Book Review: A Change of Heart – Sonali Dev

Title: A Change of Heart
Author: Sonali Dev
ISBN: 9781496705747
Pages: 352
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Romance
Source: Publisher

Summary

There’s no nice way to put it—Dr. Nikhil Joshi is a mess. Ever since his beloved wife, Jen, was murdered in the slums of Bombay, he hasn’t been able to pull his life back together. He spends his days drinking, barely functioning, and considering putting an end to his misery. But when he meets Jess Koirala, he can’t help but be startled by things she knows. Things about Jen. Is it possible that, as Jess claims, she received Jen’s heart in a transplant, and Jen has reached out to Nic from beyond the grave?

Review

On the surface, A Change of Heart appears to be a sweet romance novel about two people who have been to hell and back finding one another. It’s clear from the beginning that both Jess and Nic have faced their share of tragedy. Nic wears his heart on his sleeve—he hasn’t been able to get over Jen’s death. More than that, though, he hasn’t been trying. He’s so comfortable wrapped in his blanket of despair that he’s content to stay there forever. It’s too hard to begin living again, so instead he dies a little more each day.

Jess, on the other hand, has a much murkier past. We don’t know exactly what she’s faced in A Change of Heart, but it’s clear that it isn’t good. Why is she doing this? Why has she tracked Nic down? What was her relationship with Jen? Question after question surrounds Jess, and Dev does an exceptional job keeping the mystery swirling about her. Every time one of the reader’s questions is answered, more surface. Her motivations might be easy to question, but it’s much harder to question Jess as a person. She’s damaged, she’s been through so much, and the reader wants, most of all, for her to find some solace.

Once the reader begins to dig into A Change of Heart, it becomes clear that this isn’t as bright and shiny of a novel as one might have predicted from the gorgeous cover. There is darkness here. Dev chose to use this novel to discuss the problem of organ trafficking in the slums of India; that’s what Jen was investigating when she was killed. Indeed, this novel isn’t afraid to examine many of the issues the poor in India face, how they have so few options and are desperate to merely survive.

Sonali Dev is a bright light in the romance novel world; I’ve enjoyed every one of her novels, and especially appreciated how different they are from one another. If you haven’t given her novels a chance, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They all have incredibly rich characters, layered and flawed, and are wonderfully engaging novels. A Change of Heart is no exception; as long as Sonali Dev keeps writing, I’ll be reading.

Other books by Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair
The Bollywood Bride

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Book Review: The Bollywood Bride – Sonali Dev

bollywood-brideTitle: The Bollywood Bride
Author: Sonali Dev
ISBN: 9781617730153
Pages: 352
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Romance, Cultural (South Asian)
Source: Publisher

Summary

Ria Parker’s nickname in Bollywood is the Ice Princess—she’s cultivated her reputation as an untouchable, emotionless actress very carefully, as she doesn’t want to let anyone see what’s underneath the surface. The truth is, she’s never forgotten the boy she left behind, Vikram, despite her efforts to move forward. But when Ria’s forced to return home for a family wedding, will all her secrets be revealed as she has to face Vikram again?

Review

I loved Sonali Dev’s debut romance novel A Bollywood Affair, and it’s been with eager anticipation that I’ve been awaiting The Bollywood Bride. Romance isn’t a genre I read often, but I’ve been expanding my reading horizons more and more, and I’m a sucker for a good South Asian story. Dev did not disappoint with her second novel, making me appreciate her keen writing style and excellent characterization.

Ria is a great character in The Bollywood Bride. She seems like she has everything: wealth, fame, respect. But it doesn’t take long for the cracks to begin showing. She’s an actress everyone loves to hate, and her emotional health is questionable. She’s made a lot of sacrifices to get where she is, and not all of them were willing sacrifices on her part. Dev crafts a very deep character with Ria, and it’s interesting to watch her peel back the layers and become exposed and raw.

The reader knows that Ria left Vikram behind at the beginning of The Bollywood Bride, but the circumstances surrounding that, and indeed Vikram himself, are a mystery at the beginning of the novel. Dev keeps her book moving at a quick pace, and the reader is hooked, hoping to uncover what happened and that Ria finds the happy ending she so desperately needs. This is a novel that’s easily read in one sitting; in fact, I challenge you to not do so, to slow down and savor it. It’s a difficult thing because the novel pulls you in so completely.

I am really enjoying the small surge in inclusive genre fiction; too often the only choice for any sort of South Asian reading is literary fiction, which is usually on sad, heavy subjects. I’m a big fan of Sonali Dev’s and love her romance novels; I already can’t wait to read her next book.

Other books by Sonali Dev:

A Bollywood Affair

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Book Review: A Bollywood Affair – Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair coverTitle: A Bollywood Affair
Author: Sonali Dev
ISBN: 9781617730139
Pages: 304
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Romance, Cultural Fiction (South Asian)
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Mili Rathod was married when she was just four years old, in an illegal Indian village ceremony, to Virat Rathod, but she hasn’t seen her groom since her wedding day. Mili is certain that, one day, her husband will come for her, and in the meantime, she’s devoted herself to being the best wife she can. Mili has always been fascinated by psychology, and now she’s received the opportunity to pursue graduate studies in the United States. Samir Rathod is a “bad boy” director in Bollywood, India’s infamous film industry, but he’s also a devoted brother to Virat. And when Virat needs a divorce from Mili, Samir is only too happy to oblige his brother, to find Mili once and for all, and put an end to her sham of a marriage.

Snapshot Review:

A Bollywood Affair is a dramatic novel, with its premise of child marriage, but it’s also a sweet romance full of culture. Mili is a great main character, and readers will root for her and Samir as they encounter obstacles on their road to eventual (if inevitable) happiness.

Full Review:

The romance genre is often bemoaned for its lack of diversity; while I don’t read a lot of romance novels, I certainly hear this a lot from my friends who are widely versed in the genre. Well, Sonali Dev is trying to change that with her adorable romance novel A Bollywood Affair, with two very different Indian characters at its center and a core that is about family, values, and culture.

Mili is a sweet, wonderful character who carries A Bollywood Affair on her small, if strong, shoulders. She’s self-deluded, to be sure: she really believes that, after all this time, Virat is coming for her. The reader knows very well that he isn’t (and not just because they see things from his point of view), but after awhile, the reasons why Mili has been deluding herself become clear. She has lived her entire life being told she is Virat’s wife; it is her identity, and she doesn’t know who she is if not that, so she clings to it with everything she has. It makes for interesting character development over the course of the novel, especially because Mili is such a sweet person who really captures the reader’s heart.

Samir is a different story in A Bollywood Affair—a brooding hunk of a man who has a soft side that no one but Mili can see. Is his storyline unrealistic? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely sweet and wonderful. There are many aspects of this novel that require leaps of imagination, but Dev is a talented enough author that they aren’t difficult to make. Readers want to go along with her story because it is so enjoyable and she creates such rich, vibrant characters.

If you’re a fan of romance, then A Bollywood Affair should absolutely be on your list. If you haven’t given the genre a chance, this might be a great choice with which to try it. The culturally diverse aspects give it an extra layer, and it’s really just a well-written and engaging novel. One thing is for certain: you’ll be rooting hard for Mili and Samir, and won’t be able to put this book down until you find out if they’re going to have a happy ending.

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