The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley

I’ve been away.

But now I’m back!

In the between-while I have been reading romances. A glut of romances. Nothing else but romances! So many romances that I’ve started reading We, The Drowned to cleanse my reading palate.

Let me begin with Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover by Sarah McLean which was a really nice time-filler of a book. It’s really. . . nice? With a big reveal. However—you knew there was going to be a however didn’t you—I can’t say that it’s a book which makes me squee or makes me want to particularly think about it.

With that out of the way let me talk about my new favourite author, Stella Riley. I discovered her through Dear Author (which has had its own very big kerfuffle just a couple of days ago btw if you’re interested). So anyway, I read Riley’s The Parfit Knight and The Mésalliance and while I enjoyed the latter I loved the former!

Here’s a description of The Parfit Knight from the author’s site:

The Marquis of Amberley is rich, assured and thirty-four years old, with the reputation of being a law unto himself and a degree of charm which even his friends consider disastrous.

When his coach is waylaid by highwaymen and his coachman shot, he is forced to take shelter at the first house he finds and is subsequently trapped there for a week by a severe snow storm.

Oakleigh Manor is the home of beautiful, twenty-two year-old Rosalind Vernon who lives alone but for her devoted servants and an ill-natured parrot, cut off from the outside world by the tragic result of a childhood accident. But Rosalind is brave and bright and totally devoid of self-pity – and it is these qualities which, as the days pass and the snow continues to fall, cause Amberley to fall in love.

On his return to London, the Marquis persuades Rosalind’s brother, Philip, to bring her to town for a taste of society – a move which, despite her handicap, Rosalind handles brilliantly.

But the course of Amberley’s courtship is far from smooth for, due to a misapprehension, Philip Vernon actively dislikes him and Rosalind appears to be falling under the spell of the suavely elegant Duke of Rockliffe. Worse still, Amberley is haunted by a dark and terrible secret that, if revealed, may cause him to lose Rosalind forever.

Miss Riley’s forte seems to be characterization. Oh, she’s good with the rest of the bits too—her language for one was quite lovely but also quite unobtrusive if you know what I mean. . . used in service of the story rather than as a standout feature all on its own, an aspect that I found myself appreciating—but I think the reason she’s my new favourite author is because she’s really really good at filling out her story with just the right characters.

Take Amberley and Rockliffe, the hero of The Mésalliance for instance. Amberley and Rockliffe are both very hero-like (handsome, commanding, and the other usual staples of a romance book hero) but are also quite different from each other. It struck me that one of the reasons why I’m not particularly moved to look up other books by an author I enjoyed, at least in genre romance, is because I could take the hero out of one book and put him in another by the same author without it making much difference to the story. On the other hand, a substitution would not work for Amberley’s and Rockliffe’s stories precisely because of the people they are—their romance unfolds the way it does because of who they are. I’ll concede that I’m coming to some rather hefty conclusions from a reading of just two books but I have a feeling that this is going to be true for all of Miss Riley’s works (hopefully!).

Amberley’s romancing of Rosalind is a delight to read. The tenderness that develops between our hero and heroine, to which they in time-honored tradition of the romance novel are quite oblivious (at least initially), is rather sweet. And yet perfect as they are I don’t think I would have sighed over The Parfit Knight the way I did if it was not also for the cast of its secondary characters without whom the story would not have been what it is.

And so there’s the villainous reprobate who is tiresome and selfish and remains faithful to villainy all the way till the end, causing havoc for our hero and heroine in the process (and yes, I couldn’t wait for him to receive his comeuppance!). Then there’s the supporting actress/faithful friend character who starts out as being an unknown quantity but proves her mettle rather quickly. The mutton-headed brother of the heroine, who’s also our supporting actress/friend’s love interest, is the obstructionist in the path of true love. Rockliffe stars as Amberley’s know-it-all best friend who has frighteningly omniscient powers and a prodigious love for snuff boxes. Our hero’s mother is poised, perfect and French. A rascally parrot with a penchant for curses and vilifications rounds up our motley crew.

Each character fits the bill perfectly. I can almost imagine Miss Riley having back stories for each of them which the reader is not privy to but which affects how he or she is portrayed in the story one is reading. The same holds true for The Mésalliance which has its own list of secondary characters and romances.

Unlike other authors, with Miss Riley, I find myself eager to read her other stories and see for myself what she does there. I’ll report how that excursion into her back list goes. Till then, I’d recommend you try out The Parfit Knight yourself!

