Title: A Bollywood Affair
Author: Sonali Dev
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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.
Well, it looks like I’m going to be the black sheep this time. I was pretty excited about getting to read this e-arc because it came highly recommended by one of my favorite PRN romance authors, plus it had many early rave reviews. That’s why I was so disappointed because not only did I not love it, but I didn't even like it, not even a little bit, not even at all. In fact it made me mad enough to want to throw my computer across the room at times.
What went wrong?
- Mili was the archetypal “damsell-in-distress” (not my thing at all). She tripped, fainted and frequently required to be "rescued". She spent most of her life waiting for her prince charming to come get her. When she decided (at the beginning of the book) to go get an education and travel to another continent to “absorb the American culture” it wasn't for herself, but to “become more cultured to please her husband”.
She also cried all the time. Seriously, ALL.THE.TIME! I don’t mind crying and even acknowledge that a good cry can be very cathartic from time to time, but seriously: I kept thinking that if she didn't close those floodgates she might be in danger of dehydration!
Her behavior was highly irrational. For example: SPOILER-> One moment she told the MC nothing could happen between them because she was married and stormed off. The next she went out of her way to find him and stood staring at his almost naked body and led him on. <-SPOILER
- Samir was an arrogant prick. He said hurtful things. He was hypocritical: He reproached Mili for lying to him when he had done nothing but lie to her. Imo he crossed a line from which there was no coming back: SPOILER-> He went to her apartment, into her room, rummaged through her things, stole her marriage certificate (one of her most prized possessions) and then went back to writing his movie script and looked her in the face as if nothing had happened! <-SPOILER. In one scene he admitted (to himself, not her) that he had violated her trust beyond redemption and I was like “You think?!” YOU GIANT TWO-FACED A-HOLE!
At one time he made a comment about “putting Mili in her place”. What place would that be, huh? And I know that he wasn't serious when he said that, but given his behavior I must ask myself “Wasn't he, really?”.
The only thing he had going for himself was that he was a wonderful cook and cooked for Mili constantly (but if that tiny bonus came at the expense of everything else it seems like a pretty poor deal to me).
- I didn't buy the “romance” (and I use air quotes because I don’t think anything about their relationship was romantic at all). Their relationship was based in LACK OF COMMUNICATION AND LIES. They were distrustful of each other: SPOILER-> Mili informed him that his biological mother was terminally ill and he felt the need to ask her if she was lying about it just to get him to go see her. <-SPOILER What kind of person would do that?? Oh, right, the heroine apparently. She admitted she hadn't done it that specific time but that she would have done it if she'd thought the goal justified it.
- Inaccurate portrayal of sex. This actually happens in a lot of romance novels, but in this one I found it to be way too much. I mean... Mili had never had sex before and for her sexual debut he:
“...drove into her like a crazed beast. And for the first time in his life came up against a barrier.” (Like a crazed beast. For her first time. Smooth. And he came against a barrier. Barrier? What barrier? May I point the author to a Laci Green video to clear up this issue? ---> Laci Green Youtube Channel)
“...he ripped past the resistance.” (Holy shit that sounds painful!)
“...as she gave herself to him, as he changed her forever...” (Sex CHANGED HER FOREVER. You hear that, people? Be warned.)
- There was a scene of casual slut-shaming, portrayed as something to be laughed at. A mother called her 16-year-old daughter a slut and shook her forcefully because the girl dared to pull down the neckline of her blouse and expose the top of her breast for a henna artist to draw on. The MCs' response to this? They were "trying very hard not to laugh". Wait, what?? Were those the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ I was supposed to be rooting for?
The only positive thing I can say about this book is that the premise was original and it dealt with the topic of child marriages. This is a very “difficult topic” but I think it needs to be talked about to raise awareness about it. Child marriages exist today in certain cultures/countries. This is a fact. What I've got to say about it is that I am aghast and mad in equal measures that this still happens in parts of the world, that women are married as infants and are treated as property and “belong” to their husbands. This is so wrong. Saddening. Sick.
In a nutshell: I was extremely disappointed by this book. It took me forever to finish it because I kept finding other things I’d rather be doing than reading it. I skimmed the last 20% because I just wanted it to be over. I wish I’d DNFed. I wish I’d never picked it up in the first place.