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KISS

REVIEW:  What the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter

REVIEW: What the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter

What-the-Bride-Didbt-Know

Dear Ms. Hunter,

You know I just have to look at blurbs whenever I see your name now. The one for this book got me interested in trying it and once I got started, the name of Lena’s other brother kept ringing vague bells until I realized that, yes I did read his book. I like friends to lovers plots but am not as wild about amnesia. Still, in your hands, I thought “what the hell.”

Australian Special Ops expert Trig Sinclair has always kept his romantic distance from childhood friend and colleague Lena West – ever since Lena’s brother Jared gave Trig some pointed “keep off” guy glances about her when they were all teenagers. But that hasn’t stopped Trig from wanting a future with Lena.

Now Jared’s been missing for 19 months and Lena’s afraid of what he might have got himself into trying to solve the mystery of who shot and nearly killed her on an ops. Lena heads to Istanbul to try and just see if he’s alive and the West family rallies Trig to go along with her since her recovery has left her a bit wobbly on her feet.

Trig thinks it’s the perfect time to finally see if he can move their friendship to something deeper, something permanent but an attack in the bazaar leaves Lena with no id papers, a spotty memory and Trig claiming to be her husband to expedite her treatment in hospital. As days go by and Lena still can’t remember, he reluctantly keeps up the charade, nobly tries to keep his hands off her and gets tortured by her happy attempts to consummate their “honeymoon.” But what’s going to happen the day she realizes what he’s been up to?

Ma Gawd but Lena and Trig can be stubborn people. Lena in not believing in her own self worth and Trig in his determination to finally win her love. The reason Lena doesn’t annoy me the way other “Oh, I’m just not beautiful/smart/tall/endowed/whatever as other women!” heroines normally do is that she has unconventional athletic beauty and that everyone in her family is a damn maths genius. Since I’m not a math genius either, I’ll cut her some slack about that. To your writing credit, her character stays stubborn to the end – she just shifts her focus to trying to get the details of their short “married life” out of Trig and then entice the poor bastard into bed. At one point I did wonder if she was just deliberately pulling his chain as a way to get back at him but when her memory finally returns, I realized she wasn’t. It was still fun to watch.

He took a deep breath. ‘You also need to know what

you do to me when you book us into a hotel as hus-

band and wife. Because it gives me ideas.’

She didn’t understand. He’d peppered her with too

much information and not enough time to process any

of it. ‘I— Pardon?’

‘I want you.’

‘You—do?’

He looked at her as if she were a little bit dim. ‘Yes.’

‘But…you can’t.’

‘Pretty sure I can.’

‘I’m broken.’

‘Nah, just banged up.’

‘I’m me. ’

‘Yes.’ He was looking at her as if she were minus a few brain cells again.

Trig is a wonderful guy. He’s wanted Lena for years – especially after he watched her almost die on the mission – and now that she’s as healed as she’s ever going to be, by golly he’s going to do something about it. The man has laser focus and it’s all on Lena. Good thing he’s strong enough, mentally and almost physically, to hold out long past when lesser men would have caved to her sexy nightie and bed snuggling efforts. Trig is a rock in getting Lena well and looking out for her – albeit helped along by the knowledge that her brothers will gut him otherwise.

“I can’t find my honeymoon nightie. Do you have it?”

Trig opened his mouth as if to speak and then shut it again with a snap. He shook his head. No.

She looked beneath the pillows. “Did we rip it?”

Still no sound from Trig.

“Could be the cleaner mistook it for ribbon,” he said at last.

“Ribbon?”

“There wasn’t much of it. But there were bows. Lots of bows. Made out of ribbon.”

“Oh.” Lena tried to reconcile ribbon nightwear with the rest of her clothing. “I really should be able to remember that.”

She passed her husband on the way to the shower and when she stepped beneath the spray she could have sworn she heard him whimper.

When the truth is remembered, Lena is rightly furious yet also eventually willing to listen to her own conscience and her sister-in-law’s advice about how much work she put into getting “her husband” Trig into bed and how mightily he resisted. And then they talk. Well they’ve talked all along – and the wonderful dialog of yours I enjoy so much is alive and well here – but they talk to get over the white lies and on to a future together.

