I’m not having a great week when it comes to book club picks. Come tomorrow, I’ll be sitting with my coworkers as they gush about the Nyquil-on-a-page memoir Comma Queen (at least that’s my bet. They love all the books I hate). And next week, I’ll be with the excellent Cannonball people, talking about another book that I tried so hard to like, Bollywood Bride.
Ria is a Bollywood star, known for playing the ingénue who usually gets married by the end of the movie. She’s known as the “Ice Princess” because she’s intensely private and hates being in the public eye. On the eve of a potential PR disaster, she goes back home to Chicago for her cousin’s wedding. There, she’s forced to confront Vikrim, her former boyfriend. She broke his heart a decade before, but can’t tell him why. Vikrarm assumes she did it to break into the Bollywood scene and become a superstar, and he hates her for it. Ria has secrets, but she feels their burden is hers alone to bear. But as wedding preparations force her to be with her former lover, she finds her secrets harder and harder to keep.
This book would have been about 20 long pages if any of the characters decided to TALK to each other. The whole book, Ria’s fretting that she CAN’T tell him her TERRIBLE SECRET, and I just wanted to shake her. By the time she finally does tell him the truth about what happened all those years ago, he’s like “Shit. Why didn’t you tell me? I totally could have helped you.”
I didn’t buy our couple’s great love story, which should have been the lynchpin of the whole book. These two were childhood sweethearts, who can basically read each other’s mind and anticipate the other’s wants and needs. The breakup shattered both of them so much that in ten years, they never found love. They’re soulmates. Okay, sure. I can buy that conceit. But not with this couple. Vikram spends half the book being a total dickasaurus and then does the whole “I was only mean because I LOVE you” thing. Dude, it’s not the 3rd grade. You can’t pull a girl’s hair because you like her. After he decides to win her back, his personality does a complete 180. He’s totally sweet and loving and there’s no explanation as to why he changed (except love, of course). When the plot requires them to be estranged, he’s a dickbiscuit. When it’s time for them to be in love, he’s an angel. It happened so quickly I got whiplash.
Their relationship especially looks paper-thin when compared to the other characters in the book. Ria’s aunt and uncle are still very much in love, and her cousin and his fiancée actually have a playful and easygoing chemistry. They actually seem like they’re “meant to be together” unlike our heroes who have to love each other in service of the plot, and I actually missed them when they weren’t in a scene.
I liked some parts of the book. It was nice to read about Indian and Indian-American culture. I enjoyed any time Ria was around her loving, overprotective family, and the chapters about the wedding made me want to be there. But I didn’t care about Bollywood Bride’s main story. Ria has too many terrible secrets stuffed into this short book. There’s a subplot about a pervy director that doesn’t go anywhere and another tacked-on bit conflict with Vikram’s mother. Her secrets are dark and serious, but their overabundance lessens the emotional impact.
I don’t read a lot of romance, so I don’t really know if I disliked this genre or just this book. Fans of romance: do you have any recommendations for me or should I just move on?