Book Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

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Nayna Sharma agreed to an arranged marriage in the hope it would heal the fractures in her beloved family… only to realize too late that a traditional marriage is her personal nightmare. Panicked, she throws caution to the winds, puts on the tiniest dress she can find, and ends up in the arms of a tall, rough-edged hunk of a man who has abs of steel—and who she manages to mortally insult between one kiss and the next.
Abandoned as a child, then adopted into a loving family, Raj Sen believes in tradition, in continuity. Some might call him stiff and old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants—and it’s a life defined by rules… yet he can’t stop thinking about the infuriating and sexy woman who kissed him in the moonlight then disappeared. When his parents spring an introduction on him, the last woman he expects is her. Beautiful. Maddening. A rulebreaker in the making.
He’s all wrong for her. She’s all wrong for him. And love is about to make rebels of them both.

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Nalini Singh is such a familiar name in Romancelandia but I’ve never actually read her books, nor have I really wanted to (mostly because it’s her paranormal romances that are popular). But since I got to know about this  contemporary romance featuring desi characters almost an year ago, I’ve wanted to read it but just kept forgetting. So, when I suddenly saw it on my library shelf today, I thought why not and immediately picked it up. And it turned out to be quite a lovely read.

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As I’m new to the author, the writing style took a little while to get used to. But I can’t exactly point out what I found different in the style. I thought the pacing initially was too fast, especially the meet cute (or meet hot n sexy would be more appropriate), but then it slowed down to a more reasonable pace and then I enjoyed it more. The characters in this book aren’t direct immigrants from India but a couple generations removed, and from Fiji finally settled in New Zealand, so it was actually lovely to see their own version of desi traditions and food and culture. The food itself was probably the most different with a lot of Fijian influence, but all the wedding rituals were familiar and beautifully described, the focus on family and the usual aunty brigade who wants everyone to get married was so relatable and I could totally see myself and my own extended family among them all. And it’s definitely this cultural aspect that endeared me a lot more to this story. And it was also quite refreshing to read a romance set outside my usual Western settings.

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Nayna is such a desi character and so relatable, it almost hurt me to see her go through her struggles. She is loving and extremely caring about her family and doesn’t want to do anything to hurt them, but is also feeling caged because she has never had the freedom to follow her dreams. I could totally sympathize with her wanting to find herself before committing to a marriage, and I was really glad when she finally decided to take some steps in that direction. The name Raj is synonymous with loving and charming heroes in Bollywood, and while the namesake here may be a little more on the broody side, he is one of the best swoony book boyfriends I’ve read in recent times. He may have his own ideas about family and marriage but once he falls in love, he is such a sweetheart and does everything he can to ensure that Nayna doesn’t feel trapped in a relationship, giving her time and support to make her own decisions, and even standing up to her parents. He could be a typical alpha male sometimes but I just adored him so much that I could overlook such slight misgivings. Theirs is a great relationship built on trust and communication, there was so much honesty between them and I’m so glad that they always talked it out whenever there was a problem. Definite goals.

All the parents and siblings in the story were as intrusive and lovely and dramatic as desi families can be and it was fun to read. I particularly loved Nayna’s grandmother a lot who was a delight with her own young and hip “good friend”. I can’t say I really liked either Nayna’s sister or Raj’s SIL but they did get some sort of redemptive arcs which were satisfying enough.

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In the end, this was a very enjoyable, sweet and sexy romance with not too much angst. If you love a swoony desi hero who makes for a great book boyfriend, a very relatable heroine and their absolutely wonderful love story, you should totally check out this book. It’s part of a series but it works very well as a stand-alone. And if you are a blogger participating in the South Asian Reading Challenge, I would definitely recommend this book.

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One thought on “Book Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

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  1. Scrolling through WP, I just noticed this cover, which just displays the sixpack of that guy. Nothing is less turning me on than such a stock foto 🤪

    Like

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