Published by Kensington Books on October 28th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Barnes & Noble
"Deeply-felt emotions that will keep readers turning the pages." --Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times bestselling authorMili Rathod hasn't seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her. Bollywood's favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir's tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she's trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili's life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate's elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie. Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev's debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity. "A delightful debut packed with complex characters and deep emotions." —Shobhan Bantwal, author of The Dowry Bride"Sonali Dev not only entertains but provides new insight into the human condition. A must-read." --Mingmei Yip, author of Peach Blossom Pavilion
Mili Rathod was married to her husband when she was four years old, but she hasn’t seen him since. Her village still allows child marriages, even though the rest of India has outlawed them. Being married has allowed her certain freedoms, though, that most girls her age in her village don’t have. She’s even able to leave India for eight months to study in America, which she told her grandmother would help her be a better wife. She really wants to be a good wife to her husband, just as soon as he comes to get her.
What she doesn’t know if that her husband, Virat, has remarried. He was told the child marriage was annulled on the basis of being illegal, so he hasn’t given Mili a thought in years. When he receives a letter from her and finds out the marriage wasn’t annulled, he sends his younger brother, Samir, to America to secure the divorce. Virat is already remarried and has a baby very close to being born. He needs that divorce so that his baby isn’t born outside of wedlock. He can’t go himself because he was injured in an accident and is still recuperating in the hospital.
I had a little trouble with Mili. When the chemistry between her and Samir becomes clear, she tells him that she’s married, and that she’s completely in love with her husband. And she is. We’re in her POV enough to know that she does love Virat. Which is difficult for me to believe or understand. She literally has not laid eyes on him since she was four years old. She hasn’t had one iota of contact with him. No letters, no phone calls, no emails nothing since she was four. I could understand if she was committed to her marriage, and unwilling to betray that, but to actually be in love with Virat was a little strange to me. I also inherently distrust “Everything is Awesome” people. That’s a me thing. It just strikes me as disingenuous somehow. Everyone has bad days and it’s ok.
Samir was a little easier for me to understand. Mili has an accident right after he arrives and he sticks around to help her out. He doesn’t tell her who he is or what he’s doing there right away, and the longer he goes without doing so, the more difficult it is for him to do so. The longer he’s around her, though, the easier his newest script comes together, and he knows that as soon as he tells her everything he’ll have to leave. He also genuinely likes her. He and Virat are both confused by the letters Virat has been receiving from Mili. The letters have been making not very veiled threats about Mili taking some of his family’s properties as payment for her work on them. Virat cannot let that happen, especially since he’s always thought they weren’t married. They don’t sound anything like the Mili Samir has gotten to know while he’s been in Michigan.
Mili and Samir were great together. They genuinely liked each other, and had a lot of fun, even with her injuries. They fought, which wasn’t a surprise since they had very different outlooks on life. Samir seemed genuinely conflicted about his feelings, especially since Mili believes she’s married to his brother. Meanwhile, Virat’s wife (his other wife) is getting closer to her due date, and Virat is getting more anxious to get the divorce taken care before the baby is born. But they also made up by talking things out and trying to see things from the other’s perspective, which was refreshing.
I thought some of the characterizations of the secondary characters were not as well done as Mili and Samir. Mili’s best friend, Ridhi, seemed a little one-note to me, and her family seemed more like walking stereotypes than actual characters. But the description of Ridhi’s wedding weekend itself was really fun.
Which brings me to my favorite part of the book. The food. Oh, good holy moly, the glorious, glorious food. Samir cooks for Mili often. There’s so much food throughout the wedding weekend, and the descriptions of all of it were mouthwatering. I found myself on Yelp looking up nearby Indian restaurants. Mili is the kind of woman who experiences food with all of her senses, and Dev did such an amazing job describing it that I swear I could smell it wafting up from the pages of my book. I’d recommend this book just for that alone.
But there are a lot of other things to recommend it. I enjoyed Mili and Samir’s relationship, but everything else was so wonderful. The descriptions of the food, the clothing, the wedding, the culture, the food, the food, the food, all of it. It was so wonderful. Even if this wasn’t a romance novel, I would have loved it for those aspects alone. Seriously – have I mentioned the food?