‘Can we ignore them and get married now?’ Her voice still wobbled.

‘I’m ignoring them. I can’t even see them. There’s only you.’ He closed his fingers over hers and brought her fingers up to his lips.

And the amnesia? Well it’s still not my favorite pIot device but here it wasn’t too bad. I assume that Jared’s story will appear eventually but I’m glad this one focused tightly on just Trig and Lena and them finally getting to the altar. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Secrets and Saris by Shoma Narayanan

REVIEW: Secrets and Saris by Shoma Narayanan

Secrets-and-Saris

 

“A secret that could cause scandal!

Jilted at the altar, Shefali Khanna should be humiliated. Instead she takes the opportunity to start again. Top of the priority list: do not tumble headfirst into another relationship!

But even moving from the city to the country can’t keep Shefali out of trouble–especially when she catches the eye of local celeb Neil Mitra! There is no way she can risk a scandal already! He might be gorgeous, but he’s totally off-limits…right?”

Dear Ms. Narayanan.

My goodness doesn’t this blurb have a lot of exclamation points? After reading and enjoying “Monsoon Wedding Fever” last year, I was excited to see another book of yours – this time in the Harlequin “KISS” line. I enjoyed your voice again, as I did in “Wedding,” and loved delving into life in contemporary India but though I could understand the confusion and hesitation both Neil and Shefali had about their feelings for each other, the numerous flip flops in their actions caused by their confusion didn’t leave me with a solid feeling about their future relationship.

There is no mistaking that these are Indian characters living in contemporary India. Details of their daily lives are smoothly worked into the story without tedious explanation to interrupt the flow of the scene. This gives a nice feel for the setting and people. We can see how conservative the smaller city is that Shafali is now living in compared to Delhi and how being known to have slept with Neil would damage her reputation as the manager of a pre-school. I could also grasp how unusual it was for Neil to be a single, divorced parent with custody of his daughter. The differences in languages and in religious observation of the same holiday show both the vastness and nuances of India.

There is a casual acceptance of arranged marriages which agrees with what I read a while ago in a news story. In it, a young Indian woman said she didn’t waste time trying to find Mr. Right – that was her parent’s job. Shefali grew up expecting her parents and aunties to find her someone suitable and acceptable to marry. As such, it’s not unusual in this social class and setting for her to still be a virgin but at least she’s not hung up about it or screeching for Neil to marry her once she’s not anymore.

Shefali might not have what people consider a high powered executive job but she’s no dummy either. I loved the way she coolly sold her engagement ring and got the best price possible. She also didn’t fall apart when Pranav was a no-show, deciding to leave Delhi and not stay under her parent’s thumbs anymore. Moving away was also a means for her to escape the pointing fingers and pity. She enjoys the smoking sex she and Neil have but isn’t trying to hang onto him like a life preserver after the ship has gone down. When she realizes that she just isn’t into something this casual she has little hesitation about cutting her losses, especially with the way Neil is bungling their relationship.

Neil’s first marriage and its aftermath aren’t typical which is shown in how Shefali reacts with shock to its telling. Neil and his first wife were childhood friends who started dating at an astonishingly young age for India, were in a sexual relationship and got caught by an unintended pregnancy which ended up with Neil pushing the reluctant mother of his child to marry him. When the marriage ended, Neil bucked the expectations of his family in order to raise Nina by himself. With this in his background, I wasn’t surprised that he has little interest in marrying again.

With both hero and heroine being reluctant to jump into anything permanent but society demanding it due to Shefali’s job and the small town mentality, the shift into first an engagement and then a marriage of convenience seems like a plausible plot twist. What annoyed me was the quicksilver shifts from then on. One minute Shefali is complaining that her reputation can’t take another broken engagement and then she wants to break it. Neil states that he doesn’t want any more children and then changes his mind but only to make Shefali happy. Back and forth and back and forth. It’s as if now that you’ve gotten them together, you’ve run out of conflict.

It’s not that I don’t understand the way these characters think and what is motivating them but for both of them to whiplash back and forth gets tiresome. When they both announce their undying love for each other, I’m afraid I’m still holding my breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop. The conflicts here are plausible and there’s certainly enough to go around but the resolution just doesn’t quite convince me in the end. B-

~Jayne

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