What can possibly restore your credibility after being jilted by your fiance for your more superficially attractive sister, so that your wedding goes ahead and your sister takes your place?  If you’re an Indian girl, I mean? Well, getting engaged to a Bollywood hero on the morning of  the sister’s wedding, I suppose.  That’s one way to save face and put a stop to those feigned, compassionate glances, not to mention the inevitable, whispered comparisons.

Meet Vishakha.  Dr. Vishakha Sehgal, I mean to say.  Serious, academic, committed to her medical vocation, putting the welfare of her patients above her own.  Heck, she puts everyone’s welfare above her own, but I digress.  In her downtime, she’s a serious foodie, knowing all the best places to eat even if they’re off the beaten track.  She loves to browse and buy her books in little, traditional bookshops, eschewing the more glamorous book retail chains.  Who knew that her quicksilver mind had absorbed enough Bollywood trivia to secure a dream date with the dashing Zaheer Saxena, Bollywood action man and a  contender for the label of a seriously talented actor?

Now meet Zaheer.  If he’s a Bollywood action hero, we can take it that he has a killer body and superb physical stamina.  Must be a walking, talking caricature, right?  Who knew he had the insight to see into the soul of serious, studious, dutiful girl and see the attractive and passionate woman therein?  Not to mention unleash that woman for all the world to see?

Of course Mills & Boon and Bollywood are synonymous with happy endings, aren’t they? So our ‘happy ever after’ (HEA) is guaranteed?  Well, think again.  Ruchi Vasudeva, the author, will make you work for your HEA.  In the meantime, you get to read some pretty sparkling dialogue and get insight  into how two people, ostensibly very different from each other to the point of impossibility, get to meet, find the common ground and find within each other that ‘other’ who completes the self.  The soul mate.

As a piece of Indian fiction, I rate this very highly indeed.  Forget the manufactured name and the M&B and Bollywood tags.  It’s a story which deserves to be read by everyone who enjoys good writing.  And ladies, I’m here to tell you that Zaheer ticks all the boxes where a hero is concerned.  I loved his wit and warmth.  He charmed me right off the page.  Fall in love with him?  Well, if I was a young and unattached slip of a girl?  Hell, yeah.  Dang it, I’m a middle aged mother of four and he set my heart a-fluttering.

Lucknowites should particularly enjoy this book.  Vishakha is a Lucknow lass and when the couple indulges in a spot of ‘ganjing’ (that is, roaming through Lucknow’s main thoroughfare, Hazratganj, dominated by the spire of St. Joseph’s cathedral) and browses for books in the British Book Depot, you’ll feel you’re right beside them.  I know I did.

If you want to read a romance with warmth and substance, with characters who practically walk off the page and talk to you, pick this one up. 

And look out for more from Ruchi Vasudeva.  If her debut is anything to go by, we have a lot more to hear from this talented author.

Because this book fulfills all that I expect from a romance novel, I’m giving it the full five stars.