A Bollywood Affair
There are times when I’m glad a particular book I’m reading is a review book. Why do I say that? Well, some books just don’t start off well but if I get past the first few chapters, I end up feeling very glad that I read the whole thing. A Bollywood Affair is such a book. As a reviewer, I had to stick with it to the very end. And after I made it through a few rough spots at the beginning, I felt incredibly rewarded.
In the prologue, we see the hero and heroine meeting as children as four-year-old Mili finds herself forced to marry Virat Rathod, a child not much older than she. At the wedding, Virat’s brother Samir comforts the sobbing bride, earning himself a beating in the process.
Twenty years later, the plot picks up again not in Bollywood, but in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Having graduated from university in India, Mili has managed to get a visa to attend a program in the United States. She longs for education and as she has done her entire life, she waits for her husband to return and claim her. Unknown to Mili, Virat has no intention of acknowledging the forced child marriage performed in their small village and he has sent his brother Samir, now a bigshot Bollywood director, to track Mili down and get her to sign annulment papers.
If you’ve spent much time on romance sites, you’ve probably heard the term “meet cute.” Well, Samir and Mili’s meeting is more like “meet completely, off-the-wall insane.” Samir knocks on the door and Mili immediately thinks it’s her recently eloped roommate’s family on the hunt for her, so she tries to escape on her bicycle and ends up injured after a wreck.
Even though Samir is really there to try to get annulment papers signed, he’s such a decent guy that he sticks around to nurse Mili back to health. It probably doesn’t hurt that something about Mili cures his writer’s block and inspires him to write a screenplay, too. As the story moves along, the relationship between Samir and Mili deepens and readers will find themselves rooting for this couple even as they know from the opening pages that they have an almost insurmountable obstacle sitting in their way. Oh, and since Samir doesn’t tell Mili that he’s Virat’s brother, you can imagine some of the other drama waiting to be discovered.
At first, I had trouble getting into the story. Even though I knew Mili comes from a completely different culture than my own, I had trouble adjusting to her sometimes extreme passivity. When a heroine is shown as passive or doormat-ish, and perceived by others in the story as almost saintly, I have to admit that it’s a pet peeve with me. Some of the early bickering exchanges between Mili and Samir didn’t do a whole lot for me either. However, as I got deeper into the story, I started to relish reading it. I’m no expert on Indian cultures, but I enjoyed seeing the author show some of the variety that exists there, both in terms of regional differences as well as different social mores between modern cities and more traditional villages.
And even if events in the book sometimes feel outrageously over the top, it’s all done in a fun way. And that fun mixes well with some of the deeper, more emotional elements of the book to make it a much richer read than the opening led me to expect. Even though he does do some dreadful things, I never doubted Samir’s ability to end up as a decent man and some of his scenes with Mili are both sweet and deliciously romantic.
A rich, heartfelt romance set against a fascinating cultural background makes A Bollywood Affair a definite winner for me. I just wouldn’t judge it by the opening chapters because like many love affairs, it gets much better as it goes along.