I was excited to read this, as it is a well documented fact that I am a total sucker for any and all Austen retellings. I recently enjoyed Unmarriageable, and was hoping to ride the wave of fun Austen stories here. I began to read, hoping for a fun, gender-swapped modern version of one of my favorite stories.
AND THEN I REMEMBERED THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE.
(Oh my. I really despised that book. Remember that #cannonbookclub? Yikes.)
The good news is that this story is better. And I think the bulk of the credit for that can go to Jane Austen.
Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.
Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:
- Never trust an outsider
- Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
- And never, ever, defy your family
Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.
Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.
As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…
A family trying to build home in a new land.
A man who has never felt at home anywhere.
And a choice to be made between the two.
We know from the blurb that there’s a wealthy, successful woman (DARCY), and a working-class, humble man (ELIZABETH) who fall in love against their better judgement. Of course there will be a Wickham to throw some sort of obstacle in their way. Here, instead of Elizabeth having a ton of brothers and sisters, a crazy mother, and chill father, Trisha (the Darcy) does. She has siblings and cousins and all of them (except for poor Esha) are expected to be the best at whatever they do. The father (they call him HRH), an actual Indian prince, is hard on them and drives them constantly to succeed. Like Mrs. Bennett, who’s single goal was to get her daughters married to wealthy men, HRH has only one purpose in life – to see his children make a difference. Which is admirable, but (more on this later in the “rant” section) he does a crap job of it. And Trisha’s mom, the former Bollywood superstar, doesn’t do too much other than love her kids and her husband and look pretty.
DJ Caine (the Elizabeth) is also interesting, but not fully formed enough for me. Yes, he’s a loving brother and a great chef. Sure, he has a tragic past and had a difficult upbringing. But he didn’t seemed finished to me. Handsome and great at cooking don’t fill in enough of the picture.
Dev is wonderful when describing the love that Trisha has for her grandmother and siblings/cousins. She does a great job describing the important place that food has in her family history, and how certain foods from her childhood make her feel better. The love that she has for both India and Northern California is lovely to read about. And the short glimpses into the life of Trisha’s mom before she met Trisha’s dad were absolutely fascinating, and too quickly yanked away from us. These little glimpses into an interesting story simply weren’t enough.
So. Here comes my rant.
The bad news is that this story has a lot of the same problems that I had with TBB. Characters do things because Dev said so, but none of it makes sense.
She spent so much time repeating things over and over that would have been better if they had been introduced organically. Trisha was always stuffing muffins in her face. Her contact lenses were always coming out because she was crying so hard. People were always winding locks of each others hair around their fingers to show affection. All of these details were supposed to be endearing but really were sloppy and annoying.
Most annoying was the constant (LITERALLY CONSTANT) need to talk about THE ANIMAL FARM of Trisha’s youth and how each of her siblings represented a different character from a picture book they read as children. Why couldn’t they have called this picture book ANY OTHER name but Animal Farm? It was weird and confusing and I kept wondering if it was some George Orwell Allegory or just sloppy editing. I’m guessing sloppy editing, but really I HAVE NO IDEA. Were all of the constituents of California supposed to love this story? Is Trisha’s family so absolutely famous that anyone would actually care?
Also, I felt like a lot of the time Sonali Dev was trying so hard to force details into the original P&P plot points that so much of the story was unnatural. The entire Wickham plot DID NOT WORK.
First: I don’t work in a hospital, but I cant imagine its an accepted practice to just lurk around in waiting rooms offering to make sketchy go-fund-me movies for terminal patients.
Second: She was barely a human character. She had a “look” but no other details other than that she was pretty and evil. She kept telling DJ that Trisha had been mean to her, so clearly her freakout when DJ decides to listen to the surgeon who can save his sister’s life is warranted.
Third: EVERYTHING that happened in Trisha’s family due to Wickham’s horribleness was SO STUPID. Why they blamed her for Wickham’s actions makes zero sense. And the fact that they don’t even THINK to discuss it for 15 YEARS? I can’t.
Sure, it was cute that the story was gender-swapped. It was fun to have Trisha be the clueless, super-proud, talented surgeon from the wealthy family. But she was truly ridiculous. I kept waiting for the scene where she was diagnosed with some sort of Asperger’s or something else on the spectrum, because I didn’t find her weird and rude behavior charming in any way.
AND WHY IS IT SO SEXY TO LOOK LIKE A GIRAFFE?