Recipe for Persuasion

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2) by Sonali Dev

Last year I reviewed the first in the series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors and I really enjoyed that book! I liked the way Dev took Pride and Prejudice and made it her own, I enjoyed the characters and the themes, but most of all I loved the multiracial characters of DJ and Emma. Growing up biracial there was never a lot of material to read or watch that touched on those issues and I am always happy to read one.

So when Dev said that she was planning on writing another book, this one being a retelling of Persuasion, I was jazzed. I could not wait to read it!

Then I finally got my hands on a copy, I read it all in one setting and I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I would. So I decided to let my thoughts steep for a while and think about what it was that made me not love the sequel when I had really loved the first book in the series.

Hmm…

This book is about Trisha’s cousin Ashna Raje. Ashna is an Indian princess; her father (a prince) married a cricket star, but was constantly getting into trouble and causing scandal, so he was sent away from India to to America to be with his older brother (who would hopefully help whip him into shape). There he built a home and a restaurant, cooking Indian and fancy cuisine.

Ashna lived with her father in California, spending most of her time living with her Raje cousins, as her mother was always gone as she traveled around the world trying to better women’s lives. Ashna’s father died when Ashna was graduating high school and after his death she decided to carry on his legacy and traveled to Paris to attend Cordeon Bleu (meeting and befriending DJ, from the previous story). When she returned home eager to put her education to work and carry on her father’s dreams, she discovered that the people she left in charge of the business had embezzled a large portion of the profits and fled, the resturant is dwindling in customers, and that nearly every time she tries to make something new or deviate from the original menu she has panic attacks.

DJ tries to help her revamp the menu, but she struggles trying to do anything. Her customers continue to dwindle and her sous chef leaves her for a better position.

Ashna feels alone and lost when her mother, who left her as a child, calls and makes her feel worse about her life and her choices (as always); along with trying to convince her to sell the resturant and do something else. Ashna becomes angry that her mother is again belittling her life choices and decides to do the one thing she never thought she would ever do, agree to be on her friend, China Dashwood’s, cooking show competition.

China Dashwood is producing a new show, Cooking With the Stars, that pairs a local chef up with a celebrity. Ashna was set against it, but being on the show will be good for business and help stick it to her mom, who Ashna has a lot of unresolved issues with.

Meanwhile, in England, World Cup Winner Rico Silva is trying to decide what to do next with his life. Rico was born in a favela in Brasil, the illegitimate son of a famous fútball star. When his mother passed away, he was sent to America to stay with his Tia. There he started playing soccer; along with meeting and falling in love with Ashna.

But Ashna was always ashamed of him and never wanted him to meet her father or family, always keeping him hidden from them and a secret, just like his dad treated his mom. One day, Rico went to see her father and he said horrible things to him and about his family. Ashna never spoke to Rico after that, completely ignoring all his texts and calls.

Now Rico is a famous fútball player who’s knee injury has forced him to retire. Feeling bad for himself at a friend’s bachelor party, he starts thinking of his string of failed relationships, as he has never been able to move past Ashna. He decides to google her and discovers she is going to be on a cooking show. Not making the most logical decisions, he decides to go on it too, be her partner, and get his revenge? Find closure? Maybe a mix of both?

Ashna is extremely nervous to be on the show, but when she sees that her partner is Rico, the man who broke her heart-she is so surprised she drops her knife, nearly slicing off her toes. Luckily Rico dives and saves her.

Ashna is uncertain how she will make it through this competition while being so close to Rico, this whole situation is so painful and brings back both good and bad memories. Meanwhile, Rico starts regretting being alongside someone who still has so much emotional power over him.

They should not have done this.

But even if both wanted to back out, it is impossible now as they are leading the charts with their chemistry. Ratings are a dream as everyone is tuned in to see what will happen next in the cooking romance. But can the two work as a team? Or is the heat between then too much for this kitchen?

Hmmm…

So the story wasn’t bad but I wasn’t really as invested in these characters as I was with the ones from the previous book. It’s weird as I was really interested to have more Ashna, as I liked her in the previous book, but I felt like something was off in thiI think it is because the circumstances didn’t pull on my heart as much in this book as they did in the original Persuasion and in the previous book. In Persuasion, first we have the fear of loss of security as their family is running out of money and Anne’s father Sir Walter and sister Elizabeth are making no effort to change that. Anne gets a glimpse of her unhappy future as she stays with her horrible sister Mary and brother-in-law. In Recipe for Persuasion, there is the fear of losing her father’s resturant, but I had a harder time finding connecting to that as she still has the property and the house-both of which are prime Bay Area real estate, she could sell them and get millions. And if she did lose her place as she had too much debt that would be paid after the sale, she could always stay at the Raje family compound. Her family is amazing and she used to live with them, so it isn’t as scary an end. I mean it is still sad to have failed and to lose your dream, but she wouldn’t be lost or alone as all would be willing to help her as she regrouped and figured out what was next.

