Monday, September 03, 2007

A Perfect 10: THE DOWRY BRIDE by Shobhan Bantwal

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THE DOWRY BRIDE - Shobhan Bantwal
A Perfect 10
Kensington Trade Paperback
ISBN-10: 0-7582-2031-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-2031-6
September 2007
Contemporary Fiction

Palgaum, India - Present Day

Megha Ramnath has been married for just a year, and it hasn't been a happy one. The marriage that her parents arranged for her has been tainted by her mother-in-law, the overbearing and cruel Amma and the husband who was chosen for her, the weak, homely Suresh. Megha is nothing more than a servant to her in-laws and husband, and must endure constant ridicule from Amma, especially since Megha has not yet conceived, and her father has not paid the Ramnaths her dowry. But Megha never imagined that her mother-in-law and her son would cook up a plan to murder her so that Suresh could find a wife with a larger dowry. In the dark of night, Megha hears and sees the horrors the mother and son have planned for her, and she flees for her life.

Afraid to return to her parents who would be obligated to give her back to her husband, Megha runs to the only person who has been nice to her in the past year, Suresh's cousin, Kiran. He hides her in his apartment, horrified at the story she tells him, and Kiran vows to protect Megha from his aunt and cousin. Ever since Suresh and Megha's wedding, when Kiran first saw the girl, Kiran has admired her beauty and intelligence, wondering how she ended up wed to such a weak, lazy man. Will he be able to keep his relatives from finding her? Kiran's kindness and caring slowly begin to ease Megha's terror. How can she ever repay him?

THE DOWRY BRIDE is Shobhan Bantwal's first novel, and it's an incredible beginning. Writing of her native land, Ms. Bantwal has given western readers a peek into a land that has always been slightly mysterious and magical to some of us. Her knowledge of traditions, religion, and both the brighter and darker sides of India leap off the pages of this excellent, beautifully composed story. Megha is a modern, well educated woman who has been dealt a bad hand. She is respectful of her family and her in-laws, abiding by the customs, until it becomes too dangerous for her. Kiran is the consummate hero who wants nothing more than to keep Megha safe. The villains are truly that, and Amma will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of freeing Suresh of his wife. Will she succeed?

For a very exciting, enlightening, and entertaining way to start your autumn reading, do not miss THE DOWRY BRIDE. It's a real page turner!

Jani Brooks

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