USA Today Bestselling author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that explore issues faced by women around the world. Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s Best Books of the year lists. She has won the American Library Association’s award for best romance, the RT Reviewer Choice Award for best contemporary romance, multiple RT Seals of Excellence, is a RITA® finalist, and has been listed for the Dublin Literary Award. Shelf Awareness calls her “Not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today.”
Emma gets a fresh Indian-American twist from award-winning author Sonali Dev in her heartwarmingly irresistible Jane Austen inspired rom com series. No one can call Vansh Raje’s life anything but charmed. Handsome—Vogue has declared him California’s hottest single—and rich enough to spend all his time on missions to make the world a better place. Add to that a doting family and a contagiously sunny disposition and Vansh has made it halfway through his twenties without ever facing anything to throw him off his admittedly spectacular game.
A couple years from turning forty, Knightlina (Naina) Kohli has just gotten out of a ten-year-long fake relationship with Vansh’s brother and wants only one thing from her life…fine, two things. One, to have nothing to do with the unfairly blessed Raje family ever again. Two, to bring economic independence to millions of women in South Asia through her microfinance foundation and prove her father wrong about, well, everything. Just when Naina’s dream is about to come to fruition, Vansh Raje shows up with his misguided Emma Project… And suddenly she’s fighting him for funding and wondering if a friends-with-benefits arrangement that’s as toe-curlingly hot as it is fun is worth risking her life’s work for.
Vansh Raje lives a truly charmed life. Thanks to his name, charm and devastating good looks he’s never had anyone say no to him, until Naina that is. Naina may have known Vansh since he was in diapers, thanks to a 10 year fake relationship with his brother, but that doesn’t mean she’s just going to roll over and let him take funds away from the project she’s been working on for years. The two are forced to work together to make both of their projects work and sparks swiftly start to fly, but Naina does not want a relationship full stop, least of all with her fake ex’s little brother. Their no strings attached sex swiftly becomes someone more, something neither truly expected and before long they are both going to have to decide whether their relationship is worth risking their jobs and families on.
Naina was a character I just fell in love with. She’s determined, driven and, until Vansh, uninterested in a relationship. Something that is understandable after you learn about her mother and father’s tumultuous relationship. For her, a relationship means ownership, having to step down from her job and start a family, something her father is determined she should do, but Naina has always wanted more and will let nothing step in the way of her getting it. Vansh is the youngest sibling in a large family, a little selfish, a little naive, but with one huge heart. He has spent his youth flitting from project to project helping those in need, so when he meets Harri and learns about his situation, Vansh knows he has to do something to help him. Thanks to his dyslexia he has always been in the shadow of his siblings, almost cast aside with the assumption that he wont make as much of his life as his other siblings, but he is determined to show his worth and get his family to realise that there is nothing holding him back.
If you have read the previous books I’m sure you will note some of the recurring characters from the Raje family, as well as Naina’s parents, and I do think that not having read them myself put me on a bit of a backstep. There were a lot of them and at the start I did struggle a little keeping together who was who, but by the end I had a good idea of who everyone was and enjoyed seeing the family dynamics and relationships play out.
A large part of this book, and this series from what I gather is understanding the plight of women and putting them into the forefront of the novels, something Dev does with Naina. As we go through the book we learn more about her, her family dynamics and it paints a pretty bleak picture. You can’t help but empathise with her need to stay strong and stand on her own two feet, especially after her fake relationship came into the light. A relationship she only needed to fake because her father wouldn’t let her do the things she wanted without a man in her life. While Naina was an incredibly sympathetic character, the majority of the Raje’s were not at all and, from reading some other reviews, I think that is something specific to this book. Vansh’s sisters and mother are just incredibly mean to her for seemingly no reason and I really struggled to like them at all.
The romance was enemies to lovers and there is plenty of drama and angst, as well as some rather steamy scenes that fans will enjoy. I enjoyed the underlying tension, the reasons why neither of them wanted to commit fully to the other. It all felt incredibly realistic and added an extra dimension to the story. What I didn’t enjoy was the other minor relationship that kind of felt like it had been thrown in as kind of page filler space. I don’t think it got enough time to develop fully and just ended up being a bit weird/creepy for me.
I do think I would have enjoyed this book more had I read the previous one in the series, so that is something to keep in mind going in. That being said, Vansh and Naina carry this story incredibly well and I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions and all the drama that came from their relationship. 3.5 stars.