Also in Persuasion, when Wentworth comes back successful and has both the Musgrove sisters fawning over him, he enjoys the attention, especially as it is in front of the woman who rejected him-while Anne definitely feels less then and sad that she let him go. Then when Captain Wentworth realizes he still loves her, he is stuck waiting to see what will happen to Louisa as his attention to her made everyone assume they are to be engaged and he can’t abandon an injured woman. With this there is no block to their happiness, I mean Rico gets over his hurt fairly quickly and is trying to get with Ashna pretty early on in the book. The author does try to mislead us and Ashna with KDrama star Song and Rico growing close, but she isn’t a serious contender. She is never more than just friendly to him.

The other 1/3-1/2 of the book focused on Ashna’s mother’s story, Shobi, who’s storyline is very sad. The first part of Shobi’s story describes how she was in love with another man but her father wouldn’t let her marry a poor Muslim, and instead agreed to a marriage with the prince, Ashna’s father who wanted her. The prince is a horrible abusive man who rapes her on her wedding night. That part I didn’t have an issue with, having been in an abusive relationship I felt they dealt with her story well. What bothered me was the way she justifies leaving her child to help children all over the world and the anger she has at her ex-husband blaming him for her and her daughter’s decaying relationship. Now I will never condemn someone for leaving their abusive partner, but the way she belittles not being there for her daughter because she had a “greater good” to serve really bothered me. Her husband did not paint Shobi in the best light to her daughter, but I felt that she also needs to take responsibility for the choices she made, especially after her husband died. She still hardly spends time with Ashna, doesn’t listen to what she wants, just drops in without warning believing that will fix everything, threatens to sell the store if Ashna doesn’t listen to her, etc. And if she did apologize and recognize her failings to Ashna, instead of telling her again and again these impoverished women are more important than her own daughter, I would have liked her more.

I also didn’t like how easily Ashna and her mother Shobi resolve their issues. Ashna realizes that her being with Rico wasn’t what made her father commit suicide, but that her mother served him with divorce papers. That brought a bunch of memories of how horrible her father treated her mother and she instantly forgives her and is happy to hear her mother is in a happy relationship with another man (who Shobi has been dating for almost all of her married life). I understand what the author is doing and wanting to wrap up that thread, but I used to work with grieving adults and kids and it is never, ever that easy. This exact scenario happened with a preteen I was working with. The mom stayed with her abusive husband because of the kids, but was finally planning on leaving him. He found out and killed himself, the daughter being the one who found the body. The daughter hated her mom as she blamed her for the death, and idolized her father (just like Ashna) and after a lot of therapy and the art class they were in a better place; but she was still very angry with her mom, and it was a continual process. There were also adults who went to the grief class and had a similar scenario happen in their life and had never dealt with those issues. After the art therapy class they were in a better place with their parent-but still had hurt and blame over their mother “causing the death” of their father. I found it extemely unrealistic that Ashna who has never been in any therapy regarding her mother was able to get over the abandonment of her mother; moved past feeling second best to her mother’s charity work, and accepted that this whole time her mother had a secret life/relationship with another man in an instant. What? I would have liked it better if her mother and her started talking and then showing years later they are in a good place instead of it all fixed in one night.

Hmm…

There are also some interesting writing choices in this book as well. We have a chapter where we are in we are in Ashna’s POV and then it suddenly switches to her mom. It was a bit disorientating.

I also had a really hard time with all the Portuguese in this book. Being half Mexican I grew up with Spanish and Portuguese is not Spanish. This is nothing against the author or the language, I just struggled with it and cautioning other Spanish speakers/readers you too might have a bit of a struggle as well.

So that’s all that I did not care for, now what did I like? First of all I loved that again we have an interracial relationship with Ashna (Indian) and Rico (Brazilian). Growing up biracial there wasn’t a lot of media that had interracial or multiracial couples/characters. Anytime there is anything that has even a tiny shard of it, I am excited to see. I loved that scene when they blend Rico’s favorite dish from Brasil with pieces of an Indian recipe that Ashna’s grandma used to make. That scene was just wonderful! It made me think of my own life when blending traditions from both sides of my culture.

Like Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors, this book was also a love letter to food. I like how it highlights the comfort, love, and traditions of it. I also love how we have the two bond of cooking. Rico, having only been a part to get back at Ashna, actually find himself enjoying creating these different dishes with Ashna. And Ashna finds herself having a renewed interest in it, and finding herself once again being creative and not stuck in the past and past recipes. In a sense, then cooking together really is what begins to help heal what transpired between them. And of course there is the constant Chais that Ashna creates and blends for her cousins. It made me want some, real chai, so bad.

And of course, Rico writes Ashna a letter to convince her that he’s serious in his feelings for her. You know me, I’m a sucker for a character writing a love letter. It gets me every time.

