Review: Incense and Sensibility

Review: Incense and SensibilityIncense and Sensibility (The Rajes #3) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #3
Published by William Morrow on July 6, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I was very conflicted by this book. I absolutely loved the romance between Yash and India. I loved Yash as a character. But I hated almost everything else about the book. There wasn’t enough romance — which didn’t really have a satisfying ending — and I didn’t buy anything about the governor storyline. Ultimately, if the romance had a fantastic ending it might have overcome everything else, but because I wanted more from the romance, everything else about the story annoyed me by the end.

THE STORY: Yash Raje, the family golden boy, is a candidate for governor of California when an attempt to shoot him results in his bodyguard being shot instead. Yash has difficulting dealing with the aftermath. His family encourages him to get help from India Dashwood, a family friend that they trust who helps with stress management. What his family doesn’t know is that ten years ago, India and Yash had one night where they grew close before everything fell apart. Yash has spent years focusing on his political goals and hasn’t been concerned about what makes him personally happy, but seeing India again puts his desires in conflict.

OPINION: This book was ultimately a disappointment. The central relationship between Yash and India was amazing. Their history, their interactions, and the emotion between them were amazing. But everything else disappointed. First, Yash is a lousy candidate for governor of California. He apparently has no backbone and if I’m supposed to believe that he will somehow be a great governor and get his policies accomplished when he can’t tell his family that his 10 years (??!) relationship with his “friend” (who is honestly a terrible person and I have no idea how Dev intends on making her the heroine of the next book) was fake. Also, as far as I can tell, this book rests on the premise that Yash’s progressive political policies will succeed because Yash is “good” and “honest” which is belied by the fact that he is a liar and willing to live a lie about his entire life in order to be elected. Everything about his book shows me that he is immature and an idealist who really will be completely ineffectual. I think the book would have been a million times better if Yash lost the election or withdrew — because honestly, the resolution would never happen.

Now in a normal romance, I wouldn’t care about this stuff because the relationship is key and the rest tends to be fantasy anyway. However, this book’s romance is unsatisfying because everything is “resolved” in a magic turnaround in the end but readers are not given even an epilogue resolution of some of the serious impediments to Yash and India’s relationship. As such, I finished this book being convinced that India and Yash love one another but not firmly convinced that things will work out between them.

Yash’s problems with sexual intimacy are made a significant part of the story and yet nothing is really resolved by the end. The “happy ending” is so truncated as to be insufficient to counter the level of trauma. That didn’t work for me as a plotting device. If the author is making this an important issue, the resolution needed to be more prominent. The book needs to make clear that India and Yash are able to overcome this issue and have a loving relationship not tag it on in the last couple of paragraphs.

So while I absolutely adored Yash and India’s story, I can’t give this book a higher rating because the end of the story was completely unsatisfying to me. That just made me mad, because until the last page, I wanted to absolutely love this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Like the first book in this series, there is some discussion about rape and its emotional aftermath, but the rape is discussed rather than depicted.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INCENSE AND SENSIBILITY is the third book in the Rajas series. The story here is self-contained so it is not necessary to read the others in the series. However, this is a continuing family drama so the other books introduce and develop the family members and their relationships to one another.

STAR RATING: I reluctantly give this book 3 stars — although the romance itself would have been 5 stars with a better resolution.

 

three-stars

Review: Recipe for Persuasion

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: Recipe for PersuasionRecipe for Persuasion (The Rajes, #2) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #2
Published by William Morrow on May 26, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 464
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book! The first book in the series was okay but not incredible, but this one had such emotional depth and just kept me turning pages. The interwoven stories of daughter and mother worked so well together. The balance between romance and personal growth (aka “women’s fiction”) was well developed.

THE STORY: Ashna Raje is desperate to save the restaurant she inherited from her father. She decides to join a “cooking with the stars” reality show as one of the featured chefs. She ends up paired with Rico Silva, a recently retired soccer player — and her first love. When their first meeting goes viral and makes them fan favorites, Ashna has no choice but to work with Rico to save her restaurant. At the same time, Ashna also is facing the return of her mother who abandoned her and Ashna’s father and now wants to build a relationship with her.

OPINION: I really loved this book. It is more women’s fiction than romance, but the romance was good enough to keep me interested in the book (although I could have done with much more Ashna and Rico!) Ashna’s story was complicated and sad and oh so painfully real.

Admittedly, the book relies on one of my least favorite tropes — people don’t speak to one another. And yet, isn’t that often the problem that we have. We don’t speak truthfully to one another. We deflect and avoid — and so it is here.  I figured out the ultimate explanation long before the characters did, and yet, I so enjoyed the journey. These characters really reached me.

The premise of the cooking show was fun and worked as such an interesting reflection of Ashna and Rico’s relationship. I simply adored Rico and can’t wait to read more about him in the next book (as a secondary character).

The book was crowded with characters — but in a good way. I enjoyed the community of this book and how Ashna learns to see and accept that there are people who are there for her and see her as her essential self.

WORTH MENTIONING: Content warnings for rape and suicide.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RECIPE FOR PERSUASION is the second book in The Rajas series. The romance here is self-contained but there are overlapping characters in the series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Other FlavorsPride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes, #1) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #1
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 512
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Straddling the line between women’s fiction and romance, this book doesn’t always comfortably satisfy either genre. I liked the book, but didn’t find the romance here as compelling as prior Dev books.

THE STORY: Dr. Trisha Raje is a celebrated neurosurgeon who has a difficult relationship with her family but even while she complains about them, she longs for something more with them. As would be expected in a Pride and Prejudice retelling, on the night that she is attempting to bridge the gap between them at a party, she meets DJ, a chef who is cooking for her family’s event. DJ finds Trisha stuck up and unlikable on their first meeting and judges her accordingly. Trisha, however, is DJ’s sister’s neurosurgeon so they are bound to meet again.

OPINION: I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, any book that so closely depends so much on that book is already a problem for me. I liked the family dynamics at play here, but I think that trying to shoehorn some of these things into the original Pride and Prejudice template doesn’t always work as well here — especially the Wickham story.

I thought that both the main characters were well conceived. Trisha isn’t the easiest character to identify with but women characters often face more criticism for being successful, determined and unemotional. I really felt her mistakes and her inability to express herself as she wants. She also learns a lot through the book.

DJ is adorable but also a jerk in how he quickly judges Trisha. He is a caring brother who is struggling with his sister’s illness and how to allow her to make decisions in her life that are not the ones he would make.

The family drama was the weakest part for me as it seemed to overwhelm the romance at times. It also felt that this book, as the first in the series, was attempted to introduce everyone and do a lot of work that didn’t feel natural.

I wanted more romance and Trisha and DJ didn’t spend enough time together for my tastes. That being said, I liked the book and it was worth reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a gender role reversal version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS is the first book in the Rajes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

UPDATE: 4/3/2022: I’ve increased the rating on this one to 4 stars. The book does somewhat suffer from being the first book in the series and having to introduce all the family characters. I increased the rating because I really did like Trisha and DJ and think that at least some of my negative feelings the first time were because of my expectations of the book. I really did enjoy this book and upon second reading will continue with the series.

four-stars