Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Love him. Love her. Love the way he loves her.
I keep finding myself returning to this book again and again. There are so many good things here. Absolutely lovely hero. I love him. Love her. Love the way he loves her. Lots of Pride and Prejudice references but they’re smart and organic to the story rather than gratuitous. I also love the fact that Indian culture in New Zealand is absolutely central to the story and it’s rendered in wonderfully specific detail. This is by far the most nuanced portrayal of arranged marriage I’ve seen and I’ve read quite a few of late (Ayesha At Last, When Dimple Met Rishi, There's Something About Sweetie).
One of the best things about this narrative is that the setup creates ample room for realistic, relatable conflict and growth. A formal introduction is coordinated by Nayna and Raj's families, but the relationship—its pace, intimacy, power dynamics— is all them, and that’s essential to its success. Nayna is the consummate good girl, and she’s tired of it. She’s an ambitious, well-educated, sexually inexperienced professional woman in her late twenties, and frustrated with the constraints of the role. She adores her family but is tired of always doing their bidding. Raj is a traditional guy with a rocky early childhood who wants a strong, traditional family for himself. This does not seem like an auspicious foundation for a relationship. But Raj expands his conception of what a happy family life requires because he understands that a strong marriage requires a happy wife and for the wife he wants that means freedom and equality within the relationship. For Nayna, there’s nothing sexier than a man who listens, respects and responds to her needs.
“You love her as my Nayna deserves to be loved. Don’t lose faith in your own ability to grow.” Raj stared down at the seamed lines of her face, feeling the sense of tightness around his chest snap. “Midnight walks and shared secrets?” Aji’s smile was luminous. “See? You understand.” She opened the back door. “Love grows when it is tended.”
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