Indireads, $3.49, ISBN 978-1-927826-03-4
Contemporary Romance, 2013
The cover makes A Scandalous Proposition look like a pink imprint of Harlequin Mills & Boon, doesn’t it? Well, it’s accurate advertising: this story is your standard romance involving a rich asshole and a small town girl, only this time we have typewriters and saris as this is a desi romance.
Mira Talwar doesn’t leave a good first impression on her employer Ranbir Dewan. A new girl in Delhi, fresh from a small town in Meerut, she practically collapses in tears as she struggles to use a typewriter and keep up with the Dictaphone. That’s after she bumped into him and he pointed out that she was late for her first day at work. It’s not all Mira’s fault: she was lost trying to get to the office and nobody would listen when she tried to point out that she had never used a Dictaphone before. And this is before she realizes that she is at the wrong floor. I’m not sure how she ends up playing the typist when she’s supposed to be the cafeteria chef, but hey, that’s life sometimes.
Ranbir is a complete asshole to her all this while, but that’s okay, she pretty much rolls up her eyes at his bluster and vows to show him that she’s nobody’s ninny. He’s still her boss, however, and he has no qualms showing her the ass in sexual harassment, so it’s love. I supposed being sexually harassed by a hot guy is still better than being forced by one’s parents to marry an old goat.
This one has all the fancy trappings of a typical “My hot rich boyfriend is a gaping asshole!” romance – he accuses her of all kinds of tramp behavior, he thinks of women as tissue paper to be thrown aside after he is done with them, et cetera, although it’s quite amusing to see him cower at the feet of his dear mother despite all his bluster. Maybe he’s just taking it out on those poor women, heh.
What makes this story an actually amusing read, instead of a precursor to a heart attack, is its subversive nature. Ranbir is an asshole through and through, but he never catches a break here. The heroine, his mother, his family members, and even some secondary characters never let him get away with his nonsense for long. An ex-girlfriend slaps him hard and calls him on his hypocrisy when he dumps her, Mira gives back as good as she gets (although she has her obligatory “he’s an ass but his kisses make me melt” moments), and some secondary characters wave off his bluster and tantrums without breaking a sweat. Ranbir is an asshole, make no mistake, but he doesn’t always succeed in getting to the people around him.
Therefore, this story turns out to be a cheerful tale of our resident asshole’s eventual emasculation. As a romance story, it’s a tad too much like a standard Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern story and the hero is too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The author has a lively voice, however, and there is some unexpected but enjoyable joy to be had from seeing how Mira eventually gets on top over her man. Ranbir isn’t so cocky now at the end, heh, but he actually likes it, so hurray for girl power! Or something like that, I guess.