By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor
When I’m deep into a book, I don’t often process how an author treats setting. Some rely so much on character and dialogue, readers barely notice where the story takes place.
Then there are authors like Shobhan Bantwal, who elevate setting into an art form. In "The Sari Shop Widow," Bantwal’s gorgeous writing and careful attention to sensory detail transported me to another world. Just a few pages in, you can practically smell the saffron and cardamom wafting from the family kitchen, run your fingers over the cool silk saris in the heroine’s shop, and admire their dazzlingly brilliant hues. But it’s the story itself that truly dazzles.
Anjali Kapadia is a young widow who has moved back in with her Indian-American parents since her husband’s premature death. It’s a decision made from equal parts tradition and practicality, not because she’s hiding from the world. Even though the pain of losing a spouse never goes away, Anjali has taken charge of her life, dedicating herself to updating her family’s sari shop into an innovative, chic boutique catering to Edison, New Jersey’s Indian population.
But just when her boutique is starting to show some promise, her parents blindside her with bad news: Due to her father’s poor financial decisions, the boutique is in serious trouble. Anjali is in danger of losing the center of her world for the second time in her young life.
Desperate times require desperate measures, so her parents call in Anjali’s rich uncle, who flies from India to bail them out in exchange for a majority share in Silk & Sapphires. But Anjali wonders if saving the shop is worth the price—Jeevan is boorish, overbearing, and not a little selfish. To her, it feels too much like a deal with the devil.
Especially when that devil brings along his business partner Rishi Shah to help overhaul the shop. Number one, the fact that he’s partnered with her self-centered uncle probably means she’ll be dealing with two overbearing alpha males for the price of one. Number two, Rishi is sure to mess with Anjali’s carefully thought out business plan, turning her dream of a one-of-a-kind boutique into a cookie-cutter chain. Number three, Rishi is much too handsome and confident for his own good, and the obvious attraction between them makes her really nervous.
As they all work together, Anjali is surprised by how much Rishi respects her ideas for the shop—everything he proposes reinforces her creative plans, rather than crushing them. He’s a calming force on her over-the-top uncle, and just as brilliant in business as Jeevan had promised he’d be.
But then he turns his charisma—not to mention a pair of striking green eyes—in her direction, and Anjali’s first impulse is to bolt. Can she trust Rishi with her fragile heart, when all signs point to the fact that he’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy—one who’s set to return to the other side of the world in a matter of weeks?
"The Sari Shop Widow" is an emotionally complex, beautifully told tale of a quirky, tight-knit-family; a strong heroine who’s been through more than her share of emotional trauma; and the one man who can complete her already full life. You’re in for a treat when you …
Buy the book.
I confess, I’ve never been a fan of romances where a business partnership figures prominently in the plot, but The Sari Shop Widow gripped me from page one. Have you ever been surprised by a book, where you expected to be sort of “meh” about it and ended up passionately loving it? What turned the tide for you?