I also liked how the author shared about the struggles women face in other places of the world along with Shobi’s struggle with abuse and marital rape. I think both of these issues are important and I’m glad that Sonali Dev didn’t shy away from it all.

So I didn’t hate it and I don’t think it was a bad story-there was just something missing for me…a missing ingredient that I felt the previous book had and this one lacked.

She just published a third book, Incense and Sensibility, and I have read and will be posting on it soon (I hope).

Because of the content of those book I want to end this post with this: Are you in an abusive relationship? Do you need help or assistance? If you are in need of help please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence so they can live their lives free of abuse. You can reach them at 1.800.799.7233

For more Persuasion, go to Jane in Love

For more Persuasion adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more on The Rajes, go to Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to I Watched Northanger Abbey (2007) With My 13 Year Old Niece

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

So usually I only review Jane Austen books, or ones related to it (Catherine Morland’s Reading List  or Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers for example). But I saw this picture book in the library and thought it was too cute not to share.

And at cookies!

So the story starts with a grumpy queen who hates her cup of tea and sets off to find the perfect cup of tea.

She starts off in Japan meeting a little girl named Noriko, cuddles some kittens, and learns how to make Matcha tea.

Then to India where she meets Sunil and they play ball and make Chai Tea.

After that she journeys onto Turkey where she meets Rana, dances, and makes Turkish tea.

After all her adventures, she heads home where she makes a cup of English tea and thinks.

She then decides to hold a tea party and invites her new friends-having learned that true happiness comes from having someone to share a cup of tea with.

It is such an adorable book and introduces children to fun, friendship, and four different ways of making tea.

And eat scones!

For more tea posts, go to Cranberry, Brie, and Rosemary Bites

For more children’s books, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

For more on Matcha tea, go to Blueberry Matcha Smoothie

For more on Chai tea, go to I Won the Kumi Crochet and Tea India Giveaway

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (The Rajes #1) by Sonali Dev

So I’ve been wanting to read this book for quite some time, I believe the first time I checked it out from the library was on October 11, 2019-but life got in the way and I had to return it, check it out, return, and repeat until finally I had some free time during this COVID19 quarantine.

The story starts off with Trisha Raje, of the impressive Raje family line-in fact they are the descendants of a royal family. Her mother was a former Bollywood star and the family has had everything anyone could want-money, status, education, beauty, etc.

But unlike other books-I really liked that the characters knew they were blessed, that they are many who would give anything to be them, and didn’t go down the route of “all power and money is evil” or “woe is me I have money” or “I’m rich and entitled but l am “really” average“, etc. Instead this family knows what they have and all try to do their best to use it to help others in some way.

One summer, teenage Trisha was touched when she visited children at one of her grandfather’s charities in India. Most of the children were blind and with many nothing could be done, while there was quite a number would have been spared this fate with more interest, money, medical intervention, etc. She was determined to help and from there not only created a charity (with help of her parents) that assisted the afflicted children but dedicated her life to becoming a top surgeon, specializing in developing machines that would help remove tumors, growths, cysts, etc.

She is doing well in her career, but unfortunately is no longer a part of the Raje universe. She has been the black sheep of her family, as years ago she made a mistaken judge of character and that person hurt her brother very badly. Since then she and her father have had a strained relationship and she hasn’t been invited to any of their big events. Her brother just announced his run for governor and Trisha is through with being on the sideline, she’s ready to try and get back in her family again.

In other (good) news, Trisha is super excited to work on a new patient, Emma. She has an inoperable tumor wrapped around her optic nerves, and this new tech will remove it and save her life, although it will cause her to go blind. But living is better than dying, isn’t it?

After staying late at the hospital, she then goes to the family dinner/political event (late as usual) and discovers she missed the dinner.

Trisha is starving and decides to head into the kitchen, plays with something at the stove and almost ruins the chef’s sauce. She doesn’t understand why he is freaking out over it-and insults him, even calling him the hired help to her sister.

Meanwhile, across the pond in England, Darcy James “DJ” Caine grew up with his sister, Emma, having very few advantages in life. His father was Anglo-Indian and infuriated his family when he chose to marry a Rwandan refugee rather than a British girl. When DJ’s father passed away when he was young, his father’s family kicked them out of their house and they became homeless. Through a church program, their mother found a job and a place for them to live. His mother worked hard every day to send them to good schools, and in the afternoons DJ watched the landlord’s epileptic mother in exchange for free rent.

While DJ’s mother had high ambitious for her children to become scientists or engineers, DJ connected with his charge-she becoming a surrogate mother- and the two spent hours cooking. Life was hard, but they made the best of it, however it did start to push on him and as a teenager he did get into some trouble. After that he has been on the straight and narrow and went to Le Cordon Bleu and worked in Paris.

