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Group review: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Where did you get the book: E-arc from publisher
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: 28th of October

In the tradition of Shobhan Bantwal’s successful Indian American novels, Sonali Dev s debut captures the colorful spirit and fascinating details of Indian and Bollywood culture including a lavish wedding while delivering an emotionally layered and accessible story.

abollywoodaffairMili Rathod has been bound by marriage since she was four years old. But when her husband shows no sign of claiming her after twenty years of waiting, Mili grabs the chance to leave India and come to America on a scholarship.

Playboy filmmaker Samir Sam Rathod is Bollywood s favorite bad boy. He ll do anything for his big brother even travel halfway across the globe to take care of the wife who just crawled out of his brother s past. Yet Mili isn t the simple village girl Sam expected. She s a whirlwind who sucks him into her roommate s elaborate elopement and soon has him drowning in her onyx eyes. And though Mili fancies herself in love with his big brother, the husband she has never met, Sam is hoping for a very different ending.

*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

Thoughts on the heroine:

Marlene: Mili is such a marvelous contradiction of extremely traditional and absolutely modern. On the outside, she often seems like a product of a very traditional culture that has limited roles for women. She has a lot of respect for those traditions and where she came from. She also loves and respects her grandmother and doesn’t want to disappoint her.

At the same time, Mili is extremely intelligent and quite capable of searching for loopholes in those traditions that are big enough to fly an airplane through. Which Mili does. She wants more for herself than her current lot, and is willing to take her courage in her hands to, if not change her fate, at least manipulate it into a shape that she finds more liveable.

The logic behind her actions is often more than a bit flawed from a 21st century view of the world, but makes complete sense from her mixed-tradition point of view. She’s always doing the best she can, and she works incredibly hard at it.

Lou: Oh Mili I adored. What a wonderful character and like Marlene said above, she truly was a contradiction of keeping steadfast to traditional ideals she deeply believed in, such as her marriage, and her desire to be educated and become a modern women. She was an endearing character; she had her quirks and and by the end of the book I was sporting a major crush on her. Her love for food at first I thought was a little cartoonish but I soon recognised Mili’s openhearted responses were just perfect. Mili was vibrant and just a force of nature in her own way. Her response to Samir was adorable and very funny. I was surprised by how deep of a connection they both had from the start considering Samir’s almost condescending way he looked down at Mili. But their friendship grew and grew and Mili totally ensnared Samir and it was so effing awesome.

Has: I loved, loved, loved Milli! I loved her quirkiness and sense of loyalty as well as code of honour which like Marlene stated had a mixed set of traditional and modern views which really made her endearing and likable. And this brought out an interesting dichotomy with her character but I think this is what really helped to capture Samir’s attention, as well as charming him into falling for her because she was such a fantastic character to fall in love with.

Mili was such a unique and vivid character, and she had me chuckling out loud several times with her antics. I adored her first encounter with Samir who is determined to annul his brother’s marriage but ends up seeing her running away on a conky bicycle and then crashing against a tree head over heels. I think it was at this moment, where Mili had Samir had at hello, and it was fabulous to see their friendship grow into a heart-warming and sweet romance, despite misunderstandings and the dreaded secrets between them.

Thoughts on the hero:

Marlene: Samir is such a contrast of bad boy/good man that it is fun to watch him figure out who he is and what he wants. He’s also a mixed-up mess of traditional and modern, but often in different ways from Mili.

Some of those differences are gender dynamics; even in a relatively traditional society men usually have more freedom than women.

But Samir plays the role of Bollywood playboy to the hilt, at least in public. In private, he is a dutiful son and clearly adores all the women in his family (and vice versa). He’s a genuinely nice guy, at least to his relatives.

In fact, it is his genuine desire to help his brother that sends him off to Michigan to tangle with Mili. He plans to manipulate her, but his motives are not bad.

His problem is that his public and private personas don’t match, and the conflict is killing his creativity. Becoming involved with Mili puts him in touch with his real self, and suddenly he can write again. The lie he lives with Mili is closer to his true personality than his Bollywood playboy image.

Lou: Ahh Samir. He was the classic bad boy turned good, though really he was a good person inside. Mili brought out the best in him and watching him fall completely besotted with her had me glued to the pages. Samir’s secrets from Milli build up the tension in each chapter and the closer and more engaged they became with one another, you know the fallout was going to be spectacular. The pacing of this book was great, I must add. Samir’s conviction that Mili was this greedy gold digger got totally turned on it’s head when he falls in love with her, and I believe Samir falls for Mili very quickly and how he teases her and in this small but romantic ways was just…wonderful *happy sigh* To see him completely befuddled by her was so fun to watch. He is a playboy and he becomes this besotted guy who quickly falls deeper and deeper for Mili.

