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Review: Love Happens Only Once

By Rochak Bhatnagar. Grade: D

It is a good thing I am a very optimistic person because even after having so many bad experiences with Indian authors I haven’t lost my faith in them. After reading the interview of Mr. Bhatnagar, I was intrigued. I assumed him to be a sensible and a mature writer, and so I went ahead and picked his book up, Love Happens Only Once and…and I mean no disrespect, but the book just didn’t work for me.

When his mates were preparing for board exams, he was busy flirting with girls!
When his friend wanted to propose a girl, he hasn’t even seen, he was busy thinking how to rob his friend’s landlord!
When another friend was searching for a substitute Dad, he was busy kissing his girlfriend in a ladies washroom!
Meet Rishi and enter into his world full of fun, flirting with random girls, hanging out with friends and his love-interest Ananya.

If you think LOVE is just another four letter word, think again! As after reading this book, your perception about LOVE is going to change from a mere ‘emotion’ to ‘devotion’, because…
Love happens only once…rest is just life.

The story starts with a guy name Rishi giving a speech in the freshers party. It’s his third year in college and out of the blue a perfect stranger approaches him and asks him about his love life. Here’s how it goes:

“Sir, Parvitra di told me that you have the most romantic yet painful love story. Is it true? She eve told me that you are the perfect boyfriend any girl could get.”
“Oh really? It’s nothing like that yaar. It’s just…”
“Please sir, I am all ears. Tell me your story naa…” She encouraged.
“No, I don’t really like to discuss this with anyone.”
Please sir, please. Only me. Please, please,” she begged.
“Okay fine,” I said.
“Story started the day I was born…”

That’s simply ridiculous! What sort of  sane man would discuss something as private as his love story with a complete stranger?
Rishi is mean, he is arrogant and doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s feelings. And as simply as he put it, he is a bastard. He is a guy who doesn’t believe in love. The story starts when he is in tenth grade and how he ditches a girl and throws her feelings at her face. He is cursed by his ex that when he’ll fall in love with someone and when that someone won’t reciprocate his feelings then he’ll know how it feels (and they were just in the 10th grade).

So a year passes, he is in the eleventh grade and there is this drop dead gorgeous girl in school, and one glance at her, Rishi is smitten. After a brief meeting with her they meet again after three years. They spend most of their time together. Rishi has feelings for her since the day he met her but never managed to say it to her face. Rishi keeps telling her he doesn’t believe in love, that’s just bullshit for him, but then again suddenly out of the blue he asks her to be his valentine! Couldn’t he pull a better line? Of course he had to face a rejection.
Then he realizes what has he been doing all these years, but he has learned his reason and so he gets his love interest in the end.

“Sir, you have a beautiful story. Why don’t you write a book?” Kritika said, tears dripping down her cheeks.

I read the blurb and I had a feeling I won’t like the book. YA is not my favourite genre, but it is not my least favourite either, so I gave it a try. During the first half, I kept thinking that I was reading a teenager’s dairy, full of !!!! and SOMEBODY FORGOT TO TURN THE CAPS LOCK OFF.

While the story in itself isn’t too bad, it is painfully obvious that it is being written by an amateur. The characters are badly portrayed, bad tenses, bad language, abrupt scenes, a completely predictably plot and the formation of sentences is very odd.

The only thing I liked about it was the cover until I realized the startling similarity it bears to Ravinder Singh’s Can Love Happen Twice?

A guy for whom relationships are just a waste of time falls for a girl at first sight? I don’t believe in that. Love is a strong word, a strong emotion. But the first time he sees her, all he wants is to gather her in his arms and tell her he loves her? Sure there is an attraction, a spark, but the first meeting with her changed him entirely as a person? The story could have been developed but the novel(-la) is too short for that.

I think Rochak Bhatnagar is a nice writer (and I am concluding this from the interview alone), but this story was not for him. He should take a break, practice and write something better.

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Review: Dear, I love you

By Arun Sabtharishi. Grade: D

Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, I don’t because I’m mature enough to understand that a person can only create interest for him/her in me in one meeting and the same interest would make me want to know him/her more, then the love might happen. Is it possible to start loving every cell in a person’s body just because they are good looking? It’s not love at all. Such cheesy dialogues disgust me to no extent.

Guy sees a girl. Falls in love…Woos and makes her feel it. They both feel the ecstasy of love harvesting between them. Makes them realize the purport of love is blind, literally blind against anything in the world, except them. Guy makes a mistake; he seeks excuse from the girl.