He comes to California to help care for his sick sister and through an old friend from Cordon Bleu, he has managed to land the Rajes as clients. He is working so hard to keep them (and hopefully cater more of their parties and events), losing it when a self-absorbed socialite almost destroys his sauce. To add further insult and injury, he not only had to grab the hot pot to secure it and burned his hands, she’s very rude to him, and he also overhears her calling him the hired help.

That should be the end of it, unless she comes to future events, except for one small thing: Emma, (the patient Trisha wants to operate on but doing so will turn her blind), is DJ’s sister. The two are now both thrown together as they work on convincing Emma to take the surgery, but as she is an artist she is very angry and upset about losing her eyesight.

They are then further brought together when Traisha’s sister Nisha, and her brother Yash’s campaign manager, has to take a step back. Nisha and her husband Neel have one daughter and have been trying for years to have more kids with each attempt ending in miscarriage. She’s pregnant again, and even though her doctor doesn’t say to, she decides to go on bedrest, asking Trisha to keep it a secret. With Nisha self-grounding herself, Trisha has to care of planning the next event-which includes the catering with DJ.

Life gets even more complicated when someone from Trisha’s past reenters the picture, Julia Wickham. Julia almost destroyed the Raje family when she plotted and threatened Trisha’s brother. Trisha is scared that Julia might try and hurt Emma and DJ, but she cannot reveal what Julia did as her brother is running for office and the last thing he needs is for all this to come out.

DJ and Emma meet Julia at the hospital, and she offers them a way to pay their medical bills. Julia’s plan is to create videos with Emma sharing about her story and creating a kickstarter so people can donate to it. As their medical bills are extremely high and DJ can only keep them afloat so long, they decide to trust her and let her into their lives. She further gains DJ’s trust when she shares how the Raje family destroyed her, left her with nothing, and she had to fight and scrape together to be where she is now.

That coupled with Trisha calling him hired help, and a few other misadventures, miscommunications, and mistakes between the two-when Trisha finds herself falling in love with DJ and his food, and decides to tell him-he flat out refuses and rips her a new one.

Can they overcome pride, prejudice, their own hurts, and hangups? Or will these two part ways after the dinner and never see each other again? Can they convince Emma to have the surgery? Or will Trisha and DJ lose her? Will they stop whatever plan Julia has? Or will she completely destroy the Raje family.

So I really enjoyed reading this book. In the forward, Sonali Dev states that this was inspired by Pride and Prejudice, but is her own story, and I thought she did a good job bringing in her own “flavor” (bad pun, I know), while creating a new story. I enjoyed how she adapted the story to a modern times, along with Indian culture. I think Jane Austen’s stories are extremely relatable to other cultures, as the elements in there are still present today. Growing up biracial, I could see how with my Mexican side there is still an emphasis of getting married before you are “an old maid”, the importance of family, having children, etc; while with my father’s side (Danish and Sicilian Italian) it isn’t as important. I wouldn’t see mind seeing more culturally diverse Jane Austen adaptions.

However, what I thought was really interesting was how Dev took elements from Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and used them in both DJ and Trisha. You see at first I thought that Trisha was Darcy (rich family) and DJ was Elizabeth (as he is from a poorer background), but as I read on they reminded me of both the Austen characters.

Trisha as Darcy

  • Trisha has the money & status
  • Trisha insults DJ and he overhears her
  • Had a Wickham try to ruin her family
  • Feels strong guilt over them buying off Wickham instead of exposing her
  • Giving advice/deeply persuading her best friend (cousin)
  • Awful love confession (proposal)
  • Saves love interest’s sister

Trisha as Elizabeth

  • Trisha comes from a big family
  • Trisha was really close to her father (then something happened)
  • Closeness to an older sister
  • Best friend/sister gives advice on love
  • Makes quite a few conclusions and then realizes she was wrong

DJ as Darcy

  • DJ’s family is him and his sister like Darcy & Georgiana
  • DJ has had to be the father for his sister after their father passed
  • DJ’s relationship with his sister is more Darcy & Georgiana than Elizabeth & Jane
  • DJ’s name is Darcy, Darcy James
  • Broods a lot

DJ as Elizabeth

  • Trisha insults DJ and he overhears her
  • Comes from a poorer family
  • Doesn’t like Trisha because of something she says and when he meets someone who shares an unfavorable view of her, he instantly believes her.
  • His father dying and relatives kicking him out (exactly what Mrs. Bennet feared would happen to them)

You should read the book and tell me what you think. Is DJ Elizabeth or is he Darcy? Is Trisha Darcy or is she Elizabeth?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (1940)

One of the most interesting supporting characters is Trisha’s brother Yash and I hope we have a future book with him (although I’m not sure which Austen character he is the most like? Colonel Brandon is the only one I can think off the top of my head that might work). He is a kind and caring older brother, supportive fiancé, survived the machinations of the evil Wickham, was in a car accident and lost his ability to walk-astounding doctors when he made it out of the wheelchair, encourages DJ to go after his sister, and stopped a terrorist attack on Alcatraz (pg. 17). Please tell me he is coming back.