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I couldn’t help but feel the invisible authorial hand behind The Light Between Oceans. By which I mean that the story felt a tad too tidily plotted. The grief and the heartbreak were all in too much perfect proportion and with the correct justifications for me to not be aware of the writer behind the story.

Tom Sherbourne is the moral center of the story. A WW1 veteran, he and his wife Isabel live on the tiny island of Janus where Tom works as a lighthouse keeper (do those still exist?). The couple suffers three miscarriages before the ocean washes up a weeks-old baby onto their shore. You can sense can’t you, that things are bound to get complicated and messy for these people?

M.L. Stedman is really good at writing fully fleshed out characters. They hooked me in. It’s easy to foresee the plot twists and I could guess at the scars that the characters were on their way to accruing. I became interested in knowing what they would do with those scars.

Tom’s desire, to do right by his wife whom he loves more than life itself, and by his conscience which he has come about through the horrors of a war, and the conflict between the two causes the tension in the story, and moves the plot forward.

Apart from the characters the other thing that Stedman does really well is the highly atmospheric setting. It is the late 1920s and the action flits between Janus, and a small port town, Partageuese, on the coast of Western Australia. The isolation of a strip of land in the middle of nowhere is captured perfectly. Here’s how Janus is described:

[L]inked only by the store boat four times a year, [Janus] dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica.

And again:

On clear summer days, Janus seems to stretch up right to its tiptoes: you’d swear it’s higher out of the water at some times than at others, not just because of the rising and ebbing of tide.

Stedman switches between tenses quite a bit (as you can see above). Quite nifty, the technique is, as the present continuous use builds a sense of immediacy.

The writing is also lyrical at times. And was perhaps the third reason I kept reading. Yes, I do feel like I need to list the reasons why I kept reading because. . . while it’s a well-crafted story there’s nothing particularly special about it. Plus, there’s a movie coming out this year based on the book (speaking of the reasons why. . .).

So that’s what I think of The Light Between Oceans. Did you read it too?

Burned and Books that Cook: The Making Of A Literary Meal

Here’s a quick rundown of where I’ve been reading wise!

Burned by Karen Marie Moning

Ugh. Avoid. I’d read the first five books in the Fever series feverishly (clever! not.) And had thought that that would be the last I would see of Mac and Barrons and the sidhe-seers and the uglies (I mean the Unseelies of course) and the pretties (also known as the Seelies).

Turns out I was wrong. Miss Moning released a sixth book in 2012. Only it wasn’t really a sixth book. It was purported to be the first book in a trilogy set in the same world but following the travails and triumphs of Dani Mega O’Malley, a precious 14 year old who was one of the major characters in the series.

Fair enough.

I like Dani’s voice and enjoy the first book in the trilogy.

Only it wasn’t the first in a trilogy. No siree. Miss Moning backtracks and pronounces that Iced was actually the sixth in the series and a continuation of the first five. Ugh, what? I was left feeling slightly distrustful but mostly confident in KMM’s ability to tell a good story.

Or not.

Because the seventh in the series (!!) which was released this past January on the 20th of the month was a Disaster (yes, with a capital D).

Where do I begin?

First there’s the whining. Yes, Mac, the girl who’s become a woman through the first five books whines. Now, I don’t think that being a woman means that you’re done with insecurities forever but dear god, Mac’s moanings (see how clever I am being today?) makes her downright unbearable and BORING. Yes, dear reader so bored was I that I skipped large swathes of the book (majority of which were Mac’s inner chatterings) and finished the behemoth of the book (it was 500 pages plus) within four hours.

Then there’s Barrons and his nine whatever they are. I’ve already documented my love for Alpha Heroes but this was just Too Much Testosterone! And not necessarily in a way that appeals. The problem with getting into the details of Barrons and his entourage is that all of them come across as carbon copies of each other. I would rather have some mystery associated with them than have them become boring in their details.

The biggest infraction, however, is the short shrift that Dani’s character is given. The only way KMM can redeem herself is if in the next book she can explain why Dani’s character was developed the way it was.

There’s just too much going on and not in a way that adds up to any coherent whole. Maybe KMM’s setting it up for the next two books but that’s no excuse for such sloppy storytelling! The world that’s been created in the series is compelling and is what might persuade me to read the next installment. We’ll see.

Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal
Edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black, Melissa Goldthwaite, Marion Nestle

So I love food. And it has dawned on me that perhaps there is literature to be explored that celebrates food and explores food and discusses food.

Books that Cook was one of my first forays into this territory. Unfortunately because of its structure (it’s a collection of pieces, excerpted both from fiction and non-fiction, that focuses on food) I never got around to reading it in one sitting and was half-way through before I realized that I most likely would not finish it anytime soon and returned it to the library.

The bits that I did read I enjoyed quite a lot.

There’s what I call the talkative recipes from the 18th and the 19th centuries. No, the recipes themselves don’t become little monsters and start whispering in your ear while you’re stirring the ladle in what constitutes for the modern cauldron. It’s the way the recipes are written—preceded by exhortations to be an economical housewife and the admonition to learn the practical art of cooking which would mean a steady source of income at the very least that I found quite entertaining.

Then there was a piece about mushrooms which was quite lovely. It was a piece of non-fiction in which the author alternates between the mushrooms and his own doomed relationships. As he narrates his love for the edible fungus, alternating it with his account of a phobia of commitment and his discovery that he prefers the company of men to women, following his father’s death, the reader cannot help but feel the solace that the author derives from the image of life blooming into fullness amidst rot and waste. I loved how the writing was imbued with this sense of confluence, of the feeling that surely there would be a point of convergence between his two loves.

It’s a book that I’ll most likely be checking out again.

Ancillary Sword & Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice which swept up just about every sci-fi literary award possible last year. I’d read Ancillary Justice last fall and finished Sword a few days ago. What follows may contain key spoilers for the first book (and also the show Battlestar Galactica)—so, you’ve been warned!

When I’d first read Ancillary Justice I was struck by how its description of AI resembles the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica. For those of you who don’t know about BSG, Battlestar Galactica is a highly acclaimed sci-fi series that ran from 2004 to 2009. It’s ending is easily one of the best.est. EVER. I glommed on to it big time.

In BSG, there are several “clones” aka cylons—robots with AI who look human and are identical to each other and who exist in groups. So there are copies of Number One (a group of the humanoid cylon), copies of Number Two (another group of the humanoid cylon) and so on. In the Ancillary world there are several bodies of the same one mind. This hive-mind is often a spaceship which is crewed by humans and also “ancillaries” who are the ship’s AI fed into dead human bodies. There are groups of ancillaries, with about 10 ancillaries to a group. These ancillaries serve the human crew and act as the ship’s eyes, present as they are in several places at once.

Ancillary_Sword_Orbit_coverThe set-up in both the cases lends itself to contemplating issues of identity and also meditation on what it means to be a human being.

In Battlestar Galactica the question of identity is explored through two of the Cylons specifically: one of the Sixes who was instrumental in the destruction of the entire human race save a few thousand, and in an ironic turn of events one of the Eights who, as she falls in love with a human (I promise it is not as sappy as it sounds) and who in turn falls in love with her, sort of becomes a template for the future of humanity (and it isn’t as trite or simple as I make it sound). These two cylons have to contend with thoughts and feelings that their counterparts do not experience. Then there’s the humans who cannot get their head around the concept that Cylons, a creation of humans after all, could be anything remotely close to what a human being is.

In the Ancillary world Breq, our heroine/hero (I’ll get to the hero/heroine part later), is one of the ancillaries of the ship “Justice of Toren.” “Justice of Toren” is completely destroyed in the first book, save the one instance of Breq herself/himself. One of the defining characteristics of this particular manifestation of the “Justice of Toren” is that she/he loves music. It seems like such a trivial aspect to endow on a character and yet it serves to bring the whole issue of identity into a tighter focus. The destruction itself of all of it save herself/himself leads Breq over and over to contrasting and often interesting turns—the destruction of the wholeness of who she was feels incapacitating to her and yet without that destruction she could not have become one who has any sort of agency.

This is perhaps more the theme of the first book than the second. Ancillary Sword is more concerned with exploring what it means to be a person with agency in the context of a civilized world and what being civilized means in the first place.

Ann_Leckie_-_Ancillary_JusticeRadchaii (the civilization in which Leckie’s stories are set) have been annexing planets for thousands of years and they justify their invasions as their version of the “white man’s burden.” The absorption includes allowing the ruling classes of the conquered societies to continue with the rituals and traditions that are important to them. For maximum benefit, the Radchaii are focused on maintaining the status quo in the worlds they take over as this allows for the minimal of upheavals in the existing power factions. This is not to say that it’s not clear who the conquering hero is—it is. It’s just that the Radchaii have become really good at appeasing the worlds they stride into (to the extent that there are factions of the conquered who believe that justice would be theirs if only there was a way of getting Anaander Minaai’s (the Lord of the Radch’s) attention).

