Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: "A Bollywood Affair" by Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair Sonali Dev
Published: October 28, 2014
ISBN: 9781617730139
Genre: Romance
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Bollywood, Diverse Fiction, Indian Culture, Rakish heroes, books dealing with traditional vs. modern issues.

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 for eight months, 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. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. 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 debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

My Thoughts:
Bollywood and was inevitable, or was it?  Romance is probably the most formulaic of genres and that formula does transfer well to Bollywood.  But would the melodrama of Bollywood transfer well to the American romance genre?

Strangely, it does....very well!

While I don't think readers of A Bollywood Affair need to be Bollywood experts, it does help to know a bit about what Bollywood actually is, otherwise this book will just seem outright crazy (if you are completely unfamiliar with Bollywood, a good entry point is 2004's Bride & Prejudice, an English-language Bollywood retelling of, well, you know...It is currently streaming on Netflix). The thing is, there is a reason why this book feels like a Bollywood movie--and I heard a rumor that it will soon be one.  Bollywood may not be exactly mainstream in romance, but it actually works.

I really appreciated how Dev wrote this--there are a lot of interesting cultural details, but Dev doesn't put them out there like a lesson.  Too often in books set in a non-Western (or even just non-American) culture, the author feels that they have to take the time to explain everything.  Dev, on the other hand, just puts it out there like it is the most normal thing in the world to the audience.  The reader may not catch what something is the first time it is mentioned but, by the end of the book, they know what it is.

I really enjoyed both characters.  While they are, like many characters in romance novels, a little "shinier" than reality, I still found myself rooting for both of them, especially Mili.  She is a wonderful mix of innocence and sass.  Samir is definitely in the rakish vein of romance heroes, but Dev does flesh him out nicely and I found myself liking him more than I thought I would.

As this is romance, predictability, is, well, predictable.  However, I still found some nice twists and turns in this story.  The plot does go a little dark in the second half, but Dev addresses it in a way that the narrative does not become melodramatic.  Personally, I liked this section of the book the best as it is here that Dev really gets into the emotional side of her characters.

There is one way in which this book differs from Bollywood.  Bollywood movies are chaste and this book is...not.  It's not erotica--the spice level is on par with other mainstream American romances--but I did find it surprising when put against how Bollywood-ish this story is  Still, it has some of the more tastefully done sex scenes that I've read in romance in quite some time.

While I read romances, I rarely find one that I feel I can recommend unreservedly.  In fact, this is the first one I can think of when that has happened since the retirement of LaVyrle Spencer in the 90s.  Dev is a formidable new voice in romance and I can't wait to read more by her!

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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