Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: "A Distant Heart" by Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart (Bollywood #4) Sonali Dev
Date Finished: January 4, 2018
Date Published: December 26, 2017
ISBN: 9781496705761
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy / Amazon
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Fairy tale retellings, novels set in India, spunky heroines

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen-years-old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul's deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances. 

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart. 

My Thoughts:
There is always a danger when you are waiting anxiously for a book that it won't live up to your expectations.  Sonali Dev set the bar incredibly high with her previous books and there is always that worry that the next one will be a weak link in the chain.  Fortunately, Dev is better than that and this book is an excellent conclusion to her Bollywood series.

First things first, this is not a standalone novel.  It really is necessary to read the previous book, A Change of Heart, before starting this one as the plot actually begins in that book (and it you really should read The Bollywood Bride before A Change of Heart.  It isn't necessary to read the first book in the series, A Bollywood Affair, before reading the others--but you really should because it is awesome!).

I will say that I had a minor issue, completely of my own making, between these two books.  Rahul is introduced in A Change of Heart, and I pictured him completely differently than he's presented here.  This is not Dev's fault--nothing in her previous book contradicts how his character develops here.  Instead, it was what I put on him in the previous book.  The fact that I recently did an audio re-read of A Change of Heart and the narrator used a much older sounding voice for him didn't help.  Again, this wasn't a problem with the book, but something I had to adjust to.  Once I got used to him, I really enjoyed Rahul.  I found him to be much deeper than we usually see with romance heros.  I have to admit that I fell a little bit in love with him--not that I want Kimi out of the way, mind you!

Kimi, oh Kimi!  I need to start this by saying that I adored her--but I'm not sure I can describe her in a way that doesn't make her sound a little annoying.  She reminded me a bit of one of those overly cheerful people that seem oblvious to others troubles (but in a good way!)  She is more than a bit self-centered (but in a good way!) and she definitely is a bit spoiled (but in a good way!)  I told you--it isn't going to sound like she'd be likable, but she really is!  She is the sort of person who just want to have around you, who would do anything for those she cares about.

While there is a dark central plot here (can you get darker than black market organ theft?), this is one of the lighter books in the series.  It is a retelling of Rapunzel and I loved how Dev allowed Kimi and Rahul's relationship to grow.  Things start as a friendship--and a real friendship  So often, we get "friendships" which are really just precursors to someone wanting to get into someone else's pants.  Kimi and Rahul's, however, seems much more organic.

This is the only book in the Bollywood series to be set completely in India (well, nearly--there is one short foray to Hong Kong).  The description is so detailed that you feel like you are there.  I could almost smell the spices that permeate the air.  Most striking is how well Dev illustrates the differences between the haves and have-nots in this society.  So, while this is a retelling of Rapunzel, it also has strong Dirty Dancing overtones, and there is nothing bad about Dirty Dancing overtones!

I think I say this in every review I've done of Dev's books, but I just love her writing.  Both Kimi and Rahul's personalities are wrapped up in the words that Dev uses.  Plus, there are just some lovely passages.  This particular one hit me so strongly that I marked it in my book (and I never mark up my books!):

"Contrary to what people believed about her, she didn't believe that she was the center of her universe.  She was in fact someone whose entire existence focused on wanting a universe she could be part of."

See!  I told you that Kimi was fabulous, despite everything I also said about her!

I can't recommend this book enough--actually, I can't recommend this entire series enough.  Sonali Dev is the author who got me back into reading romance, and I will be forever grateful to her for that.

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

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