As to what it means to be a citizen of the civilized world, one of my favourite aspects about Leckie’s story-telling is her ability to show clearly the prejudices that inform the biases of many of the power differentials at work in her world. It’s insidious and just like real life the people of the Ancillary world aren’t even aware of them. The only one who seems to be clear-sighted is Breq. Given that Breq is after all thousands of years old AI I can find this prescience believable (mostly). However that didn’t stop her from being a little insufferable at times.

The one power differential which is absent in Leckie’s world is that of gender. Hers is a genderless world in the sense that while there are males of the species and the females of the species in the Radchaii society, both of the genders are referred to as “she.” Indeed this is an aspect of Leckie’s world-building that has been lauded almost everywhere. While I really admired this authorial choice, I honestly didn’t understand how it served the story other than being one less power differential to grapple with. (Addendum after some discussion with hubby: Perhaps the purpose is to affect the reading end of the experience rather than advance the story side of the exchange)

I was also struck by how the second book is called Ancillary Sword and not Ancillary Mercy given that the ship that Breq commands from page 1 of the second book is “Mercy of Kalr” and not “Sword of Atagaris” (another major ship/player in the book). Well it’s not that surprising given how the events unfold but it made me even more aware of one of the major threads that runs through the book: of what it means to be a conscious being. The humans in Leckie’s world find it alien that ships who are just AIs would have preferences or feelings. Breq addresses this in a line in the book which I of course cannot find now! She talks about how humans are unable to recognize that thoughts and feelings are tangled up in one another and are not as unconnected as one would tend to think. As someone who’s come to see that emotion follows in the wake of what I’m thinking, I found this parsing to be spot-on.

I cannot wait to see “Mercy of Kalr” taking the front stage in the third and the final book!

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

The Unknown Ajax begins with the inhabitants of the rambling, ramshackle Darracott Mansion in a state of furor. This is not an uncommon occurrence for the Darracotts given that they are lorded over by the penny-pinching, cantankerous Lord Darracott who sets his various progeny and their progeny in turn quaking in their boots at his mere thought.

The scene is set with Lord Darracott receiving the news that his heir and the heir’s son have drowned. The news makes him particularly sullen and the reader is very soon made privy to the reason. The next in line is the son of a son who was cut-off years ago as he married a weaver’s daughter. The “weaver’s son” is the hero of the story and reader, is one of my favouritest heroes in literature. You see, this is my second re-reading of The Unknown Ajax and one of the reasons is definitely Hugo Darracott.

the-unknown-ajax-by-georgette-heyer-2011-x-200Heyer paints Hugo Darracott as bovine-like: huge, patient, and with a thick skin. I do not remember my first reading (which must have been at least 15 years ago) but I can imagine myself feeling slightly impatient with Hugo were I to be reading the book for the first time. For quite a part of the story one isn’t sure if a hero of a romance can be really that . . . simple. And hapless.

The truth of course is something else. Hugo Darracott, dear reader, is exactly the sort of understated hero who I fall head over heels in love with. He’s patient, he’s kind, and he has a “broad back.” One knows instantly and instinctively that he can be relied upon no matter what. In other words, those bovine like qualities are actually quite sexy.

He’s also a hero to a set of supporting characters who are probably some of my favourite in romance. Lord Darracott I’ve already mentioned. He doesn’t discriminate against whom to turn his nose upon. Everyone gets the same treatment.

Then there’s Lady Aurelia, a grand dame if there was ever one; a lady who “never reproved [her husband] in public” but whose mastery over her husband and her sons is evident. Here’s what Austenprose had to say and I couldn’t have said it better myself:

And there is a truly magnificent grande dame whose well-modulated voice is never raised, whose countenance rarely smiles, whose behavior towards her irascible father-in-law is always perfectly correct, and whose dignity is never compromised. Even when she beats all of the young people to flinders in a lively game of copper-loo, her response to being asked if she always holds the best cards is merely: “I am, in general, very fortunate.” She expresses her opinions as pronouncements, and makes the most splendid (though dispassionate) speeches that render her auditors without a thing to say. Lady Catherine de Bourgh only wishes she could be as majestically formidable.