So this book is more than just a story of Pride and Prejudice, it also is a love letter to food and food creation. Parts of it reminded me of my Mexican grandmother who would make things with no recipe but how she was taught and always had to feed us when she saw us. I loved reading about how DJ loves food, his preparation in making it, his desire to bring comfort to others. One of my favorite parts was when he was having a hard time talking to Emma-his worry, anger, and pain muddling up his words, and he put together the perfect breakfast for her.

How sweet!

So reading this reminded me of the show Hart of Dixie. In the show, Mischa Barton plays Dr. Zoe Hart who has horrid bedside manner and instead of her dream job gets told she needs to spend a year in a general practice. She moves to Bluebell, Alabama and ends up inheriting the practice from her biological father (it’s complicated, it’s a soap opera). She is kind of a know-it-all (treating the people of Bluebell lower than her) and focused solely on herself and her plan to get patients and complete her time-but eventually she gets a change of “heart” and grows to love the people and the town.

Trisha reminded me a lot of Zoe Hart. We hear her backstory and where she is coming from, but the way she relates to people-she is as bad as Zoe. They way Trisha treats DJ as he is just a “cook” is the same way Zoe treats Wade as he is just a “bartender”. Both believe they are better than the “hired help”. When she firsts meets DJ she tells him her surgical hands are more important than the dish he was cooking, she eats all the food at the tasting without him, and when she proposes she says she has never dated someone who hasn’t gone to college (forgetting that DJ went to Cordon Bleu).

But even with those flaws, you still want her to have a happy ending with DJ-mostly because like Darcy and Elizabeth, she realizes her wrongs and apologizes for them along with actually changing her behavior.

Emma’s storyline of being an artist with a tumor who’s choices are either death or blindness is heartbreaking. Every part with her was raw and real as she went through the stages of grief-grieving her loss of what she loves. I can’t imagine life without my eyes, and her storyline was beyond powerful.

Life seems grey..

Throughout the book there is also this theme of secrets causing issues and I thought it was really well done. Secrets can cause miscommunication, for instance Nisha doesn’t want anyone to know she is pregnant until she is out of the troubling stage. She makes Trisha promise not to tell anyone, and instead of including DJ in her confidence, her keeping him out of the loop causes some serious miscommunications. Secrets can also keep you from knowing the truth of a whole story and color your views. For instance, Trisha’s mother has a powerful secret she has kept because she doesn’t want her children to view her differently, but revealing it allows Trisha to better understand both her parents.

Hmmm…

At the end Dev says that she is going to write more books based on Jane Austen using some of the characters and I’m thinking it can’t be Nisha as she is already married. It has to be Asha or Yash and Asha sounds prime for a Persuasion retelling-family used to be rich, trying to pick up the financial pieces, always sad, growing older and is still unmarried…perfect for Persuasion.

And I saved the part I found most meaningful for last:

“You’re Indian?” This time the shock wasn’t a surprise. Both Emma and he favored their Rwandan mother.”

Yes! Finally, a book involving not only a multiracial character but finally a voice to what it feels to grow up multiracial. This is 100% truth for how it feels growing up a mix of different races, but your phenotype favoring one, and the way people treat you different.

I loved that this book had a multiracial character, as growing up there were no books or TV shows, except I Love Lucy that had that. Like I said in my review of The Colonel,  I can not express enough with words how it felt growing up and feeling so different and alone, with no one like you. This feeling of inbetween as you don’t really belong to one or the other.

I only wish it had more on DJ’s feelings of being multiracial. I’m not saying that him sharing how it feels to be dark skinned in America isn’t important, but being multiracial has its own set of issues, feelings, and ways of being treated that I wished she had talked more about. Take my niece for example, people would see her and think she is African-American: but she is Italian, Danish, Mexican, and African-American. Not only does she have to deal with the issues that face African-Americans, but she also has to deal with African-Americans not accepting her because she isn’t “black enough” and Mexicans not accepting her because she “isn’t Mexican”.

Any multiracial person can swap out Latino with their race and this describes what it feels like. Although I wouldn’t have used the word fraud.

I’m not saying what Dev has in there isn’t important, it is, I just wish she had expanded a bit more on DJ’s issues of growing up multicultural more. Did people of Indian descent treat him differently because of his dark skin? How did his Emma navigate this? Did he ever have to prove he was Indian, like I’ve had to prove I’m Mexican? I enjoyed what Dev did, I’m just starved for more as there wasn’t anything like this for me growing up.

Hmmm…

I really enjoyed this story, and I want to thank Dev again for including a multiracial character. I thought it was a great read, and I can’t wait for the next installment ( I looked it up, it IS Persuasion) and hopefully her versions of Northanger Abbey, Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility.

