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The Bollywood Bride

The Bollywood Bride

by Sonali Dev

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Overview

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year ●  NPR Best Books of the Year ●  Amazon Fall Reading Selection ● Goodreads Best Romances of the Month ● International Dublin Literary Award Longlist

"A fresh new voice."
—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times bestselling author

Ria Parkar is Bollywood's favorite Ice Princess—beautiful, poised, and scandal-proof—until one impulsive act threatens to expose her destructive past. Traveling home to Chicago for her cousin's wedding offers a chance to diffuse the coming media storm and find solace in family, food, and outsized celebrations that are like one of her vibrant movies come to life. But it also means confronting Vikram Jathar.

Ria and Vikram spent childhood summers together, a world away from Ria's exclusive boarding school in Mumbai. Their friendship grew seamlessly into love—until Ria made a shattering decision. As far as Vikram is concerned, Ria sold her soul for stardom and it's taken him years to rebuild his life. But beneath his pent-up anger, their bond remains unchanged. And now, among those who know her best, Ria may find the courage to face the secrets she's been guarding for everyone else's benefit—and a chance to stop acting and start living.

Rich with details of modern Indian-American life, here is a warm, sexy, and witty story of love, family, and the difficult choices that arise in the name of both.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617730153
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 09/29/2015
Series: Bollywood Series , #2
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 585,069
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sonali Dev's first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and written communication, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler. Sonali is an active member of RWA and WFWA. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world's most perfect dog. Visit her on the web at sonalidev.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Bollywood Bride


By Sonali Dev

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2015 Sonali Dev
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-016-0


CHAPTER 1

Mumbai

Twenty years later


Ria would have given anything to be left alone, but she knew being left alone was not in a Bollywood star's job description. Not even if you were universally acknowledged as a freakish recluse and rather aptly nicknamed The Ice Princess.

Did ice princesses battle beaded fabric? And lose?

Ria tugged at the dress pulled halfway over her head and struggled to free herself. But the stubborn thing grabbed her breasts in a vicious grip and tied her up in a knot of hair, arms, and pure frustration. Somewhere to her left her phone continued its relentless ringing.

Folding over with the skill of a contortionist, she squeezed down her breasts — a photographer had called them "magnificent" today — maybe the blasted things had swelled with pride. She put all her strength into the next tug. The dress flew off, throwing Ria back on her substantially less magnificent behind. Thank God for the rug that pooled beneath her. Standing up, she used her foot to straighten the flaming orange silk that jarred against the white minimalism of her bedroom, mimicking her mood perfectly, and grabbed her cell phone off the nightstand.

"Yes, DJ?" she said in a voice so cool no one would ever know that she'd just been sparring with her clothes. If only acting in front of the camera were as easy as acting in real life.

"Isn't that your sleazeball agent?" Her cousin's beloved all-American drawl instantly melted Ria's irritation. Her tensed-up muscles relaxed. Then just as suddenly they went into a panicked spasm.

"Nikhil? It's two in the morning! What's wrong?"

"Ria, sweetie, everything's okay. Calm down. Jeez." Nikhil's bratty smirk — the one he had perfected on her growing up — flashed in Ria's mind. "Shit, is it really two in Mumbai? Sorry, I'm not used to Malawi time yet." Nikhil and his girlfriend had just moved to Lilongwe for a medical mission. "You sound wide-awake. Are you at a shoot? Or did someone finally drag you to a party?"

Ria rolled her eyes and pulled her slip back in place. "Yeah. I decided it was time to come out of my shell." Nikhil knew better than anyone else how dearly she valued said shell. She carried the dress into her closet and hung it in its color-appropriate spot and grabbed her oldest pair of shorts off a meticulous stack, adjusting it so its meticulousness stayed undisturbed.

"Good, because there's somewhere you need to be." Excitement simmered in Nikhil's voice like the soda cans he liked to shake before he popped them open. Ria's heartbeat sped up. "Jen and I picked a date," he said, and the tiniest shadow of tentativeness crept into his voice.

Ria squeezed the phone between her ear and her shoulder and pulled on the shorts, her hands suddenly clammy.

"They're giving us time off next month. After that we won't be able to get away for another year. So we're getting married in two weeks. And there's no way we're doing it without you."

She grabbed the phone off her shoulder and clutched it to her racing heart for a second before bringing it back to her ear.

"It's time to come home, Ria."

Home.

The word caught in her throat. Exactly the way her breath had when she'd ridden her bike full speed into a low-hanging branch and hit her head so hard she hadn't been able to scream or cry or breathe until she hit the ground. And then her lungs had filled so fast she thought they'd explode.

Home.

For ten years she hadn't let herself think the word out loud.

Nikhil cleared his throat. "Ria?"

She had to say something. But her breath was still trapped in her lungs. There was no way she could go back to Chicago. It had been ten years since she'd been home. Ten years since she'd pushed it away to where not even her dreams could touch it.

Nikhil sighed. "Listen, sweetie, will you at least think about it?"

