REVIEW: The Five-Day Reunion by Mona Shroff
They ended their marriage, but they never fell out of love…
Law student Anita Virani hasn’t seen her ex-husband since the ink dried on their divorce papers. Now she’s agreed to pretend she’s still married to Nikhil until his sister’s wedding celebrations are over—because her former mother-in-law neglected to tell her family of their split! The closeness they share during the marriage act gives Anita new insight into the man she once loved so deeply. And reignites Nikhil’s feelings for her…
Dear Ms. Shroff,
I am thrilled that Harlequin is featuring more stories about diverse communities. “The Five-Day Reunion,” despite it’s less than zinger of a title and a set-up that might have people rolling their eyes, is a solid book with believable characters, motivations, and evidence of growth that had me totally onboard for Nikhil and Anita to rediscover their love for each other.
Nikhil Joshi isn’t expecting who shows up on the first day of his younger sister’s five day wedding extravaganza. But there she is, his ex-wife Anita, looking lovely and trying to give him “eye commands” to go along with the nonsense his mother is spouting that he and Anita are still married. More madness is in store when he realizes just how few of the Joshi relations and his mother’s friends know about his divorce. Lots of glasses of bourbon over the course of the day later, the impetus is revealed. Seema was worried about her father’s fragile health after the death of his wife and thinking that news of a divorce in the family might weaken him further and humiliate him in the Indian community where divorce just doesn’t happen often. Seema also worried about how a divorce might have made it difficult for Tina to get married.
Anita isn’t much happier about the situation than Nikhil or his sister Tina who used to be closer to her than a sister. But after initially turning down her former mother-in-law’s request, the offer of having her last year of law school (to the tune of $30,000) paid is too much to pass up since her brother is also longing to start his own business and her being debt free would help Amar immensely as well. It’s just five days and Anita always loved the Joshi family, especially Nikhil’s grandfather – Dada – who treated her like his own granddaughter.
Will everything go well? Who am I kidding, this is a romance that needs some conflict before a HEA.
First off I loved the Indian American/Indian rep in this book. Seema Joshi and (I assume) her deceased husband were immigrants to Maryland/DC and through hard work built a thriving law practice. Now she has professional success and a large house though she still feels that her two older sisters dismiss this when they pressure her to stay months in India helping care for their father. Part of her efforts to hide Nikhil and Anita’s divorce is because she doesn’t want her older siblings to lord this over her.
The details of the weddings (traditional Indian as well as American church) are included in the story but they’re also important in how they bring Anita and Nikhil together for certain ceremonies as well as providing opportunities for them to talk to other family members about what happened back then and if and how things have changed. Anita and Nikhil skipped the large wedding that Tina is having because Anita and her brother couldn’t have afforded the multi-day blowout after their parents’ deaths but now Anita and Nikhil are seeing the larger family support and enthusiasm they missed. One thing Anita isn’t thrilled about are the multiple comments made to her about why she and Nikhil haven’t produced children yet.
Two of Semma’s children have followed her into law while Nikhil has always wanted something different. After majoring in English in college, he’s forged his own path as a writer of best selling novels but that’s only happened in the past three years after his divorce. Still he has issues with feeling his family loves him but that sometimes he’s invisible to them and they don’t truly respect his success. At one point even his beloved Dada skips over mention of Nikhil’s books to focus on Anita’s plans after law school and Anita had moments when she didn’t seem too thrilled with what he wanted. Then when she announced her desire to go to law school, Nikhil’s fears of losing her to the type of law career that consumes his relatives and his family’s law firm, as happened in the past with another woman in his life, hit him hard. He fears becoming invisible to her, too.
Anita’s epiphany that she wanted to become a lawyer came after their marriage. She was fired up about finally finding her passion to help the legally underserved population – something she felt would give her back some of the security she lost at the deaths of her parents – and was shocked at Nikhil’s lack of support. She still loved Nikhil but he hadn’t been there for her and seeing that they were deeply unhappy, she’d made the decision to leave and file for divorce. Only now at the wedding, she’s faced with the loving in-laws she lost as well as the man she realizes she still loves.
One thing is for sure – things aren’t going to be resolved without a lot of conversation. Just because feelings heat up quickly between them, both Nikhil and Anita know that the things that drove them apart haven’t been fixed. Yay for this. And since Anita had been warmly welcomed into the Joshi family, other people besides her and Nikhil were hurt. I was glad to see Tina standing up for her brother’s well-being and warning Anita that she wouldn’t let him be hurt by her again. Anita’s brother is also leery of this whole charade. Plus Anita and Nikhil have to keep up with who knows the truth, who knows the partial truth and who needs to be kept in the dark about any of the truth. It’s exhausting and never turned into a humorous farce.
Characters make mistakes based on past hurt feelings or incomplete information but thankfully nothing that was a Big Secret. The Past Woman pops out of the woodwork but as she was initially out of Nikhil’s life before he met Anita, Anita had never heard of her. Though what She did still influences some things Nikhil worries about which I found to be understandable.
As Nikhil and Anita spend more time together and talk, they begin to realize that they still love each other but that maybe they were too young and married too quickly. Things they thought the other understood turned out not to be so. No one was horrible to the other but just love and best intentions aren’t enough if there isn’t also clear communication – something both of them messed up. One of them did briefly try the “I’m not worthy” ploy but luckily Dada (I really liked the Joshi patriarch) cleverly steps in in a way that neither Nikhil nor Anita can refuse given how they were brought up.
I was delighted that Anita and Nikhil put some time and effort – despite most of the action taking place over the course of the five-day wedding – into figuring out where they went wrong, why things didn’t work then but could possibly work now and not rushing back into “let’s get remarried tomorrow!” When they were ready to recommit, I was ready for them to. I would like to have seen more of the extended Joshi family showing support for Nikhil’s career and his publishing issues were fixed rather quickly but this is one second chance story that worked for me. B