Monsoon Wedding Fever

Shoma Narayanan
November 2012, Series Romance
Harlequin Romance, #4348, $4.99, 186 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373178441

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Subtle

I remember seeing news online about Mills and Boon publishing romances by Indian authors for sale in India, and I had hoped that some of these might find their way to other markets as well. I've enjoyed Harlequin books from the UK and Australia, and I'm always happy to try branching out still further. For November 2012, North American readers are getting their chance to read the first of the Mills and Boon India books to reach the American market. Monsoon Wedding Fever isn't perfect, but it is a fun tale of lovers reunited and even more than the romance, I loved getting a glimpse into another culture beyond my own.

Riya Kumar lives in an apartment provided by her company in Mumbai. One night, she comes home after a celebration with friends and trips over a guest sleeping on the living room floor. It turns out that not only has her roommate put up wedding guests in the apartment, but one of these guests is Dhruv Molhatra, the man who broke Riya's heart back in college. Riya is less than thrilled to see Dhruv and she also ends up frustrated at herself because she still can't help finding him attractive. Dhruv broke off things with Riya rather abruptly when they were students, so she is determined not to let him get past her defenses this time around. Hopefully, they'll get through her roommate's wedding festivities and that will be the end of it.

As Dhruv and Riya get thrown together during the wedding parties, it's obvious to everyone that Riya is not the only one feeling an attraction. There is definitely chemistry between these two and right away readers will be rooting for them to move past their earlier disagreements and find a way to be together. The two have some real roadblocks, though. First of all, Dhruv's parents had what was supposedly a love match, but their marriage has been very stormy and unhappy. Dhruv has decided he doesn't believe in love and he considers pursuing an arranged marriage, hoping to avoid some of the same pain in his life.

Riya, on the other hand, is determined to marry a man she loves who loves her in return. She doesn't want to pursue a man who claims not to believe in love. In addition, Riya comes from rather modest circumstances. She graduated college and works for a company in Mumbai, and she is the first in her family ever to own a car, but money is still quite tight for her. Dhruv comes from a somewhat more well-off background, and he is now a partner in a very successful architectural firm. Riya finds herself keenly aware of the class difference, and decides she just isn't in the same league as Dhruv. This "I'm just not good enough" idea of hers makes for believable tension at first, but it goes on waaay too long and reaches a point where only Riya seems to believe it might be true.

On a more positive note, I loved how modern this book seemed. Riya lives with roommates, has a real job, and seems to have an actual life rather than just existing in a life that's on hold while waiting for a hero to happen along as some supposedly "contemporary" heroines seem to do. I also enjoyed some of the cultural references in the story. We got to see some of the ceremonies related to Indian weddings, mention of tensions between the ideas of Indians living in India and those who have emigrated, and depictions of daily life. In some ways, Riya's hectic life as a young professional felt very familiar to me, but then in other ways, such as her living in a company apartment with staff preparing meals, cleaning, etc..., it seemed quite different from anything I've known in the United States.

Though things start off in promising fashion, the romance stuttered along in places because the conflicts between Riya and Dhruv just felt stale after a while. As I mentioned, Riya has a major hang-up over Dhruv's financial success and after a while, her constant needling at it just drove me nuts. Dhruv's initial insistence that he doesn't believe in love was also frustrating, but we at least got to see him change and realize his mistakes in a way that made more sense than any transformation Riya went through.

I'm no expert on Indian culture, so I can't speak to the authenticity of the setting, but I did find it fascinating reading. And while Dhruv and Riya (especially Riya) had their frustrating moments, I did still basically root for them to find happiness together. I'm glad to see Harlequin bringing some books from other parts of the world into the American market, and if this book was anything to go by, I will definitely want to try more romances from their Indian authors.

-- Lynn Spencer

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