Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sonali Dev - A Bollywood Affair

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.

Comment: This is another book I've became interested in a long time ago, and it had some hype around it when it was published and "found" by readers. At the time I put it in my TBR list and some time ago finally got it. This month I decided I had to read it, I was still feeling curious about it.
In this book, we follow Mili Rathod, a young woman who goes to America for a while to study and improve herself while her husband of 20 years doesn't call her. Mili was married at age 4 to a boy by their families but they never actually met. Mili is still waiting for her husband to get her and start their marriage.
Samir Rathod is a known Bollywood director and brother to Mili's apparent husband. However, his brother never considered himself married, and their part of the family sent a refusal to Mili's family but somehow that never got to them. The brothers kept on with their lives but Mili has grew thinking herself married. Now that Samir's brother is about to become a father with his real wife, he needs Mili to sign up the annulment marriage of 20 years ago in order for his baby to be recognized. Samir offers to do that, thinking Mili is a gold-digger. But the reality is much different from what he thought...
I had a great time reading this book. It's a very easy, fluid story, not overly complicated despite the appearance of that based on the mixing up in the story. In fact, this story was quite simple and basic in it's core, if we were to remove all the extras, all the addition of cultural elements, this is a simple story, just like we would have seen in countless harlequin stories where rich important hero wants to uncover the heroine's greed but ends up falling for her because she's innocent and special and after a false betrayal scene/chapter they get their HEA.
What made this special in reality was the cultural elements given by the presence of Indian costumes, habits, religion, traditions, all the things we get by the setting and details alone.
The average reader would already know some things (from movies and knowledge alone) but this book complements that in a very interesting way. I can't help thinking some situations seemed too easy and well rehearsed and of course I can't vouch for its veracity but I want o believe the simplicity or some things is only a matter of plot and not a true example of Indian culture. Not that it was badly done or a bad thing, but to me some things felt rather superficial and I got the feeling reality is much more complex that what we read about here.
The plot, like I said, is simple. I liked that Mili wanted to do something for herself before settling again to wait for her husband and it was funny how she and Samir met. The development of the plot seemed very focused on their relationship but that's to expect as a) that's what the story's about and b) this is a romance after all, but some situations seemed so easy. It's nice he's rich and able to help her but she's a bit too naïve for someone who didn't have much luck in life, who had to be smart to overcome a situation that would have put her in a bad position, let alone the waiting process. Closer to the end I was happy by the way things were progressing, the big scene when she finds out the truth was to be expected and it was emotional, but the HEA happened in a rather silly manner. I kind of wanted a more serious situation while they discussed and finally solved things between them.
The romance is classical, I have to believe some traditions are real and why it seems weird they didn't solve everything sooner. Mili is naïve but she somehow finds the strength of character to be positive in adversity and later on to protect her heart but she loves him and that's what really shapes her actions and feelings.
Samir has a more difficult personality, his past and the bullying - in a way - and prejudice because of his skin were elements not fully explored but we got the idea of how that shaped his behavior and self protection. He still has an inner good soul and he proves that throughout the book. In the end everything ends well but I think his personality was sort of "downplayed"... I have that feeling at least.
All things considered, this is a good story, interesting, different enough to make a reader bored with this trope to consider this exciting and in the end I was very entertained with it. I will read her other book someday.
As for this one, a good change in the romance department.
Grade: 8/10

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