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to Pride & Prejudice: A New Musical

For more on Elizabeth Bennet, go to Elizabeth-Obstinate Headstrong Girl: Part II, Other Eras

For more on Mr. Darcygo to Modesto Jane Con: Defining the Definitive Darcy and Lizzie

For more adaptions of Jane Austen, go to Take a Chance on Me: Austentatious (2015)

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.

Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there (recently I read and loved Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl) but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but is something fresher than a retelling.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

So I read this book and knew it would be perfect to add to this blog.

The story starts off with Sita Kaur Shergill, widowed mother to three daughters, ill. She knows her time is limited and decides before her time is up to write a letter to her three girls to take a trip to India after she passes. She always wanted to go on a pilgrimage with her daughters from their home in England to India, and now her last wish is for them to go.

It sounds like a simple request, but it is anything but as these three sisters are not close and all kick up a bit about going.

Rajini is the eldest sister who when she was young rebelled, but after a trip to India became sensible, reliable, and has done everything right. She went to university, became a principal, got married, and had a boy.

But not all is right in Rajini’s world. Her just graduated from high school son not only wants to forgo college, but he also is dating a 36 year old woman, and…the couple is pregnant. Basically this is Rajini:

Raijini tries to do all she can, but her son won’t listen to her. And now she has to go on this pilgrimage, and leave her husband to try to sway her son.

Ugh!

Raijini doesn’t want to go to India at all, because of what happened last time, but will do it to honor her mother.

Jezmeen is the middle daughter, and she and her mother had a contentious relationship. Jezmeen was always passionate, doing her own thing, reacting, rebelling, etc. She wanted to be an actress, something her mother didn’t approve of. And her mother would constantly ask her why she didn’t have her “big” break yet, something that really grated on Jezmeen’s nerves.

Ugh, not again…

Unlike her sisters, Jezmeen is ready to go to India as she wants to get as far away as possible as she is currently a social media disaster and is hoping that everything will die down if she leaves the country.

But just because Jezmeen wants to go to India, she doesn’t want to do the pilgrimage as she doesn’t get why it is such a big deal, but her big sister is going to make them stick o the schedule.

Youngest sister Shirina excelled at college and her job, but she always felt she was missing something…a real family. Growing up not remembering her father, her mother busy working, and the sisters not getting along more than they do-she wanted a traditional family and signed up on the message boards for an arranged marriage, meeting the wealthy Sehaj and moving to Australia.

She then slowly left her friends, job, and social media. Her sisters have hardly seen or heard from her and she has become a silent figure in her home. She decides to go to India, not for her mother but because her mother-in-law has set her upon a secret task, one she must complete or else she can never return home.

Hmmm…

The three sisters are in for a trip of their lifetime as they learn a lot about their mother, each other, one sister gets involved with private detectives, one gets arrested for protesting, and one almost makes the worst decision of her life.

So we have three sisters…what Jane Austen book do you think I’m thinking of?

A widowed mother with three daughters?

The mother in the The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, Sita, isn’t in the story a whole lot, but her presence is felt throughout the book as we get memories from each of the daughters. After her husband died, the financial security went away and at times Sita found herself unable to do anything from her distress, stress, and depression. The girls had to be taken care of by a neighbor or by their older sister Raijini. This reminded me a lot of Mrs. Dashwood as after her husband dies, she goes through a similar grief and the responsibilities and it be taken over by others.

Of course Raijini being the sensible older sister makes me think of Elinor. Taking charge, leading her sisters, picking up the void of the missing parent-Raijini is just like Elinor. But even though you think you know everything about Raijini she has a hidden secret-just like Elinor.

“What do you know of my heart? What do you know of anything but your own suffering. For weeks, Marianne, I’ve had this pressing on me without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature. It was forced on me by the very person whose prior claims ruined all my hope. I have endured her exultations again and again whilst knowing myself to be divided from Edward forever. Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you.”

Jezmeen is passionate, plunges into things headfirst, and doesn’t always think things through. This of course makes me think of Marianne who lets her passion lead her.

She is upset with her sisters and this trip, gets up late, goes along with a protest because they think she is someone else, gets thrown into jail-and that is just a taste of what she does. However, as the book progresses she, like Marianne, learns to not let her passion go, but to temper it from time to rime and take moments to think before acting or reacting.

Shirina made me think a lot about Margaret as she isn’t as present in the book-not that Shirina is underdeveloped, far from that. Shirina isn’t present as she is folding in herself due to her family drama-her mother-in-law emotionally abusing her.

The other thing that really made me think of Sense and Sensibility is the way the sisters each have these ideas about each other-only to discover that there is than they thought, and how they all grow and bond together.

I really enjoyed it and recommend it.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: And Only to Deceive

For more on sisters, go to I Won the Two Sisters Tea Giveaway

For more on Sense and Sensibility, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

Victoria and the Rogue

Victoria and the Rogue (An Avon True Romance #12) by Meg Cabot

I first was introduced to Meg Cabot through her book All-American Girl, later reading The Princess Diaries series. Another book series she helped write was Avon True Romance for Teens.  

