Claiming His Bollywood Cinderella
Tara Pammi’s Claiming his Bollywood Cinderella has a lot of really good points. The heroine is charming (and plus-sized) and the romance between her and the arrogant actor generally works.
Vikram Raawal comes from an acting dynasty, but what he dreams of is love – true love – on the level that his grandparents shared. Their devotion shapes how he looks at the world, even moreso than the tempestuous marriage his parents have together, which he considers a nonstop embarrassment and a public liability. Yet even though he’s had several hit movies, Vikram concentrates on his career, having given up on the hope of finding true love.
Cue a meeting at the family’s palatial mansion, fittingly called the Rawaal Mahal. There, he becomes attracted to a woman mocking the exploits undertaken in his last big-budget Bollywood spectacular and comes to realize this is his grandmother’s new – and much praised – personal assistant, Naina Menon.
Naina scolds him immediately for pandering to the lowest common denominator with his movies and repeatedly condescending to audiences with predictable tropes. Vikram has long been dissatisfied with the material he’s been acting out, but lashes out at her by declaring that she has no right to critique his choices because she’s done nothing with her education.
The spite turns to something softer when they spend more time together during a masked ball. It seems that Naina is trying to move on after being dumped by her ex-fiancé – who has already moved on with another woman. And she’s been rudderless in the wake of losing her father.
They kiss, they make love, but both immediately plunge face-first into denial. Vikram thinks the connection between them is too intense, and no passion that strong can last without hostility entering into the mix. Naina, meanwhile, is afraid to reveal herself to Vikram – would he believe her, and if he did, could she ever explain why she’d chosen to risk her job with his grandmother by making love to him? Jealousy, their twelve-year age difference and the gap between his career experience and hers causes difficulties. When jealousy rears its ugly head, they are left wondering if they’re going to manage to make a true romance of it.
Claiming His Bollywood Cinderella suffers from occasional spurts of Harlequin Presents-itis. You have your handsome alpha entrepreneur type who is arrogant and jealous and won’t commit, but can’t stand it when the heroine develops a friendship with another man. There’s a class and age difference. Jet setting. Tropical locales. Busybody families, and horrifying mother or father figures for the hero who screw up his life and his perspective on marriage until the last third of the book.
A lot of the story revolves around Vikram’s quest to get over himself in regard to both his idealization of his grandparent’s marriage and his hatred of his parents’ one. So he’s rich and arrogant and class conscious, but also warm and looking for a way to make a difference and move away from making action films into something of substance. He’s a good guy; he loves his widowed grandma, and is fair to his co-stars.
Naina has a strong will and a sharp, cutting tongue she wields as self-protection. It’s honestly refreshing to have a heroine like her – one that’s not afraid to offend but also has a good heart. She’s also a plus-sized heroine (but once again the cover art doesn’t reflect this).
How much you like the relationship will depend on how much you like push-pull romances with arrogant alpha types. Their tongues slice each other up and they have great sex, but also softer moments, the ability to bond, and an indefatigable belief in the value of art.
The supporting characters are a lot of fun. Ajay, who becomes Naina’s friend – and for a while – a prong in a love quadrangle with Vikram, Naina and an actress co-worker of Vikram’s who becomes close to Naina – is my absolute favorite of the crop.
Again, you know what a Harlequin Presents title offers, and Claiming his Bollywood Cinderella is an excellent example of the genre. I like Pammi’s beta heroes a little bit better, but for those who want to escape onto a movie set and into a jetset lifestyle for a couple of hours, it’s a solid bet.
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