Girl makes a mistake; again guy seeks excuse from her.

Does girl excuse guy modestly, for the mistake SHE has done?

Beyond just hormone secretion or the chemical reaction that happens in a human body, Love has something more. Trust, Hope, Life, It is all about the story of love, affection, bliss, blues, hassle and harmony between the guy and the girl in “Dear, I love you!”

Who doesn’t want to love and be loved? If you say that you don’t, then you are just lying – not just to others but to yourself too. I am sure most of you have read the very famous Twilight series. Initially, I found Edward to be very charming. I didn’t mind having a powerful boyfriend who had eyes only for me but Bella and Edward’s love overdose sickened me and my liking for him ended up as abhorrence.

To be honest, the protogonist Goutham and his love left even the Twilight series behind. And that’s saying something. The book had nothing but Goutham, his girlfriend Anu and their love. I have never been in a romantic relationship but I am sure that even if I had been, I wouldn’t live like there are no people around me, except for that one person whom I loved. It just doesn’t sound right.

To tell you about the protogonist, Goutham, the author says that he always managed to score more than his hardworking friends, but I didn’t find him smart at all. Might be it was just his luck. Also, his friends would always be at his service though he hardly gave a damn about them. He couldn’t deal with either his love for Anu or his mom’s refusal to accept his love. If I have to describe his character in just two words then they would be a “loser” and a “stalker”.

Anu, a Bangalore-based Brahmin girl, was no good either. She showed no sense of dignity. She quite enjoyed the attention of a stalker. She got dumped repeatedly by him and yet, she always accepted him as soon as he went back to her. He says, “I love you” and she would fall at his feet.

Amrita, Goutham’s sister, who is supposed to be smarter than him (again, according to the author) was weak too. The very few dialogues that she exchanges with her mother, Goutham and Anu didn’t make much sense either. I found her “I-am-so-smart” attitude to be very irrational.

Goutham’s mother was the worst of them all but she helps you figure out why Goutham isn’t that smart so she isn’t a total waste. As for Anu’s parents’ response towards their daughter’s love – that was quite hilarious.

The author’s broken English didn’t help to enhance this interesting combo. As he is studying at University of Texas in USA, I assumed that his English would be better than most of the Indian authors but I was left disappointed. My dissatisfaction with the book is my opinion alone but you might enjoy the book, unlike me, so read it to find out whether my opinion about it is right or not.

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Review: All Smiles

By Stella Cameron. #2 in Mayfair Square Series. Grade: D

The reason I’d picked up this novel was because of the praise I’d heard of the author. Amanda Quick called her “Sensational!” and so did a few of my other friends. After finishing All Smiles, I seriously wonder why.

When their father, a rural vicar dies, sisters Meg and Sybil Smiles move to London’s 7 Mayfair Square, home of an unhappy ghost, Sir Spivey. The spirit plans to force the two sibling out of his home by matchmaking the outgoing Meg with a nearby resident.
Meg realizes that the sisters have a financial problem. She applies for employment as a companion to seventeen-year-old Princess Desiree of Mont-Nuages, a tiny country on the Italy-France border. Meg’s plan is to net a wealthy spouse while serving as a guide to Desiree. Meg needs to persuade Desiree’s older stepbrother Jean-Marc, Count Etranger that she can do the job. Surprisingly, Jean-Marc hires Meg. As Meg works closely with Desiree, she and Jean-Marc fall in love. However, he is the heir to the throne and she would never suit as his queen. Then again, his uncle plans to destroy the only contender to being the next monarch of Mont-Nuages even if it means killing Meg.

Maybe I am just getting tired of reading one romance novel after the other, who basically have the same plot. Stella Cameron offers a little intrigue when she introduces a ghost Sir Septimus Spivey, the matchmaker which unites Meg and Jean-Marc, although unintentionally. He has made it his goal to rid his ancestral home in Mayfair Square of its lodgers, one of whom is Meg.
In the prequel to this novel, Spivey’s identity is not fully revealed, and proved a little confusing.
I found his narration funny at times, but mostly, the prose didn’t appeal to me. Instead of the dry wit I am partial towards, it seemed like the author was trying too hard to be funny.