She needed air. She crossed the room, the marble floor cold beneath her bare feet, and pushed past the French doors onto the balcony. The sweltering Mumbai night slammed into her as she left the air-conditioning. She sucked in a huge humid lungful and let it out. "Nikhil, I'm in the middle of a shooting schedule." A lie. She'd sworn never to lie to him again.

He let out another sigh, heavy with disappointment. "It's okay, Ria. I understand."

Of course he understood. Every decision she'd ever made he'd stood by her like a rock, no questions asked. And here she was ready to miss his wedding. His wedding!

Wrapping an arm across her belly, she leaned into the railing. The rough-hewn sandstone scraped her elbows. Fourteen floors below, silver moonlight danced over the bay, the restless waves all turbulence under the steady rhythm. "Actually, you know what? I might be able to throw one of those diva tantrums and move things around. Give me a day to figure it out?"

"Oh, thank God!" he said with such relief that shame flooded through Ria. "You have no idea how badly I need you there. Jen's going nuts with the traditional Indian wedding thing. She wants the vows around the fire, the henna ceremony, all sorts of dances and dinners. I swear she's making some of those rituals up. She's even talking about me arriving at the wedding on a damn horse!" His voice squeaked on the word and Ria couldn't help but smile.

Jen was fire to Nikhil's earth. Despite his whining, love colored his voice.

"You poor baby. Deep breaths." Ria attempted one herself.

"And Aie's not helping at all. She's doing everything she can to encourage Jen."

Of course Nikhil's mother would support Jen explicitly. Ria knew only too well how fiercely her aunt loved. Uma Atya was the only mother Ria had ever known. All she wanted to do right now was crawl into one of her jasmine- scented hugs and block everything else out the way she had done as a child. "A horse isn't that bad, Nikhil. In my last film, the groom used an elephant — it's the latest craze."

"Yikes!" Nikhil said. "Have Aie or Jen watched that one yet?"

"It isn't out yet. But if you give them a hard time, I'm sending them a DVD."

"Traitor," he mumbled, laughing. Then he got serious again. "Ria, Just come home. Everything will be all right. Trust me."

And with that impossible promise he was gone, leaving Ria leaning over the railing, suspended over the world, memories squeezing out of her heart with the force of seedlings breaking through concrete at the first sign of a crack. And idiot that she was, instead of pushing them back, she clutched at them the way a starving street urchin snatches at food.

She was going home.

To him.

Viky.

No, just Vikram. Not Viky. Not anymore. Only she had ever called him that. He'd been her Viky since she was eight years old. Been as much her home as the redbrick Georgian that had changed her life once. He would never let anyone call him that again, not after what she had done to him.

The bay gleamed onyx in the moonlight. In a few hours the sun would paint the waves the palest gray-blue — an entire ocean the exact color of his eyes.

Great, now she was acting like one of those lovesick drama queens she played in her films. Next she'd be grudging them their absurd hope and their contrived happy endings.

No, she couldn't go back.

But how could she not? Nikhil wasn't just her cousin, he was her brother in every way that mattered. Maybe Vikram would choose not to come. But that was just as ridiculous. Vikram couldn't miss Nikhil's wedding any more than she could. Nikhil and his parents, Uma and Vijay — Ria's aunt and uncle — were as much Vikram's family as they were hers. Not to mention the fact that Vikram had never backed away from anything in his life. Except her.

She, on the other hand, had backing away down to an art.

The phone buzzed in her hand. A text from her agent. Trust DJ to be up at two in the morning texting her. Usually she had no trouble indulging his compulsive excitement about a new script, but right now she couldn't think about work, not before she slipped back into Ice Princess mode. The press couldn't have come up with a better nickname for her. It was perfect. Hard and cold and unbreachable. And she needed it now more than ever.

Instead of reading the text she reached behind her, gathered the heavy curtain of hair that hung down to her waist, and slung it over one shoulder in a loose twist. The movement hurt. But the familiar soreness in her muscles anchored her in the present, which is where she needed to be. This was her life. Two hours at the gym before a twelve-hour shooting schedule. Focusing on her body was the only way to keep the mess that was her mind buried deep, the numbing exhaustion the only way to put her to bed every night. Except tonight, there would be no sleep.

She leaned into the railing and stretched her back, arching up, then down like a cat. Rickshaws whirred in the distance, cars honked. Even at this hour, there was no silence in the city, no peace. Billboards and streetlights threw a twilight glow over the tightly clustered buildings and sparkled off the water like stars shooting out of an inverted sky. An intense urge to flip it the right side up overwhelmed her. She thrust her body over the railing and twisted around, letting her hair spill into the night.

The cell phone slipped from her hand and landed on something hard with a crack. She straightened up, frowning, and glanced around to find it. But it was gone.

Bloody hell. Her entire world, all her contacts, it was all in that phone. For a split second she considered not searching for it at all. It had disappeared and maybe she could disappear too. Go back home as though the past ten years had never happened.

But then the fluorescent screen flashed at her from the outer ledge of the swirling balusters and nipped her flight of fancy in the bud. There was no escape. She had to retrieve it. In one easy movement she pulled herself onto the railing and swung herself over it.

