A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli

December 6, 2021

From the publisher:

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.

Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.

When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

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Nikki has always been the good daughter. Her older sister, Jasmine, is a bit of a rebel, and Nikki has never wanted to upset her parents like her sister does. So when her parents offer to do a little matchmaking for her, she agrees. The young Indian doctor is a nephew of a friend, is good looking and successful, so they decide to meet for lunch.

But a few minutes before they are to meet, Nikki gets laid off from her tech job. They go out for lunch and get very drunk, and the good doctor invites her back to his apartment. Thinking he’s kidding, she declines and goes home. Then she decides to attend her college roommate’s wedding in India – two days before she has to leave. Nikki is not the impulsive, spontaneous type, so this is completely out of character for her. But she decides the time is now. Her parents were born in Punjab, and while the wedding is in Mumbai, she can stay in India for a few weeks and meet her relatives for the first time.

The wedding is more than just a one day affair; there are a week’s worth of events leading up to it, and the bride has invited all her wedding party to join her and her new husband on their honeymoon in Goa, a beach resort area. At her first event, Nikki encounters a racist old auntie who upsets her. leading her to meet another auntie, a kind and good person. She wants to set up Nikki with her son, but she declines. Then at the event, she can’t help but notice the gorgeous bass player in the band, and he appears to notice her as well. Turns out Sam is the kind auntie’s son.

Sam and Nikki start spending time together at the wedding events, and she is invited to Goa to stay in his family’s apartment there. His mother will be there as well, so she decides to put off visiting her relatives in Punjab for a few days.

As Sam and Nikki grow closer, they both start to realize that this is way more than a holiday fling. But Sam lives in London, and she lives in Seattle. There are other hurdles as well; besides Nikki’s job loss, Sam is struggling with his career as well. When she offers to move to London to be with him, he tells her he isn’t sure he is going back but doesn’t offer any alternative. Convinced that whatever they were building towards is now over, Nikki goes on to Punjab and meets her family for the first time. When she returns home, she is determined to get over Sam.

Set during the Diwali holiday around Christmas, the holiday cheer is a part of the story. I knew as little about Diwali as Nikki does, so it was fun learning about this important holiday. Sam and Nikki seem to be over, but this is a romance so a holiday miracle is expected and occurs. This was an interesting and fast moving story, and a good read. This holiday romance is filled with charm, pathos, love, and laughter. Enjoy!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli. Berkley (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100950. 336 pages.

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