I disliked Count Etranger immensely. He was overbearing, arrogant, selfish, foul-tempered, and autocratic. I found it incredibly hard to believe that Meg Smiles’ had any difficulty in deciding if she should be Jean-Marc’s mistress after what she did with him (and to him) in his bedroom the first day she met him. I found that scene in poor taste since it was so soon in their acquaintance. Jean-Marc seemed to know how to say what Meg wanted to hear. For a man who wanted to coax her into being his mistress (because she wasn’t socially acceptable as a wife for him) he did a poor job, even shouting at her in front of people on one occasion.

The plot, too, goes on endlessly and the suspense is not very thrilling. After the first 300 pages, I kept wishing it would end so that I could pick up a better novel. I am someone who almost always completes all novels she starts, but this time, I seriously considered dropping it.
The secondary characters, too, fail in adding flair to the story.

All in all, I would call it an average regency romance but pick it up only if you’re very very desperate.

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Review: Someone To Watch Over Me

By Judith McNaught. Grade: D

Ms. McNaught is one of my favourite romance writers. But her recent contemporaries have just been one disappointment after the other. Night Whispers and then this. Honestly, I expected better from the writer of classic romances like Paradise and Perfect. She has redefined her genre with this novel because it falls more into the suspense/thriller category than a pure romance, and that was what perhaps pissed me off the most.

Leigh Kendall reveled in her stellar Broadway acting career and in her marriage to Logan Manning, scion of an old New York family. When her husband finds the perfect mountain property for their dream house, he decides to surprise Leigh with her first view of the site. Driving upstate on a winter’s night, Leigh is run off the road in the midst of a blinding blizzard. When she awakes in the local hospital, seriously injured, the police inform her that her husband has mysteriously disappeared, and Leigh, although obviously distraught, becomes the focus of their suspicions.
The more she discovers about her husband and his business affairs, the less she realizes she knew about Logan Manning. Now, Leigh is heading deeper and deeper into unknown territory…where friends and enemies are impossible to distinguish, and where the truth becomes the most terrifying weapon of all.

One of Logan’s new business partners is Michael Valente, a man who has a sordid record of one violent crime and many cases of suspected wrongdoing, for which he has only been convicted of the one violent crime. This occurred when he was a teenager. Now as a successful businessman, he is under constant police scrutiny. He assists Leigh in getting through the discovery of Logan’s murder and now both are suspects. Is there also romance in their future?

Leigh Kendall is perhaps the worst heroine ever penned by Miss McNaught despite – or because of – her difference with typical JM heroines. She is sexually experienced and she doesn’t end up having to beg the hero’s forgiveness for some misunderstanding that he believes constitutes a betrayal. But Leigh still doesn’t come close to the heroines of McNaught’s historical romances– she’s incredibly naive, especially for an actress living in New York, and she lackes depth. In short, she’s just not that interesting. As usual, the hero is more interesting than the heroine, but her romance with Valente was completely overshadowed by Sam and Mack’s.
I find her ability to switch her feelings to Valente so soon after her husband’s murder rather improbable, especially since McNaught portrayed Leigh as being deeply in love with Logan. Leigh also falls for Valente because she discovered her husband is a serial cheater. So I had this heroine, supposedly deep in love with her husband but falls for another man before the dead – cheating – husband’s body is cold in the ground. Surely, Leigh would be at least cautious, cynical and too deeply hurt to be thinking of a new romance?

I also didn’t believe the police would have investigated as they did, I mean trying to find evidences against a certain man who was for them already a culprit instead of collecting all evidences first and THEN finding a murderer (even if they had a hidden motive to make this certain man a culprit, just like in this book).

In fact, I liked the secondary characters much better. They stole the show from the bland main couple. The Sam and Mack story was much more nicely done. Sam was amazing: smart as a whip, gorgeous but still vulnerable whereas Lieutenant Mitchell McCord was scarred, rugged and ever so capable. Both heroes and heroines have all the traits we expect as romance readers.

Certain parts of the book seemed hastened while certain scenes seemed dragged out. Ms. McNaught is a great when it comes to building up the anticipation of the union between the hero and the heroine but I felt none in the case of Leigh and Michael; it was too abrupt. I was still rooting for Logan and Leigh to be reunited throughout much of the duration and had difficulty processing Michael into the picture until the very end but by then, the story was already ending. In short, their passion seemed somewhat forced, something that I never felt before in any of her previous novels where the flame steathily crept in with burning intensity and swept me right along.