The Avon True Romance for Teens was written by different authors and is a collection of clean, historical romances-written specifically for the teen/YA market.

I was going to include this in the Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, but as I continued to read the story I realized that this was basically Emma, with some Pride and Prejudice thrown in.

Hmm…

I mean it isn’t an exact retelling, but there are just so many similarities. Let’s begin the review.

Lady Victoria Arbuthnot, Duchess of Harrow, is a young, beautiful, wealthy woman. Her parents traveled to India when she was little and died there leaving her an orphan and raised by her uncles. She was not interested at all in being married but just living her life with her fortune. Sound like someone we know?

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.” –Emma

She, however, did fully intend to match up her uncles.

This, however, they do not like at all. To stop her from meddling they decide to send her back to England wagering on how long it will take for her to get a proposal. She decides to prove them wrong and ends up engaged on the boat over.

Yes, engaged to Lord Hugo Rothschild, Earl of Malfrey. He’s a bit of a fop caring for his clothes and money and just not really seeming to be a stand up gentleman. After all, who enters secret engagements if they have honorable intentions?

Frank Churchill

But also on the trip is the very annoying Captain Jacob Carstairs who likes to tell her what she is doing wrong and tries to stop her from managing (her word), or meddling (his word), on the way the ship is run.

Victoria meets her relatives that reside in England for the first time, the Gardiners. They are poorer than her and have a very large family full of kids, much different than how it was for her in India.

This is…pleasant? 

Something that differs from Emma, is that as Victoria was raised in India and she doesn’t behave quite like most gentle ladies of society. She can shoot a gun expertly, doesn’t accept help from getting down from the boat, and breaks “societal” rules she has no knowledge of. Emma on the other hand was finely tutored.

Victoria meets her older cousin Rebecca “Becky” Gardiner who she discovers has a crush on Captain Carstairs. Oh no, this must not be as Victoria thinks of Captain Carstairs as a rogue and sets her mind on finding a more suitable man. Just like Emma…

Rebecca envies Victoria’s gowns, money, fans, and the time she spent with the very wealthy Captain Carstairs. It turns out that he is not only a Captain, but he owns the ship that they used and not just that one-a fleet of them. He worked hard to take his father’s business and turn it into something truly powerful.

Vicky lets it slip that she is engaged but manages to coerce her cousin into keeping the secret by giving her a beautiful gown and fan.

Rebecca tries to warn Victoria about Lord Malfrey, as he has no fortune. But Victoria doesn’t care, she wants a man that won’t boss her around but one she can hep and aid, one that needs her-even of that means she will be footing the bill.

-Speaking from experience and the wastrel of a man I married. This is not a good idea. Slight PSA. DO NOT DO THIS. BAD, VERY, VERY BAD IDEA

Unfortunately for Victoria, Captain Carstairs is a very good family friend. She will have to endure his company constantly.

Ugh

The family goes to Almack’s, for a ball and to be “out” in society. Captain Castairs reveled to all that Victoria is engaged, so that secret’s out. Captain Carstairs spends time at the dance to try and convince Victoria not to marry Lord Malferey-but Victoria won’t listen she wants to “organize his life.”

Captain Carstairs tries to convince Mr. Gardiner to stop the betrothal but Mr. Gardiner doesn’t really care. Vicky and him squabble some more before she sets her plan “Have Rebecca be with a man I Believe to Be Perfect for Her” into motion.

Victoria “loses” her fan and Rebecca meets the handsome Charles Abbot, who Victoria believed perfect for her cousin-arranging everything ever so nicely.

Captain Carstairs accuses her of being too controlling, but she counters that things are much better with her at the helm.

They have a picnic thrown by Lord Malfrey, in which she has him invite Mr. Abbott for Rebecca. Lord Malfrey’s mother is overly madeup and odd and his friends-not acceptable ones for society in dress (some of the women wear slips and wet their legs) and manners. And none of them talk about anything other than clothes and hunting.

And unfortunately for Victoria, Captain Carstairs arrives and disapproves of everything and all the people.

But then Rebecca’s bag is stolen by a street urchin. Just like Harriet in Emma. And just like in Emma Lord Malfey/Frank Churchill goes to save the day-except in this, one Victoria controls the situation by taking down the boy-to everyone’s surprise and shock.

They set to take him to the police, but Victoria feels bad for the boy and pretends to faint, causing a distraction that allows him to slip away.

They are invited to Captain Carstairs’ house to have dinner with him and his mother, but Victoria tries to stay behind. She can’t imagine having to go through a whole dinner with him.

They spend time together before dinner with Captain Carstairs and his mother. To Victoria’s shock she has a lovely and interesting conversation on India, boats, sailing, the navy, etc. Much more interesting than the talks she has with her fiancé and his mother.