Has: I wasn’t sure how Sonali Dev would be able to carry off a romance when the hero sees the heroine as the bad guy. But I loved how Mili breaks apart his pre-expectations of her and she totally disarms as well charmed the charmer which was beautifully ironic. I can’t express how much I loved their scenes together which truly sparkled with delight and wonderful tension. Samir was a pretty cocky at times, especially towards the ladies with the love and leave them attitude. But I loved how hard he fell for a woman who turned the tables on him by being unpredictable and funny, and it was totally believable on how he would fall for Mili. I agree with Lou, with seeing Samir’s reaction to Mili and the people she encounters with because it definitely brought out some hilarious moments and scenes.

I also enjoyed how Sonali Dev delved and explored Samir’s mixed heritage, which illustrated some interesting aspects to his character with his background. Although I was confused slightly in the beginning about his background and I wished this was explained more clearly earlier on.

What did you like about the book?

Marlene: I love the way that the author takes time to develop both characters. This is a beautiful love story that grows out of their friendship. The relationship develops slowly, and it feels right for their personalities, especially Mili. I really liked the way that they completed each other, that Mili helped Samir get his entire life back on track. I also enjoyed the way that Mili found independence even in her relatively strict interpretations of the traditions she grew up with.

Lou: The humour, the romance, and the characters. Basically all of the book. The friendship truly was wonderful because there was no doubt the friendship was real and not borne of a romantic entanglement. I loved how Mili believed in Samir, and she stood up for him when gossip is spread about him from a magazine. She was fierce in sticking up for those that have her loyalty.

Has: I think I could gush all day long about this book because I loved how the romance developed. The characterisation was also fantastic and I loved the humour and insights of living with a big family and the chaos and love as well as the laughter that brings. If I could describe the feel and tone of this book, it would be a gorgeous feast of love, laughter and humour and this is one of the rare books that actually gives you the giddy feeling in your stomach.

What were your favourite scenes?

Marlene: My favorite scene was the four-way telephone call with Mili and Samir negotiating her roommate Ridhi’s return to her family while still getting to marry the man she loves. Ridhi is on one line, her mother (and father) are on the other, and Mili and Samir are playing both ends of the call to reach a compromise that still gets Ridhi every single thing she wants. Mili is smart and manipulative and so believes in the power of true love. And it works!

Lou: So many favourite scenes. For the humour, I loved the wedding scenes of Milli’s roommate. From Samir making rosti’s to the boobie (the two boobie scenes :D) scene which was hilarious. I loved the smexy scene at the end of the book. HOLY MOLY was that intense and just full of depth. It was a beautiful scene and it was so intense. It had the perfect build-up.

Has: I have so many, from the henna ceremony boob scene, to the scene at the end when Samir is reunited from someone in his past. It is hard to pinpoint just one scene because it was such a great book with many standout scenes and fabulous dialogue! Although if I had the choose it would be the first encounter with Samir and Mili. I think her falling over head over heels was really symbolic on how they felt with each other and their journey into falling in love.

What were your dislikes?

Marlene: In the inevitable mess that their mutual lies leads to (with a little offstage assist from Mili’s grandmother) Samir really, really screws up. Major arseholishness on his part. Mili forgives him MUCH too easily. He needed to grovel a whole lot more to make up for his horrid behavior.

Lou: I did think that Mili forgive Samir a little too easily at the end. I wanted much more grovelling and I really didn’t like the scene when he takes Milli in the car to the wedding and refuses to stop the car despite her protests.

Has: I agree that Mili forgave Samir too easily, but I think it was close to her character to forgiving him and I did think he was tortured and suffered a lot with their separation. I also wished his background was explained more fully because I was confused about who was his father and mother and his mixed heritage. This wasn’t explained until much later and it did throw me a bit but this is a pretty much a minor niggle.

Summary and grade

Marlene: This was a book where I loved both the story and the characters. One of the things I liked best about the story was the way that Mili’s, Samir’s and Mili’s roommate Ridhi’s families and different points of view allowed the author to comment on the many varied ways that families and cultures adapt to societal changes without being heavy-handed about it.
While the focus is on the romance (as it should be) we see multiple perspectives on a culture that seems monolithic from the outside. Those differences helped to create the characters and drive the action of the story.

I gladly give A Bollywood Affair an A. This one is going on my “best of 2014” lists.

Lou: This is one of my favourite reads of this year. A beautiful romance with characters I adored. I loved the views into a culture that I don’t know much about. I loved how family was central and a major part of this book. Samir’s loyalty to his brother and sister-in-law was steadfast but his connection to Mili was amazing right from the start. The romance was sexy, sweet and funny all at the same time.

I give A Bollywood Affair an A.

Has: I definitely agree with you both that this is soooo going on my best of list of 2014 too! I loved the romance which was sweet and cute. The characters were vibrant, lively and multi-faceted. The humour and plot was also memorable and immensely enjoyable. I really do think this book has a crossover appeal because it encompasses so many universal themes and elements which will appeal to a lot of people. This was a delightful and wonderfully funny romance. I implore you pick this up because this is an utter gem of a book!

I give A Bollywood Affair an A+

By Lou

One thing that Lou loves most is her HEA in romances.

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