At the very least, the author should have introduced more characters a la Agatha Christie so the reader could have had an opportunity to figure out “whodunit.” Maybe this might have injected a little more excitement into the story – but then again, even this might be doubtful.

Well, this is JM’s attempt at writing a genre that to me makes her writing seem mediocre at best. She is wonderful at writing historicals and classy contemporaries — so why jump the shark? Why be mediocre at something when you can be excellent at something else? I respect an author’s right to dabble with the unknown, but the expression “write about what you know” springs to mind when I encounter something like this.

The trouble with this book is that it isn’t a romance. Oh, there are some couples getting together, but it’s basically a mystery novel. And I don’t want to judge the book harshly because an author dared write a story outside of her expected mold — as a matter of fact, I respect writers who don’t always tell the same story over and over again — but as a mystery, I thought this was only okay.

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Review: The Heiress Bride

By Catherine Coulter. Brides #3. Grade: D.

Dear Reader:

Welcome to the exciting conclusion of the English Regency Bride Trilogy, The Heiress Bride.

You met Sinjun Sherbrooke in the The Sherbrooke Bride and in The Hellion Bride, a delightful, quite endearing fifteen-year-old who, I hope, charmed your socks off.

Now she’s nineteen, blessed with Sherbrooke blue eyes, wit to burn, and a wonderful sense of humor. She is also bored with the London Season until she spies Colin Kinross, the Scottish earl of Ashburnham, across the dance floor at a London ball. When she overhears Colin complain that he must find a wealthy bride quickly in order to survive, Sinjun promptly introduces herself as the toothsome heiress she is.

Despite all odds. Sinjun manages an elopement to Scotland to begin her life in a drafty old castle that holds more revelations and surprises than Sinjun could ever imagine. You’ll also meet another ghost, Pearlin’ Jane, who teams up with the Virgin Bride.

Do enjoy Sinjun. She’s one hell of a bride.

-Catherine Coulter

Many women have spotted the man of their dreams across a crowded room, and knew they were gazing at their destiny. Sinjun Sherbrooke was no exception. She saw Colin Kinross, the Scottish earl of Ashburnham, across the crowded dance floor of a London ballroom, and couldn’t stop looking at him. He was simply the most beautiful man she had ever seen.
At a later London event she searches him out, and this time overhears him telling a friend about his desperate financial situation, and how he needs to marry an heiress to save his home and his people. Sinjun quite boldly walks up to Colin and introduces herself as the heiress that she is, and suggests he could marry her. Colin is not sure how to react to such forwardness and doubts her identity. Upon meeting her brother Douglas, and sister-in-law Alex, he comes to realize she was truthful in her introduction.

After someone sends an anonymous letter to Douglas accusing Colin of murdering his first wife, Douglas postpones the wedding until the matter can be investigated. But Sinjun’s love for Colin prompts her to run off with him and elope. Her new home is an old castle in Scotland, but many secrets await her arrival, and she’ll need every ounce of her strength and determination to weather all the upcoming obstacles. Her biggest obstacle may be keeping her husband with her long enough to win his heart.

The book starts off well. Even though I am too much of a realist to believe in love at first sight, I don’t mind reading about them too much. Sinjun seems way too crazy and way too impulsive for my taste, but I enjoyed the hellion. At least until:

He stiffened above her and drove deep inside her once more.

She yelled at the shock and pain of it. She hit him with her fists, shoving against him, trying to throw him off her, but it only sent him deeper and he kept driving, feeling her flesh convulse around him, driving him and pushing him, and he couldn’t stop himself. He heard her cries but he didn’t slow, he couldn’t, and again he climaxed, raw groans ripping from his throat.

He was flat on top of her again, breathing hard, wondering what the devil had come over him.

If that isn’t rape, I don’t know what it is. It is a repeat performance of Whitney, My Love.
Sinjun is an energetic and fun character, but instead of a charming hero, who is exasperated but secretly amused, we get an asshole like Colin who is determined to beat her into submission (not literally, but it’s not too far off). Besides his unlikability (not telling her he has children is quite a boorish move), Colin just never seems to get it. You MIGHT be able to understand Colin “losing himself” the first two times, but the third was deliberate, forceful, and violent, and Colin admitted to using it as punishment. It is NOT romantic, NEITHER erotic. I don’t know why so many classical romance authors use it.

While my sister left this book mid-way, I managed to finish it. But am I ever going to pick up another by the author? Hell, no.

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