A Holly Jolly Diwali

The concept of this book is cute and the idea of a romance centered around a winter holiday that’s not Christmas is much needed, but this felt more like women’s fiction than a love story so it fell flat for me.  There are positive things about this book but I wouldn’t suggest this to hardcore romance fans or if you are looking for a holiday themed read.

The good things first. The main theme of the novel focuses on the growth of a young woman and the discovery of what she wants in life and who she wants to be and I am here for it. It’s executed well, even though there were times I wanted Niki to be a little stronger and surer of herself but part of the conflict comes from her learning to be her own person.  One of the strongest aspects of this book was the strength of the female relationships, whether it was Niki and Diya, Niki and her sister Jasmine, or when Niki opens herself up to new adventures and befriends Masooma. These relationships do a great job showing the reader who Niki is and what she finds important in life.  The representation in this book is needed and welcome and I liked that it was about a holiday I knew nothing about and the differences between the various families. Niki’s feelings about not belonging in her Indian family while also not belonging in her American family felt authentic and I loved the conversation she had with her parents about the motivations behind their choices when they moved to the States and why they treat their daughters the way they do. Their relationship was sweet and their concern for Niki provided some comic relief and heart to the story. And even though I didn’t love the romantic relationship, I liked that Sam and Niki were foils of each other; she is flailing in life after spending most of it doing what she thinks she should and not having fun while he is flailing after spending his life pursuing lofty dreams and finding himself at a crossroads. This was a fun take on opposites attract that worked well with the story.

Now the things that didn’t work for me. Diwali is in the title of this book so I expected the holiday to be a more prominent part of the story but other than a few times in the very beginning and a mention at the very end, Diwali isn’t a big part. One of the plot points is that Niki doesn’t know why Diwali is celebrated so she asks various people why they celebrate and…we never really get an answer. Most of the people tell her what they personally think but nothing about the holiday is explained.  The end of the book would have had more of an impact on me if the holiday had played a larger role in the story. My main issue with the book was the romance. To me, this isn’t a romance book, it’s women’s fiction. Yes, there is a romance plot running throughout but this is an insta-love story so we don’t get a lot of time to find out why Niki and Sam fall for each other so when the conflict is introduced, I didn’t feel anything.  There wasn’t enough on the page to convince me that Niki would make life changing decisions for this relationship and because this is told from her point of view exclusively, we don’t know how Sam is feeling and his actions didn’t convince me he loved her. We get a few kissing scenes and that’s it for the heat level as well so the lack of physical heat combined with the insta-love didn’t work for me. I was more interested in Niki’s journey to personal acceptance than the love story, which would have been perfectly fine had I not expected something completely different.

This was a well written book that had likeable characters and a good story, but it wasn’t what I expected, and the romance fell flat.  It also didn’t feel very holiday to me and that was one of the reasons I picked it up. Despite these issues, I would read another book by Lalli and I would recommend this book to someone but with the caveat that it isn’t a romance.  Give this one a read if you are looking for a story about a woman changing her life for the better and discovering her true self but not if you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit.

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 3 Stars

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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