A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

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.


 

He was arrogant and impatient and stubborn. But he was also self-deprecating and more gentle and generous than anyone she knew. And when all his contradictions mingled in his face, in his big muscular body, he was like a huge living magnet…

A huge living magnet that had totally sucked her in.

All the people in this book are completely….irrational. Is that the word I want to use? close enough, really. But I had very much fallen in love with the words, the relationship, the Bollywood film references, the descriptions that I came to forget all the faults. But while I may have problems with this novel, I still think it’s important to review this novel on the grade that I think is the most honest. My issues had nothing to do with the writing. The writing is what entranced and engaged me. My favorite part about this book is the prose and the character’s relationships with each other. It wasn’t just the romantic relationship that I loved. Relationships, in whatever form, are among the elements that fascinate me most when reading a novel. This was no different with Sonali’s debut. I also appreciated the confidence that the heroine portrayed. She explains to her reader that she used to feel shame in herself, and wonder’s if there were some reason her husband had not come for her, but once she comes to realize that shame will fix nothing. But, understand, this is not a story of growth. She’s already confident when the novel starts. Plus, she’s got the hots for food which I love. In addition to being a hard core coffee addict, I’m also foodie.


The story is a tale that not everybody may get on board with. It centers around a heroine who was married at only four years old, and she’s yearning to start a life with her “husband”. She hasn’t seen him in twenty years. And yet she believes they’re married and one day he’ll come. You’d think he’d at least contact her in some way in these twenty years, but does she still believe they’re still married? Of course. Why not? Virat, the husband of our dear heroine, he’s got a life of his own now. As he should. Don’t blame the guy. The letter he receives causes worry and and even fear amongst Virat and his brother. The love interest or hero, whatever word you prefer, Samir goes off to good ol’ America to sort things out. He finds Mili and…the clumsy girl runs her bike into a tree thus ending her self in a hospital. Samir and Mili grow a relationship based on friendship. They grow to know each other. They have many similarities. They argue about movies. He’s turned on by her love for food. She’s turned on by his confidence and kindness. One thing leads to another and….they fall in love. I loved the relationship they built together. The descriptions of the slow build until the satisfying part where the hero apologizes. Always a sexy thing, I might add.


I would have given this book a B, had I not been so uncomfortable with the portrayals of other women. It’s not that I felt like the author didn’t write strong women. She wrote some beautifully strong women like Samir’s mother, Rima, and Mili. What I had issues with was the way the author made Mili’s best friend into someone the reader would normally hate had she been the main character. I’ll be straight with you, I believe this was done as a way to encourage or manipulate the reader into sympathizing with the heroine even more. Ridhi was bratty, whiny, entitled, and acted like an immature young girl. Surprising, considering she was about to get married. I have examples: 1. “What’s wrong with this? You told me to wear something casual for the henna ceremony. So, I wore casual.” “I said casual, not Chandni-Chowk-whore slutty! Brainless daughter of an oaf.” Mili smiled, but quickly covered her mouth when Ridhi glared at her. 2. The way the girl had gyrated on the floor last night it would be a miracle if she even woke up on her wedding day. No blushing bride at this wedding. 3. “How would I know? Who measures their waist?” “Um, everyone with two X chromosomes.” 4. He was too distracted by the screaming banshee, who wouldn’t stop jumping up and down like a two-year-old.     The point is: it didn’t need to be there. I saw no real reason why this was the way the author decided to portray the MC’s best friend. Why in this fashion? Why was she portrayed like this? That’s where my issue lies.


The other thing I had a hard time dealing with was the way that even though it had been twenty years and she hadn’t been in contact with her husband once, she believed she was still married and even desired her marriage with Virat. Maybe it’s because the way Mili grew up was very old fashioned and certain things were expected of women, but I just couldn’t grasp being in love with someone when you’ve never met them. It’s crazy and like I said…irrational:

“…The truth is I can’t imagine being married to anyone else. I know you don’t understand it. But my marriage is very real to me.”

Allow my favorite Bollywood Actress, Rani Mukherjee, to roll her eyes for me:  

I could appreciate how honest Mili was about herself. But I think her desire for this “marriage” largely came from her Naani. I think sometimes when you grow up with someone wanting so much for you, that eventually you perceive that person’s dreams as your own. This is what happened to Mili. Still her inability to realize this earlier, even after falling in love with Samir, fucking pissed me off.


But the writing is sorcery! sorcery I say!!! I enjoyed it a lot. Don’t be put off by the bad, if you like all the things I’ve mentioned: this book is for you. It’s got lots of swoony scenes with smooches and the hero makes a “i’m sorry speech”.

Guys are sexy when they apologize. It’s like Darcy all over again. Oh and the fact that I actually used the word swoon means I’ve had too much coffee…again. Fucking god I hate that word.   ARC provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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