The Bollywood Bride
When one of my friends got married the officiant included as part of the ceremony his three secrets to a happy marriage: communicate, communicate, communicate. I would say that is the secret to a happy relationship with anyone and it is something I wish the hero and heroine of this book had learned much sooner than they did.
Ria Parkar has made her living by playing a Bollywood Bride. Her movies have her always smiling winsomely, dancing with charm and grace and winning the audience’s heart as well as the hero’s. When she’s not in front of the camera she is known as an Ice Princess. A well-behaved actress who is never seen at the clubs, never has a romance, never takes a misstep. Ria needs distance and structure to make her life work. If her history has taught her anything it is that passion and uncontrolled emotions can be deadly and dangerous.
She hasn’t always been like that. Once, many years ago, she had loved passionately. As a young boy Vikram Jathar had saved her from her trauma and melodrama and as a young man he had been the love of her life. But circumstances pulled them apart and in order to save Vikram from sacrificing himself to those problems, Ria had kept them from him. Now they are both in Chicago for her cousin’s wedding and it is clear that the love and loss from yesteryear are still very much with them in the present.
If you’re familiar with romance novels at all you know what happens next. Vikram and Ria find themselves tripping all over each other in the days before the wedding as their family and friends first are confused, then frustrated at the hostility between them. As they work to get along and not disrupt the celebratory wedding atmosphere they find themselves revealing snippets of the truth to each other.
Learning that Vikram wasn’t able to just forget her and go on with his life is a blow to Ria. She had sacrificed so much in the hope that her problems wouldn’t become his it had never occurred to her that their relationship breakup would become a difficulty for him. As she sees for herself the damage that her silence caused she begins to wonder if telling him the truth would be the best way to heal some of that past hurt. But there is one more person involved in Ria’s conspiracy of silence and she is on the way to the wedding.
I’ve done a blog on some of my favorite Indian romance novels which speaks of how much I love culturally rich romances like this. I’m no expert on Indian culture, so if the details are wrong I wouldn’t be able to catch that, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the culture through the descriptions of the wedding ceremony, the clothes, the food and the customs. I also just loved the structure of the family life with the aunties and the huge family dinners and the way everyone was in each other’s business. It was crazy busy but in a fun, sweet way that really conveyed the love and affection they had for each other.
Crazy in a less fun way was some of the interaction between Ria and Vikram, which often felt outrageously over the top. They both have these deep, dramatic reactions to everything in their lives, especially each other, and that makes the two of them seem very volatile and chaotic. However, when they are getting along, when they can get past their past, they have a wonderful way of calming each other. While I always struggle with characters who just can’t let go of former relationships I could see how these two were so much better together that splitting was difficult and traumatic for them. The author made this trope work for me here.
What worked for me a bit less was all the angst. Ria is an internal drama queen, perhaps appropriate given her career. She also teeters on that edge between self-sacrificing and full on martyr. The issues she is dealing with are deep, traumatic and assuredly worthy of stress. Vikram’s mother also made it very clear to her that they are her problems to deal with and how Ria shouldn’t burden anyone else with them. I can imagine that had quite an impact on a young person and I could understand how that affected some of the choices Ria made. I was still a bit surprised though that Ria didn’t share her thoughts, feelings and well, issues, with the aunt and uncle who loved her. She didn’t have to talk about the whole situation with Vikram but the ones with her parents I felt should have been shared. It sure would have saved her a lot of angst.
Set amidst a joyous occasion and rife with rich, cultural details this story is a unique romance sure to pull at your heart strings. It isn’t a light read and isn’t always an easy one but it is assuredly worth the effort.