Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
This book almost caused a reading slump. I wasn’t enjoying it and kept setting it aside and then just didn’t have the energy to read anything else. I gave this book 1 star for a lot of reasons. First, there was no real character development for Naina or Vansh. Other characters who have appeared in this series don’t always act in ways that we would expect them to in this one. Next, the plot was thin as heck and trying to act as if this book is a pastiche of Emma was a stretch. Like a lot. There was no comeuppance for a really terrible character in this one and kinda sorta one for another. Then, Dev force fits two romances into this one and it doesn’t work. I get why she did the last on the latter book since she was modeling it off of two sisters from Sense and Sensibility. But her deciding to shoehorn in Sid and Esha was a bad call. I get she wanted to end the Rajes series with this one, but maybe their story could have been a short story or something. The epilogue left me cold honestly. The last book in this series definitely went out with a whimper.
“The Emma Project” follows Naina Kohli who we got to meet in the last book, Incense and Sensibility. Naina is still dealing with the world finding out her 10 year relationship with her best friend Yash. Yash is now the newly elected governor of California and Naina is focused on the funding she has received from a billionaire that will help her foundation. However, things take a turn when her financier refused to give her the money unless it’s on a project with Yash’s younger brother, Vansh. Vansh wants to use the project to do something good in the world and to also show Naina he is more than just his family or face.
So. Naina is supposed to be the Knightley in this book. Vansh is Emma. Somehow worse than her though which is saying something. Vansh is determined to use this project to “cure homelessness” and is fixated on a former employee of his brother’s who he is going to “make over.” Yes, that is as offensive as you think it is. What kills me is that Naina keeps warning Vansh and he ignores her and the book portrays Naina as closed and unmoved by love, instead of having more common sense than a flea. Also what really drives me up the wall is that Vansh does not learn any type of lesson. He gets excused by everyone and their mother (literally) in this one and it just made me fling my hands up.
I think this is supposed to be an enemies to lovers trope, but it doesn’t really work. It also doesn’t help that I felt the romance was real. It just didn’t make any sense and I really wanted there to be more development of that. Instead too much of the story was taken up by the “project”. And Naina’s backstory is a lot. And it could have been it’s own book. There’s a lot of pain there and you get insight into her, her mother, her aunt and once again it just didn’t fit with everything else going on.
And the Rajes kind of sucked in this one. I think Dev had an uphill battle making Naina a sympathetic character that readers would want to root for after the last book and the things she got up to. But you can understand her a bit better in this one. But the whole family treating her like persona non grata made zero sense after you saw how she pretty much grew up with that whole family. And we know how she protected Yash. Frankly I was disappointed with Yash in this one. I guess he was too busy fixing racism in this book with his sitting down with the police union and Black Lives Matter (yes my eyes rolled the entire way around) to actually stand up for Naina. Since we got to know him in the last book, it was so weird he would be absent and not taking his family to task for how things were going down. We did get to keep hearing how awesome India was and how she was like a serene Buddha every five seconds though.
And the biggest what the heck was including Sid (India’s brother) and Esha into this. I don’t even know what that was. I was never a big fan of that whole character anyway (Esha) but it just felt like filler to me and not good filler. I just kept muttering why is she in this?
The writing was fine, the plot was not. I just thought the entire book was misguided mess. The flow was not great either. Nothing hung together and it felt like we were just running from scene to scene and then love scene to love scene with no real effort to ensure that the story made any sense and the main couple was one to root for. Sid and Esha were probably a good reason why the flow in this one wasn’t that great.
The ending of the book “wraps” up things for everyone though. It does end on a Happily Ever After. I was just disappointed because there were too many loose threads left with Naina’s storyline in my opinion.