The One She Was Warned About by Shoma Narayanan

December 13, 2013 Contemporary, Reviews 7

A man and woman lie in a beach hammock embracing. She holds a wide brimmed yellow hat up to hide their faces.Shoma Narayanan was suggested to me by Suleikha Snyder, and it’s a good match of author and reader. I fell completely in love with the heroine of The One She Was Warned About. Shweta is professionally confident but personally uncertain. On the edge of pushing for marriage to a man more suitable for her father to marry, she runs into a childhood frenemy. Nikhil is the boy next door made good. Once an illegitimate young troublemaker, he is now a successful business owner with ties to the entertainment industry. It’s a boy next door story.

Shweta is less than impressed with Nikhil’s success. While she’s pleased for him, she is frustrated by his refusal to set aside the pain of his past and appreciate what he has. Shweta does not see Nikhil’s return to her life as a lottery ticket she dare not misplace. She sees Nikhil as a new and interesting option. While her own insecurities and hot temper drive some of their disagreements, the main source of their conflict is Nikhil. Until he has moved beyond his childish view of his parents and his life, Shweta cannot trust him as her partner.

In this image of a man and woman embracing in a hammock, the man's skin is lighter than in the cover above.This sweet romance was consistent in characterization and tone. The office relationships were as believable as the family ones. There were a few points in the book that felt like they had been included for the western or white reader. Narayanan explains general customs at Diwali in one point, yet ignores them at another. It threw me out of the book to have the author explaining something that would be so basic to the characters. Romances with a white focus do not explain our common holiday practices. An author might indicate how her characters deviate from or cling to the norm, but a full explanation is unusual. Aside from those awkward moments, The One She Was Warned About caused me to purchase more by the author as soon as I closed it.

on a yellow backound a man stand behind a pensive woman, embracing her. We see only their heads and shoulders.

I came across several versions of cover art for The One She Was Warned About with interesting differences. The first cover (top left) is for the American market. To my eyes, it appears Nikhil has been lightened from the Mills & Boon version made for the UK (center right). It could be a combination of the dark title coloring and the reduced surface area, but the Mills & Boon cover more clearly indicates a non-white couple to me. The version for the  South Asian market (lower left) goes in a different direction. Instead of their faces being completely hidden by the yellow hat, only their faces are visible on a yellow background. The cover gives me a different expectation of the book. It seems menacing. I would expect this book to contain significant danger for the heroine and possibly include domestic violence. There’s a YA after school special vibe going on. It’s interesting to me that this reads as a romance cover in other markets.


Final Assessment: Solid category read with an engaging heroine. A-

Source: Purchased copy

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Meoskop's first non-compulsory book review was in 1973. Although a hit with the 3rd grade, concerns raised by the administration necessitated an extended hiatus. Reviews resumed in 1985 but the concerns are ongoing.

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7 Responses to “The One She Was Warned About by Shoma Narayanan”

  1. Sunita

    I think I’ve read one of Narayanan’s books and thought it was pretty good. Suleikha and I were discussing this one on Twitter; she said she thought it was westernized in its language (cadence and syntax) and when I read the first few pages I saw what she meant. But it’s worth remembering that Narayanan was not acquired and published by Harlequin India, but by M&B, so they’ll be assuming a primarily non-Indian audience. She is distributed in India, but Indians are used to reading European-focused M&B more than the reverse.

    As for the cover, part of the difference is also the lighting; the US one has sunlight/shadow shading whereas the UK one is uniform. It might be lightened, but it’s not so much that I’d consider it intentional.

    On how accurate the skin color is, the characters are north Indian, so they can reasonably range from very light (the color of coffee with a LOT of cream) to relatively dark, with the mean probably being on the light rather than dark side of the color median. When I look at both covers they both look like Indian skin tones to me (unlike some of the covers we were talking about on Twitter a couple of days ago).

    The Indian cover is boring to me, but the photo is a classic Bollywood poster pose indicating a love story. Note that this couple has the lightest skin of all; Bollywood norms of beauty at work.

  2. Ros

    @Sunita: That’s interesting. I’d thought, for some reason, that she was acquired by the India office and then picked up for the international market. I’ve got one of hers and one by Rita Lakhani in my TBR pile and I’m looking forward to them. I also noticed that the couple on the Indian cover are the whitest of all. :(

  3. Sunita

    I looked at her website and you may be right that she was acquired via an India search. But she was published globally starting with the first book, unlike the other Harlequin India authors, and I’m almost positive she was edited within the sweet romance line.

  4. Meoskop

    Aaannnnddd of course I misspelled Suleikha’s name. Because editing fail.

    Sunita, I thought you were discussing the book just prior to this one? If it was this one then the lack of religion is definitely through the whole book.

  5. Sunita

    Oops, you’re right, I have both this book and the previous one in my TBR and I mixed them up. Suleikha and I were talking about Secrets & Saris. I was confused because Narayanan gave us heroes named Nikhil and Neil, and Neil can be a nickname for Nikhil. Both are used a lot by parents who want an Indian name that can work in the west (although I’ve more often seen Neil spelled the Indian way, as Neel).

    I just read the first few pages of this one and it is even less Indian-feeling in its word choice and syntax than S&S. I guess it’s the KISS effect at work, because her first book (in the Harlequin Romance line in the US) had more Indian-language flavor in its cadence. I haven’t read enough of either this one or S&S to have an opinion on the treatment of religion.

  6. Ros

    I just read her ‘Take One Arranged Marriage’ and I really liked it a lot. I don’t know enough to say for sure but I’d guess it’s pretty Westernized too. I also read A Date With A Bollywood Star by Riya Lakhani, which is UK set, featuring a Manchester-born Bollywood star and a middle-class UK Asian heroine. Oddly, that had a more distinctive tone and cadence to my ears than the Indian-set book by Narayanan.