Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90845-9
Contemporary Romance, 2014
I actually went to the author’s website and squinted at her photo before I write this review. Yes, Susanna Carr is a white woman who is going to serve everyone a Bollywood romance. Since we are talking about a story for a line where entire continents are squashed into one insultingly homogeneous culture for the purpose of making a fetish out of the hero’s skin color or race – say hello to Justinakos Bieberoppotamus the Greek tycoon, Jesus Biebierdo the Argentinean playboy, and Sheikh Justinhamid al-Biebi Er-Abbad from the Kingdom of Selenagomezabbi, people – this one is going to be a beautiful train wreck, no?
It is! People here dance to bhangra music all day, and that’s just the beginning of this hilariously cringe-worthy portrayal of life of the rich and famous in Mumbai. Still, we should all give credit to Harlequin Mills & Boon for taking romance to an even bigger global platform. Pitbull would be so proud – international love, baby!
So, let the bhangra music play non-stop as we meet Tina Sharma – I guess white female readers like Christine the sales assistant from Macclesfield may find “Karisma” or “Kushboo” too foreign for a heroine’s name – and her husband Dev Arjun. Tina is known as the bad girl of the Mumbai screen due to the roles she often ends up playing, while Dev is like the second coming of John Abraham. They got married a while back when Dev ended up baking a bun in Tina’s oven, but now Tina wants a divorce and she wants it yesterday. Dev really loves her, and he can’t understand why she wants a divorce, so he feels that he has no choice but to play dirty: if she doesn’t stay with him until his latest movie is premiered, he would ensure that she would never work in Mumbai again. Can he take what little time he has blackmailed out of her to bhangra his way back into her masala rack?
If Mary Balogh has gotten drunk during a Bollywood marathon and written a story in her alcoholic haze to express her undying lust for Salman Khan, Secrets of a Bollywood Marriage could have been the end result. Years from now, if I have to compile a directory for the most obnoxious martyrs in romance novels, Tina Sharma would qualify to be in the hot list with giant letters “BITCH MUST DIE” stamped under her photo. She’s a complete bitch to Dev while playing the martyr to a degree that would shame many of Mary Balogh’s heroines.
Tina’s martyr act is unpalatable because she’s basically sleeping on a bed of nails due to all kinds of assumptions that she would know to be wrong if she would just listen to what her husband is trying to tell her throughout the entire story. She insists on divorcing Dev so that she would live the rest of her life miserably and pining for Dev, because she doesn’t feel that she is good enough for him. That’s the worst kind of excuse the author can give her heroine in order for the heroine to play the idiot martyr, because this makes Tina come off like a slug with zero self-esteem and no self-respect. I don’t cheer for slugs to find boyfriends and procreate. I make them eat poison.
Tina thinks that she lacks the pedigree to qualify as the wife of someone “purebreed” like Dev. This may work if the author brings up the caste system, but in this story Tina is just being a melodramatic pus-filled pimple on one’s behind. Tina also blames herself for Dev’s slip in popularity after his fans hear that he’s married her – oh, if only she has awesome vaginal powers that can evaporate Dev’s baby batter before he inseminates her unworthy eggs! She’s such a horrible person. Oh, look at all the sluts and whores wanting to claw through her to bed Dev! She is so jealous of them, but she knows that Dev doesn’t deserve her so, oh, oh, oh! Now, her stupidity has tainted Dev’s public image, so it’s true, she is an unworthy classless ho who doesn’t deserve to be loved – forever – but she can’t do anything because Dev insists on forcing her to be with him, and besides, she secretly loves him so, so, so much but she knows he doesn’t love her as nobody can love her so SHE MUST LEAVE HIM FOREVER but if she leaves him THEN HE WILL DESTROY HER AND THERE WOULD BE NO STORY SO SHE CAN ONLY STARE HELPLESSLY AT ME THROUGH THE PAGE AS I STAB THIS BOOK REPEATEDLY WITH A FORK.
Ahem, sorry, I got carried away for a while there. Dev is a pretty okay guy here, especially for this line, but then again, if you share scene after scene with a clearly unhinged psycho-wench who is constantly getting on my nerves, you’d come off as a luminous superstar even if you look and smell like an orangutan. Tina is really something. Every other page would see her coming up with reason after reason to hate herself. This goes on for so long, and yet, when Dev finally tells her the magic L word, she’s like, “Okay, so I’m 100% lovable now, because he finally tells me he loves me, so I am FREE, WHEE – bring on my happily ever after, baby!” I can only stare at her and wonder how I can get her to die a few hundred times to make up for the pain she has caused me in the last 170-plus pages.