The ensemble cast includes a fop, a “Corinthian,” and my personal favourite—two “gentlemen of the same calling, but of different cut,” Polyphant and Crimplesham, valets to the aforementioned fop and Corinthian. The rivalry between the two and the scenes in which they star, “suggestive of tomcats about to join battle,” is one of the many perfectly executed capers in this book.

I haven’t read Heyer’s entire oeuvre but I would be willing to bet that this is one of the funniest stories she’s written. Each character lends themselves to the mayhem and hilarity that pervades the story.

And as always, Heyer excels in dialogues. I love how her dialogues build up not only the characters but also the story. Ok, that sounds stupid. As in “Duh! Isn’t that precisely how it should be?” stupid. What I mean is that Heyer seems to have a gift for dialogue. She can have pages upon pages of dialogue with virtually no descriptions in between and yet move both the plot and her characters to a whole new set point with just that.

And speaking of dialogues, I thought Mrs Darracott’s prattle was really well done. She’s a bit of a chatterbox we are told and her ability to segue seamlessly from one subject to another is exactly what chatterboxes do I imagine. (Ok fine, there’s no imagination involved there. I speak from first-hand knowledge. Given that I’ve been labeled a chatterbox. At times.)

Which brings me to the banter between Hugo and Anthea (our heroine). Our heroine has just found out that Hugo is wealthy. Quite, quite wealthy.

“I know I told you I was mercenary, but I’m not Hugo! Only think how it would appear to everyone! As though I had been determined before ever I saw you not to let your odious fortune slip through my hands!”

He patted her consolingly. “You needn’t worry about that, love. When people see you wearing the same bonnet for years on end they’ll never think you married me for my fortune.”

“As nothing would induce me to wear the same bonnet for years on end—

“You’ll have to,” he said simply. “I’m a terrible nip-farthing. . . .”

“You seem to forget that you wished to purchase the moon for me!”

“Nay, I don’t forget that! The thing is I can’t purchase it, so there was no harm in saying it. Now, if I’d said I’d like to give you a diamond necklace, or some such thing, you might have taken me up on it. I remembered that just in time to stop myself,” he explained, apparently priding himself on his forethought.

“I should like very much to have a diamond necklace,” said Anthea pensively.

“Wouldn’t a paste one do as well?” he asked, in a voice of great uneasiness.

She had been so sure that he would fall into the trap that she was taken, for an instant, off her guard, and looked up at him with such a startled expression on her face that his deep chuckle escaped him, and he lifted her off her feet, and kissed her.

Be still my heart! This is exactly the sort of stuff that I can believe happily-ever-afters to be built on. (I might be biased though considering my husband can give Hugo a run for his money: if I had a dime for every time I thought I had had the last word. . . )

The climax of the story is funny, fraught and fabulous—a deeply satisfying conclusion to a deeply satisfying story. If there’s a Heyer you have to read, I would exhort that it be this!

The March Family Letters

A quick post to alert you to the fabulous The March Family Letters! It’s being distributed by Pemberley Digital (of the The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved fame) though the creative team and the production house is Cherrydale Productions. I have to say that much as I love Jane Austen’s books I never took to their modernized avatar by Pemberley Digital as readily as most of the world did.

BUT, Oh, BUT! The March Family Letters. . .  It’s different. I can see that I am going to gush about it!

The music score which starts each episode hits the right tone—it’s whimsical, upbeat and promises of good times to come.

Of the characters we have been introduced to so far, we have:

  • Jo March who is ebullient to the point of being almost obnoxious but is not really! Also, she reminds me of Katie Sackhoff whom I just loved in Battlestar Galacatica! (a series that I adore!)
  • Augustus Snodgrass aka us aka the unnamed viewers who are now a duke aka Jo March—you better bring Augustus Snodgrass back again!
  • And Amy March who was introduced in the episode aired today and whose self-centeredness (?) comes across as delightful. So far.

So far only three episodes have been aired so, whatcha waiting for?! Go on!

Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair: Review

So let me begin by saying that I am an Indian woman (living in U.S.) who was quite annoyed by the way Mili clings to (to what seems to me) an obtrusively parochial way of thinking. Let me also say in the very next breath that I loved Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair.