Hmmm…

Anybody getting what I’m thinking…?

Hmm…

Jacob takes Victoria aside after dinner as he wants to speak of something serious with her. She thinks he is going to declare his love for her, but instead he tells her that Lord Malfrey is only marrying her for her money. Victoria doesn’t care…

…but then Captain Carstairs reveals a secret about Lord Malfrey that concerns his sister. Only a few trusted people know about it. The two were engaged, but when some ships were lost along with the Carstair’s fortune, Lord Malfrey dumped his sister and up and left-his sister utterly heartbroken.

Poor Georgina Margaret. But now she is married and living happy.

Victoria realizes the severity of the claim, and decides to trust Captain Carstairs and test Lord Malfey.

Captain Carstairs tries to speak to her, but she refuses him-embarrassed that she is attracted to him.

Ugh…I don’t want to like him.

Sh tests Lord Malfey, telling him that it turns out that she won’t get control of her fortune-married or single-until she is 21. That means they would have to wait five years. Lord Malfrey is having none of that and after throwing a big fit, Victoria decides she is done. Forget this dude.

Victoria is saddened, but soldiers on. After all there is Rebecca’s romance, the molding of the younger Gardiners, etc.

Unfortunately, Captain Carstairs won’t leave her alone. After a constant barrage and a plea by Mrs. Gardiner-Victoria agrees. Captain Carstairs is happy about end of the engagement, and tells her what you need is “someone who doesn’t need you”.

I have to agree with him. After being with someone who “needed” me which really meant “using”-It would be nice to have someone who isn’t going to just be taking but giving.

Well Captain Carstairs proposes…sort of. Here it is:

“Wouldn’t it be restful to come home to someone who needed nothing whatsoever from you?”

Really dude?

That’s Darcy level messed up.

I men you could say you love her or something.

I mean, seriously dude. Get yourself together.

He kisses her, and then Victoria becomes so upset she pushes him away. Victoria is justly angry an Captain Carstairs acts like a total tool.

Jerk

Seriously, “he won’t extol her virtues” or be romantic and refuses to ever ask her again.

Well fine. Seriously dude-would it kill you to say anything endearing. I mean Mr. Knightley:

Or Mr. Tilney

So he storms of and life goes on. Lord Malfrey asks Victoria to met him so that they might exchange letters. Victoria agrees but when she goes, she gets caught in the rain. He takes her inside and her clothes so she can dry and warm herself, but then the Malfreys won’t let her go. They want her money and they want it bad. Their plan is to trap her there all night and to “save her” from scandal force her to marry Lord Malfrey-just like Wickham’s plan.

She gets locked in a room, but Victoria is no quitter. She doesn’t quite know what to do, and is in her underwear, but decides she cannot stay there and makes a break for it out the window.

She tries to go to the police to get help, but they think she is a prostitute, and ignore her. She does gets saved by some street urchins, the ones in the group that belonged to the boy she saved earlier. He keeps her safe there with the others while going off to deliver her note to Captain Carstairs.

He comes right away in answer to her note, and brings clothes, like Victoria asked. When he gets there Victoria tells him the whole story. They concoct a story to give to the Gardiners, and Captain Carstairs takes her home.

Captain Carstirs is so angry about what happened, Victoria is convinced that he would try to duel with Lord Malfrey. She wonders why she is so upset when she realizes she is in love with Captain Carstairs.

She hears nothing from him and agonizes over what is happening. (Just like in Emma when Mr. Knightey is gone visiting his brother and Emma is freaking out as she realizes she loves him.) Victoria writes him a note but hears nothing. She is so anxious and angry at herself for turning him down, especially as she knows he won’t ask her again.

A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? –Pride and Prejudice

Victoria has a little bit of a breakdown believing Captain Carstairs is dead. The Gardiner’s see her distressed state and think she is sick, wanting her to stay home but she has to go out to Almack’s, as she needs to know if Captain Carstairs is alive.

He acts cold, polite and aloof.

Victoria pleads with Captain Carstairs and he tells her that there was no duel. He just told the Malfreys that they needed to go to France and never return to England or else he would let out the news about Malfrey’s first wife, Mary Gilbreath, and their divorce.

All ends well with Victoria and Captin Carstairs ironing out their issues and ending up together.

Meh.

I thought it was a fun story with great characters except for Captain Carstairs. As you can see from the above gif, I didn’t care for him and Victoria to end up together.  I found Captain Carstairs to be annoying, mean, immature, and a major jerk, only a shadow of Mr. Knightly and Mr. Darcy. Personally I believe Victoria could do better.

 

For more on Emma, go to Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

For more Emma variations, go to A Visit to Highbury: Another View of Emma

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MILD

For more Meg Cabot, go to Would You Like a Pizza My Heart?: The Princess Diaries (2001)