little bit. There are some explicit scenes and language but overall a great read.
I think it's safe to say that this is my favorite contemporary romance novel ever, if only because I had no idea Indian contemporary romance novels were a thing, and that they could be so perfect. This desi-lit is basically everything I never knew I needed, and now I need more. Based on the synopsis, I had thought that Mili Rathod would be a super traditional Indian lady, and she was to a certain extent, except there's so much more to her. I mean, Mili Rathod had an arranged marriage when she was a child, and held up traditional values including staying faithful to the husband she has never met, and even loving him. She's cute. But personally, I think that moving to America on her own in order to go to college and improve herself both for herself and her husband is something that speaks to her wonderful, courageous, and dedicated character, and just makes me love her more. Mili is the sweetest heroine in the world, and luckily, her hero is just as great. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Samir other than the fact that he was a Bollywood director - but what does that say about his character? Is he arrogant and rude? Kind? Somewhere in the middle? Likely everyone already knows how much I appreciate angst in a romance novel, and thankfully, this one had a ton. From the first moment Samir and Mili met, I was squealing. Mili successfully makes a fool out of herself + is super clumsy + mistakes his identity + sustains an injury, and Samir is just like what the heck just happened? It was a literal joy watching their relationship change and grow, and let me just say I am so so happy that Samir's brother didn't find Mili first. Similarly, I love that there's more to Samir's brother/Mili's husband than is told in the synopsis. I love it when characters are portrayed in more than just black and white. This romance could have easily been a normal New Adult novel, except for the Indian names, culture, traditions, and of course, the Punjabi wedding right smack in the middle of the novel (not Samir and Mili's, by the way). I adored all of these aspects of the novels, and sadly for me, I find myself craving even more of this kind of contemporary romance. Except I can't find any. I suppose what I love the most about the novel is that the personalities of the characters just scream Indian, and I love it. In fact, A Bollywood Affair perfectly combines American and Indian, and it's ridiculously wonderful. Can this please be made into a Bollywood movie? The painful parts of this book caused me a lot of hurt, the fairly large quantity of humorous incidents made me laugh out loud, and the incredibly hot and sweet and at times angry Samir made me swoon like I'd lost my center of balance. This book gave me everything I could ever ask for, and I'm probably ruined for nearly every contemporary romance I'll read in the future. I would happily read this book over and over again, and I need a copy on my shelf right now. Sonali Dev, you are one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. - Read more reviews at http://www.the-lone-reader-blog.blogspot.com
Just love it.
Disclaimer alert: I won this book in a Facebook contest. That said, I was under no obligation to read it, review it or like it. And like it I did. It's rare to find a book written by an Indian woman about the role of Indian women. Mili was pledged to a boy when she was four. And she never saw him after the ceremony. Because she was a "married woman," she had a higher status in her village and was therefore granted different freedoms. She is allowed to leave India to study in the States for most of a year. What she wants, in addition to her education, is to be the true wife of the man she married. Enter a flamboyant Bollywood director who's sent to get her to sign divorce papers. Samir keeps his motives secret. He believes she's still a poor villager who will fall to his charms and sign away her rights. Mili is anything but naive. Samir finds himself up against a strong-willed modern woman who struggles to maintain her traditions. Samir doesn't plan on falling in love with Mili; Mili doesn't want to love Samir, because she's married and it would be a sin to love anyone but her legal husband. Conflict between real-world emotions, traditional values and a growing love between Mili and Samir make for a fascinating read. This is the debut of a series. I bought the next in the series and can't wait to read it.
Best book I have ever read...
This was a bright and playful story! I was so lucky to find this gem. Sonali Dev created great bunch of characters that you really care about. Mili and Samir's relationship had a nice progression. They don't immediately jump into bed together, they really get to know one another. It was refreshing. The book is also filled with a lot of quirky and endearing supporting characters. I even learned a bit about Indian culture and customs while reading this book. I can't wait to read Sonali Dev's next book this fall.
This story starts off strong, but then becomes repetitive and sophomoric. It could have used a better editor.
I’ve been really fortunate as a reviewer to have the opportunity to read lots of new-to-me authors. Usually those introductions are positive, and several have added to my to be read pile and wishlist of titles to acquire. Occasionally, I have an author that instantly goes to my “buy their books no matter what” pile, and today I am fortunate to have added another into that list. Sonali Dev manages to incorporate traditional Indian values, attitudes and cultural identity into her new release and create a story that is engaging, emotional and easy to relate to. Without making explanations and definitions of the cultural elements so integral to the story too complex that they dwarf the action, readers are able to integrate some very unfamiliar concepts into the story and see how these elements effect and are affecting the progression of the plot. This is so much more than a romance, Mili is learning to function away from her small village with a solid sense of ‘security’, married but not in daily contact with her husband: she is living in Michigan, worlds away from her small Indian home. There is only one problem: her husband isn’t all that interested in having a wife, especially not one from a provincial village. When Samir arrives to obtain an annulment for his older brother, he is completely mistaken about Mili – believing her to be a social-climbing gold-digger. Again, his respect and ties to family have him behaving as he “should” first, and then he starts to watch and see the qualities that Mili shows. While the tropes are not, in and of themselves anything fresh and new: misjudged ingénue, a wealthy bossy playboy who is conflicted about his persona; Dev infuses them with such cultural richness and detail, bringing the characters to life in fully three dimensions, flaws and all. We can see and feel the conflict and struggle that Mili has with being a “modern wife” as so much of what she is learning runs contrary to all of the tradition and Grandmother she holds dear. And Samir agonizes over his public ‘playboy’ image, as he is most comfortable being the dutiful son in a more traditional arrangement. These two show a steady growth of friendship with some lighter moments from Mili’s antics, and you can see the draw that they have for one another. It’s always nice to learn while you read: and becoming so immersed in the story your heart goes out to Mili, sometimes even feeling frustrated with some of her choices. Then Dev smoothly shows readers that Mili is navigating a slippery slope between tradition and all she has learned, and you switch to cheering her on – hoping that she gets a chance at the happiness she so deserves. Fortunately, Samir, although often appearing to be uncaring and blustering through without thinking, he really does believe that Mili is someone special, if only he has the courage to speak what is in his heart. I loved this story: Dev’s writing is strong and her characters breathe from the pages. Utterly engaging, I sat down to read for a bit, and looked up a couple of hours later at “The End”. This author is now on my must buy list – and should be on yours. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.