Desert Isle Keeper
Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors
Neurosurgeon Trisha Raje descends from Indian royalty. Her father – now a surgeon himself – was once a prince, and he gave up his royal lineage in an attempt at assimilating when he married their one-time child star mother. Due to their hard-to-please dad’s influence, the Raje children all consider themselves modern Californians, in spite of yearly summer trips to Sripore to visit their beloved grandfather.
Trisha has a family dinner to attend, and the last thing the introverted woman likes to do is socialize. At the party, Trisha learns that her ex-college roommate, Julia Wickham, is back in town – endangering her brother Yash’s attempt at running for governor of California. Long ago, Julia drugged and raped Yash – and since it was Trisha who introduced Julia into their family, her father blames Trisha for the assault and has kept a frosty emotional distance from her.
Trisha has been consumed by the case of Emma Caine, an artist whose brain tumor turns out to be benign but is wrapped around her optical nerves; the surgery to remove it will leave Emma blind. Emma refuses to undergo the procedure even at the possible cost of her life. Chef Darcy “DJ” Caine- Emma’s brother – has been trying desperately to talk her into taking the surgery in between catering jobs. His latest happens to be cooking for the Raje family’s dinner thanks to a connection to Trisha’s cousin. Aside from saving for his sister’s treatments, he’s hoping to make it back to Paris, where he’s got a mentorship situation and an attic flat. He needs this job, and is determined to impress with it.
When Trisha comes to the kitchen, lifts the lid on DJ’s piece de resistance – his famous caramel sauce – and nearly tips it over, sparks and words fly. Soon DJ and Trisha are bantering and falling in love, but when Julia, now a documentary film-maker, offers to film Emma’s story, she has an entirely different tale about her history with Trisha and the Rajes to tell DJ – one that paints her as a poor friend trod upon by the rich, unfeeling Rajes. Who’s telling the truth?
AAR staffers Lisa Fernandes and Shannon Dyer read Sonali Dev’s Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, and here’s what they have to say about the novel.
Lisa: I love Sonali Dev’s novels so much. Do you have previous experience with her work?
Shannon: This is my first book by Ms. Dev, but it absolutely won’t be my last. I loved pretty much everything about her writing, so I’m looking forward to binging on her back list.
Lisa: What did you think of Trisha? Did you relate to her at all? Her desire for her father’s approval and her desire to help people both struck cords with me.
Shannon: When I first encountered Trisha, I found her pretty off-putting. She seemed so brusque, even when she should be kind and sympathetic. Fortunately, I soon discovered the vulnerability hidden beneath her tough exterior, and I warmed up to her pretty quickly after that. I wasn’t always thrilled by her relationships with various family members, but I’m eager to see how the author resolves some of that tension in future books.
Lisa: How about the Raje family? Did you have a favorite among the extended family? I was a sucker for their family dynamic in general.
Shannon: I did enjoy the Raje family. Both Yash and Ashna were of particular interest to me, and I really hope they get books of their own before too long. I loved the authenticity Ms. Dev was able to breathe into the various family members. Their relationships are messy, just like so many real life families.
Lisa: I loved Ashna in particular as well! DJ, meanwhile, has to struggle for every penny he’s ever earned. I loved his stubbornness, and the food porn in his chapters, and his frustration with Emma – and how clear it was that he really loved her and Trisha.
Shannon: My favorite thing about DJ has to be his relationship with Emma. He’s a great guy, and I loved seeing him and Trisha together, but there was something so believable about the way he and Emma related to one another. There’s a lot of love there, but also a lot of hurt feelings, and I was so glad to see each of them trying so hard to work past the difficulties.
Lisa: Dev definitely knows sibling relationships! What about Trisha and DJ’s romance? Did you feel it was occasionally thrust into background, as I did?
Shannon: This turned out to be kind of a busy book, so the romance didn’t get quite as much page time as I was expecting. Even so, I thought Ms. Dev allowed us to see Trisha and DJ falling for one another, and I had no problem picturing them living happily ever after as a couple.
Lisa: I really liked Emma, her paintings and her understandable desire for control. Did you like her?
Shannon: I’m always a bit skeptical of books with blind characters. As a blind person myself, I’ve read a ton of terrible depictions of blindness, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Emma. Fortunately, Ms. Dev did a good job weaving Emma’s struggles with blindness into the story in a way that did not make me cringe.
Lisa: I was looking forward to your insight on that plot point! I’m glad she nailed it. Every story needs a foil, and Julia was definitely that. Did you find her a complex enough villain?
Shannon: Julia was definitely complex enough for me! I love that Ms. Dev allowed her to have some depth instead of just being the villain. The things she did definitely weren’t great, but I was able to understand her motivations for behaving so badly.
Lisa: How does the book stack up against Pride and Prejudice for you? I’ve had problems with other retellings of the story, but I felt that this one knocked it out of the park. I thought Dev did an excellent job having her characters echo Austen’s while making them their own people.
Shannon: To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the original and I actually loved this retelling way more.
Lisa: What’s your final grade? I’m giving this a solid A- for combining good character work, a solid retelling, compelling brother/sister and sister/sister relationships, juicy and thought-provoking story twists and a romance that follows Austen’s lines while creating something entirely new. But that romance was sometimes pushed into the background when I really craved more of it.
Shannon: It gets an A- from me, too. It’s one of those books I sank right into, and I enjoyed every minute I spent with these characters. Ms. Dev is a gifted writer for sure, and I’m so glad I chose this for review.