It’s not quite a leap from one to the other because while I may have started out being annoyed by Mili, Miss Dev’s characterization makes it possible for me to understand why Mili clung to a marriage-in-name for as long as she did. She is also one of the cutest heroines I happened to have come across recently. Lest my description of the heroine as cute turn you off I would caution you against jumping to conclusions! Yes, dear reader, Miss Dev, manages to imbue her ingénue with an authenticity that went straight to my heart! I guess what I am saying is that Mili is for sure one of my favourite things about this book!

Here’s a synopsis:

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.

Samir, as well, appealed quite a lot to this reader. He’s smart, sexy, and successful, without being obnoxious. And he can cook! (what can I say? An alpha hero who can cook just turns me turn into a big puddly-pool!) Plus, the issues he has to grapple with from his past, rounds out his otherwise sigh-worthy perfection.

Miss Dev’s depiction of first-generation and second-generation immigrant milieu and experiences are also spot-on (and also, quite funny). Sample this:

But even though Ravi was Indian he came from South India, while Ridhi’s family hailed from the North Indian state of Punjab. Ridhi’s father took such pride in his Punjabi heritage that the idea of his daughter associating herself with a South Indian boy had quite literally given him a heart attack.

While times are changing, I know that the above still holds true for a vast majority. On the very same page, one of Miss Dev’s character also says:

“Daddy’s stuck in the seventies,” Ridhi had told Mili. “That’s when he first came to America.”

As someone who’s been baffled by some of the conversations that I’ve had with my older relatives, who moved to U.S. a decade or so earlier, I have had the exact same thought cross my mind. I guess it can be hard to imagine that the country you left behind might have moved on, and changed, as well.

Then there’s the scene where Mili is trying to tell a man that he shouldn’t put his bicycle near the dumpster. She has trouble communicating with him even though they’re speaking the same language. Mili’s formal words and the man’s colloquialism makes for two almost different languages.

This attention to detail is evident in scene after scene. And not just the ones that deal with a diaspora-like element. For instance, I was touched by the way Samir handles Mili’s embarrassment when he realizes that she doesn’t really have the money to pay for her doctor’s bill. Or the scene where Mili “hurries” Samir into finishing his tea:

He took a long sip of the tea. “Are you going to walk to college then?” he asked lazily.

She unfroze. “Nope. You’re driving me.” She smiled and pushed the teacup to his lips to hurry him up. The moment he was done, she snatched the cup away, put it in the sink, and dragged him out of her apartment.

There’s something achingly intimate about the way she just “hurries” the teacup to his lips, without giving it a second thought. And I guess that’s the other thing I loved about the book—this slow building-up of the romance between our hero and heroine.

I am a sucker for stories where the romance grows organically, of-course-sly, right in front of my eyes. And no I don’t feel that that’s how it happens in all the books belonging to the romance genre. Most of the times I end up feeling slightly cheated—as if the  romance is unfolding because the author decreed it so rather than because of anything that the characters say or do. So a story where romance seems like the natural next step just fills my heart with gladness.

I’ll end this with a scene that caused me to laugh out loud. Literally. In a plane. Next to a sleeping husband. Who couldn’t stop laughing either once I read it out to him:

She [Ridhi] was dressed in an ankle-length tie-dye skirt with a heavy embroidered border and a heavily embellished tube top.

“Wow, you look, umm stunning,” Mili said.

It wasn’t untrue, but it was kind of risqué for your wedding day, even for Ridhi. . . .

Before Mili could respond, there was a loud gasp behind her.

“Ridhika. Sagar. Kapoor! Has your brain taken a complete trip to Timbuktu?” . . .

“Mummy, have you gone completely mad? What are you freaking out about now? . . . What’s wrong with this? You told me to wear something casual for the henna ceremony. So I wore casual.”

“I said casual, not Chandini-Chowk-whore slutty! Brainless daughter of an oaf.” . . .

Ridhi yanked her ankle-length skirt all the way up to her thighs and looked down at it. “How is this slutty? It touches the floor. You can’t even see my toes.”

Her mother pinched the half of her breast that pushed up from her tube top. “What about these? You want your in-laws to see your mangoes? Save those for the man who’s going to eat them,” she hissed.

And that dear readers is just one of the many funny scenes from the book. In case it isn’t clear let me say it out loud: A Bollywood Affair has become one of my favorite reads of 2014. Go, grab it for yourself!

P.S. It is also, ahh, so ripe for movie adaptation methinks! Big Bollywood-Hollywood producers, are you listening?