Tuesday, 1 September 2015

'The Bollywood Bride' by Sonali Dev: A Book Review

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.

Note: I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't read Indian contemporary fiction that often, even though it's what I write. But I'm glad I gave The Bollywood Bride a chance, because it was rather... refreshing. Very unlike other romance novels I've read.

The Bollywood Bride is the story of Ria, one of the top actresses of the film industry, and her childhood sweetheart, Vikram. It's been ten years since she's seen him, but now that her cousin is getting married, there's no escaping the feelings she once had for Vikram.

Sonali Dev is an Indian-American author, so her writing style is vaguely reminiscent of Kristan Higgins and Susan Mallery - except with that desi touch, which is very apparent in the dramatic plot. Ria is a Bollywood star, and her life reads like the script of one. From evil mothers-in-law to kitty party aunties to infidelity to betrayal, this novel has a LOT of things going on at once. Much like any Bollywood movie, really.

And even though I consider most Bollywood masala flicks to be overdramatic, three-hour long features that would be a waste of anyone's time, I actually found it difficult to put this book down. In spite of the length (350+ pages), in spite of the clichéd storyline, and in spite of Ria being - well - sort of dislikeable, I kept on reading.

What saves the plot from being too overwhelming is Ria and Vikram's chemistry. Damn, Sonali Dev knows how to write romance better than most scriptwriters in Bollywood. Every scene with the two main characters is engaging and explosive. If you love love stories, you're going to be crazy about theirs.

It was the first time Ria had heard his voice in ten years. She pressed her hand into the floor and leaned into it. The deep, low tones washed over her like rain after a drought - so long awaited every parched inch of her soaked it up. Time had turned the bass in his voice up just the slightest bit, but the sound was so distinctly him, Ria's flesh prickled with recognition. A voice that had haunted her silences. A voice her ears had searched for in all other voices. She wanted to close her eyes and drown in it.

Unlike the great love stories Ria played out in her movies, there had been no moment when the heavens opened up to the frantic wail of violins. No lightning bolt had cracked through the sky when she had realised she was in love. There had been no declarations, no grand gestures. No transition from not knowing to knowing. It had just been there, just like that. Always. 

"God, looking at you - how you look at me. It - it puts me together. It's like being able to breathe again." He ran his fingers through his hair, raising it into spikes. "I hadn't breathed for ten years, Ria."

However, I would liked to have known more about their past, about the way their relationship had bloomed initially. Some more showing instead of telling would have helped, especially since I love flashback scenes in romance novels.

The ending, though... it was rather disappointing. Somewhat anti-climactic, too. The entire book had been amped up with drama to such a huge extent, I was hoping for an even more flamboyant happily-ever-after. This book is named after Bollywood for a reason, after all.

I'm going to go with 3.5 stars out of 5 for this one.
Funny, romantic and very, very intense, The Bollywood Bride would make for a great Karan Johar movie releasing during Diwali (perhaps with Deepika Padukone as the star?). But it works quite well as a book, too.

This book releases on September 29th, 2015. If you're a Bollywood junkie, pick it up! It won't disappoint. Also a good read if you love big, fat, Indian weddings.

Are you planning to buy this one, Geeks? Have you read Sonali Dev's first novel, A Bollywood Affair? I haven't yet, although I'm planning to. Who are your favourite romance writers?

See you next time!

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