Dear Adite Banerjie:
You sent me your book ages ago, when it was released in India and then in the UK, but I wanted to wait until it was available in the US to minimize potential buyer frustration. This is the fourth M&B India release I’ve read, and while they each have their problems, they also have plenty to recommend them, not least of which is authenticity of setting and character.
The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal is a marriage of convenience story. This is a trope that is hard to pull off in a contemporary, but India’s enduring tradition of arranged marriages makes it more plausible. Krish is the son of a tycoon, and he is trying to avoid an arranged marriage that will bring together two family businesses. Maya is a landscape gardener whose father became an alcoholic after he lost his job and his wife (Maya’s mother) was killed. She holds Krish’s father responsible, although Krish doesn’t know any of this.
So Krish and Maya become engaged for very different reasons and without knowing anything about each other. It’s a well-trodden plot path, but I enjoyed their characterizations, and the bickering didn’t get out of hand. After the wedding the couple go to a country house in the foothills of the Himalayas and get to know each other a bit, and I really enjoyed this part. Krish and Maya both care about their work, not just for ambition’s sake but as fulfilling careers, and they seem well matched.
She finished the sketch and thrust it at him. He was impressed at how quickly and instinctively she had cre- ated a concept and a design for it. As he looked at the sketch, she chewed at the end of her pen. ‘You don’t like it?’
‘I love it. I’m amazed that you came up with this idea so quickly.’
The uncertain look in her eyes disappeared and her enthusiasm sparkled through. ‘This is just one possi- bility. Once I have seen the location, I will be able to give you a lot more choices. Why are you looking at me like that?’
‘I’m fascinated. You have given me more ideas in ten minutes than our architects have been able to come up with in three months. You’re not an architect by any chance, are you?’
‘Nope.’ She laughed. ‘I picked up the basics of gar- dening from Papa. Later, of course, at Evergreen, I read up on whatever books I could find on the subject. And a lot of them were on architecture. What I love to do is put things together…you know, like mix and match…’
‘You really do have a talent for this. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.’
Maya’s cheeks flushed at the praise. ‘Oh, it’s always easy to come up with ideas for new projects where you start right from scratch.’
‘You are being too modest. Hey, why don’t you go through those pictures while I make us some coffee?
An Indian male who offers to make coffee. I think I fell in love with Krish at that moment.
But then the story loses its footing a bit; the book is nowhere near the end, so a conflict has to appear to drive them apart, and it doesn’t feel organic. There’s a lot of plot in the second half of the book, characters suddenly do about-faces, and the reconciliation isn’t that well set up. I believed it, but then I thought these two should be together at the halfway point.
There are subtle Bollywood-related aspects to the novel: the storyline evokes a movie’s structure by opening with a dance number, sending the hero and heroine off into the mountains for a romantic interlude, and having a soap-opera-like family backstory for Maya. It’s not over the top by any means, but I would have enjoyed it even more without these allusions. It’s a taste issue, though; some readers will like picking up the signals and will appreciate the hat-tips.
The India-specific aspects of the book were excellent, as you might imagine given the author lives and works there. The depictions of Krish’s family life, the wedding, the workplaces, and the glimpses we get of other people and contexts all ring very true to me, and the blend of traditional and modern is well done. The shortcomings are more in the standard romance-novel aspects (this is something that I’ve observed in the other M&B India books as well). I can’t recommend this unreservedly, but if you’re looking for an unusual contemporary that is really well grounded in its context, I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m looking forward to reading Banerjie’s next book and seeing where she goes with it. Grade: B-