Her legs were too long for her body. They had always made her feel awkward and gangly. But now they made her lithe, almost graceful, as she landed on the wide cantilevered overhang. She picked up the phone and shoved it into her pocket. Her low-slung shorts slid even lower down her hips. A gust of wind caught her hair and lifted it into a flapping cape behind her. She faced the ocean. The old heady freedom of being so far away from the earth wrapped itself around her. She threw out her arms and let the unrestrained beauty of the sparkling night sink into every pore.

Suddenly a spark shone too strong, too bright, and broke through her trance. Then another. Then another. Blinking, Ria followed the flashes to the rooftop terrace of the neighboring building.

A hooded figure shrouded in black leaned over the concrete wall and reached into the meager space separating the two buildings. A giant bazooka-like contraption projected from his hands and he had it aimed straight at her.

A lens.

The realization slammed into Ria, the force of it turning every cell in her body to lead and locking her in place, as the rapid flashes went off incessantly.

Suddenly they stopped. He moved the camera aside, looked directly at her, and made a bouncing, diving action with one hand.

He was signaling her to jump.

CHAPTER 2

The doorbell gave a loud clang. Ria sat up in bed panting, memories thrashing around inside her like rabid things kept locked up too long.

She pulled her knees to her chest, pressing them against the name slamming inside it.

Viky.

Had she screamed it out? Or had it stayed trapped inside? All she knew was that she wanted to hear it again. Wanted to say it again so badly she had to swallow to keep it inside.

The doorbell clanged again.

She dragged herself to the door. Every joint in her body felt like it had come unhinged from being rolled up like a fetus all night. Tai, her day maid, who cleaned and cooked for Ria, stood on the other side of the door, both hands planted squarely on her hips, her face scrunched up with disapproval for being kept waiting. One look at Ria and her glare turned to alarm. Apparently, the Ice Princess mask hadn't held up to last night's events.

"Who will believe you are a filum shtarr, babyji?" Tai pulled the door shut behind her and took her street slippers off by the door. "You look like my friend when her husband whacks her twice and her eyes swell into slits this small." She narrowed her own eyes, simulating her friend's abuse with her usual matter-of-factness. But the concern in her voice was so heartfelt that Ria attempted a smile to put her at ease before heading off to the bathroom to assess the damage. Tai tucked her sari around herself and followed close on Ria's heels.

Tai was right. Smudged mascara and kohl painted twin black eyes into Ria's throbbing head. Leaning over the sink, Ria flicked on the lights that outlined the mirrored wall and studied herself in it. She couldn't remember the last time she had gone to bed without stripping her face of every last bit of makeup. She turned on the faucet and splashed her face. Time to snap out of all this self-indulgent moping about. The cold sting felt so good she kept splashing until Tai nudged her shoulder and handed her a towel, staring at her the way one stared at a pathetic, hungover drunk.

"You know, babyji, my friend just started doing cleaning for that new girl who lives down there." She pointed at the bathroom floor. "On the second floor. You know the one who acts in TV sherial?"

A tiny smile nudged at Ria's heart. She loved the way Tai peppered their native tongue, Marathi, with English words like film star and TV serial, turning all her s's into sh's. Ria nodded and started rubbing globs of aloe extract into the soreness around her eyes.

Tai put down the commode cover and lowered herself on it. "Arrey, you should hear the stories my friend tells. Day and night they do party." Again, she said the word party in English and rolled her eyes one full circle to make sure Ria knew exactly how despicable the partying was. "Bottle everywhere. Even ciga-rette. Shi! And men? All times of the day there are men."

The smile broke through to Ria's lips.

Tai went on. "I told my friend, not my babyji. Never. Never a party. Never noise. Never nothing!" She shook her hands to indicate the nothingness of Ria's life. "And men? Not ever. Not one. And you are a real shtar. Not just some TV shtarlett!" She spat out the word starlet with such disgust that Ria paused in the middle of rubbing circles up and down her cheeks and turned to her. Tai didn't deserve all this worry.

"Thank you, Tai." Ria had always used the endearment that meant "big sister" for her. She was much older than Ria, so using her name was out of the question and Ria hated the standard Bai reserved for maids. "When do I have time for parties? And you know there's no alcohol in the house. It's just that there was a little problem last night and I didn't get much sleep." As understatements went, this one was ridiculously over the top.

Ria grabbed a tissue and wiped around her eyes. The naked, violated feeling that had made her hands shake when she tugged the drapes shut after running in from the balcony last night spread through her in an unbearable throb. She eased the pressure of her fingers. Some desperate paparazzo wasn't worth gouging out her skin for. Especially not just before a shoot.

A frown creased Tai's forehead. But Ria didn't respond to her silent question. Tai's curiosity would be satisfied soon enough. The pictures were going to be all over the media. Ten years of keeping her private life off the media's radar, and she had potentially blown it all in one fell swoop.

She turned back to the mirror, her spine so straight it made her feel ten feet tall and lifted her away from the problem. Blowing it wasn't an option. After spending ten years guarding her private life with everything she had, she wasn't going to let one stupid impulsive moment ruin it all. Silence was the only defense against the press. It was the best antidote to scandal. And Ria Parkar did silence better than anyone else.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev. Copyright © 2015 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.

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