The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a free advanced review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.
Ria Parkar is a Bollywood star. She returns home to Chicago for her cousin's wedding, and comes face-to-face with her first love, Vikram, whose heart she broke in the most horrible way.
I waffled between three or four stars for this book. I did really enjoy reading this and liked the characters. Ria was so broken that I wanted to reach into the book and give her a big hug. But at the same time, the angst reached almost unbearable levels a number of times, and much of the problems could have resolved themselves easily if Ria actually opened up to somebody instead of defaulting to avoiding her feelings or running away.
I liked this book enough to go buy Dev's first book, which one the main characters I noticed had a brief cameo in this one. So readers who enjoyed A Bollywood Affair would get a nice smile from that.
I appreciated that Dev avoided many of the pitfalls of the romance genre, with characters and plots that seemed cliched and fake. Her characters were human, with flaws and real emotions that despite all the drama in their backstories, never veered into soap opera levels of unbelievable. The obstacles between Ria and Vikram's happily ever after are personal and self-inflicted. There are no outside forces keeping them apart. It would have been very easy for Vikram's meddling mother to have been given a larger part in the story, and I appreciated that she wasn't. Instead, the main characters had to work through their own issues and come to terms with them.
This was a very warm book, despite the darkness in Ria's past. Dev showcases love in many forms, not just romantic love. Familial love, friend-love, and love within a community are all present. And throughout the entire book, there is love of culture. Dev, through Ria, shows the love and respet she has for Indian and Hindu culture, and it was enlightening as an outsider to see it through Ria's eyes.
So I obviously appreciated the book a lot, and enjoyed reading it. Why then did I choose 3 stars instead of 4? Because at the end of the day, as invested as I was in the character and the story, I still felt there was a veneer of shallowness to everything. Not that the book was superficial - it wasn't. "Ice Princess" Ria as the POV character seemed as stand-offish to the reader as she was to the other characters in the book. Her voice made me feel as if there was an invisible wall between me and the story, which made me unable to fully immerse myself as I would have liked.
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