The Dowry Bride By Shobhan Bantwal

This is ok. I wish I could give it 2 1/2 stars, because the writing level is just... atrociously grade-school. (if she's going to be quoted as an 'award winning writer' anyway.)She needs a better editor, there is a lot of rambling (and I'm not talking about the interesting bits about culture and day-to-day life in India, I liked that. But how many times do we need to hear about the male protagonist changing into khaki shorts and a blue logo t-shirt and how he looked masculine in them? *sigh*)

The plot is nice, but again, a bit... elementary. I guessed 90% of it. And there's still this nagging feeling that how could a girl actually be an A student - all the way through college no less - and still be so... utterly uneducated, naive and emotionally immature? I'm sorry, but if you're poor, you at least learn street smarts and shortcuts in life, and you're way more jaded by the time you're 20. Poor girls do not end up acting like fawning Disney Princesses with a song in their heart and a 'can do' attitude to match their flawless looks.

If you really want some intelligent, articulate writing about India, read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Arranged Marriage (it's short stories.)

I don't want to completely bash this book, it has some lovely cultural knowledge and if you've never been introduced to Indian culture, it's a fairly unassuming beginners guide- the details flow with the prose. I have to applaud the author taking on the caste system and the whole idea of bride burnings - it's kind of a no-no topic (even a Midwestern WASP girl like me knows that.)
Shobhan Bantwal Disappointing. It's an interesting topic though: The dowry system is alive in India even today and brides whose families don't follow through on payment are often tortured and even murdered without consequence. The main character runs away from her husband and mother-in-law after finding out they're about to kill her. She runs to a male relative for protection, they fall in love, etc.

It was too light and fluffy--read it a couple of days. Most of the dialogue sounded like a bad soap opera. Very predictable, but rushed at the end. Not really sure why I even finished it--I guess I hoped it would get better. Shobhan Bantwal It was a nice read but nothing different or new about this story. And you had a hard time understanding what period this story took place sometimes given its modern setting with a traditional character background and unrest. Shobhan Bantwal
The Dowry Bride is the story of a young 21 year old girl who runs away from her home when she realizes that her in-laws and husband are trying to kill her. How she manages to survive; where does she find the support and help to fight the odds and win. The book cover was the first thing that attracted me to the book and of course the topic of dowry, an ill that ails our society. It is a very aesthetically pleasing cover and the fire on the cover following the footsteps of a bride was a big pull for me to read the book as was the story.

This is also a book that made me think and wonder what exactly I wanted to share in my review. The Dowry Bride is a reflection of our society, urging us to take action and change our ways.

The twist in the plot is when she finds refuge in the home of a relative of her husband who is secretly in love with her. Kunal comes across as a solid, sensible and calm guy. He is her glimmer of hope, the one supporter for Megha to start a new life. I enjoyed reading their interactions and discussions. The caring nature was just what she needed to blossom. He was truly her knight in shining armor.

The story very astutely highlights the pitfalls our young girls face. How a beautiful, educated girl gets married to a lying, spineless guy. The tyrannical mother-in-law and total lack of support from her own family add to her woes as does the never ending, back-breaking work. The society that looks upon young girls as burdens to be shed off, rather than to be nurtured as family members.

Shobhan paints a true picture, scores of women face all this and more through their lives, just surviving and hoping for a change. Many are not so lucky as Megha and countless have lost their lives. The book creates awareness about this heinous crime and shares the story that could have been any young girls.

The character of her mother-in-law, Amma and her spineless husband Suresh are well etched, realistic. The cruel streak in Chandramma is so obvious that even I felt quite upset and angry; any one would wish to move out. The diabolical plan devised by them both is the catalyst in Megha’s escape. It is true; fear is a big motivator as well as a hindrance. She runs but knows not what to do next. Her escape is temporary since her in-laws are still searching for her. The lack of Dowry, the greed for more money has ruined many a lives.

Megha herself is a strong girl; even though she feels unsure of herself yet with Kunal’s support she not only survives but also achieves her goals. The book works on many levels. The premise is excellent; the escape is adventures as is her acceptance of her feelings for Kunal. Add to it the struggle she faces, along with disapproving relatives makes for a good read. The book was a bit slow for me in the middle wherein she is just holed up at Kunal’s house. I felt as if she is not trying to do anything but the situation changes soon enough. vcfx
The book has excellent language and the conversations just flow.

The plot has a lot of hidden twists with Ajji, Kunal’s grandmother and Appaji who supported Megha even though he could not do much. Attacks, goons, spies and enough hidden secrets to put any Saas-Bahu serial to shame The Dowry Bride has a solid story as well. Meghna manages to survive but just; she starts living after she almost dies. Their presence makes a lot of difference to Megha’s future, as well as adding a human touch to her story.

The author ends the story on a optimistic note while sharing a message of positivity making it a very apt ‘feel good read’. The book evokes many emotions and even though it talks of an evil practice it left me with a encouraging frame of mind. A book with a message of hope and a whole lot of love.

(©InderpreetKaur. I got a copy of the book from Fingerprint Publishing, the views are my own.) Shobhan Bantwal The writing is terrible and it's so offensive in so many ways. The villains in this book are always dark skinned and fat (not to mention low caste or untouchable) while the good people are slim and fair. It's totally absurd, the only reason I finished it is because I was on the train and had nothing else to read. Shobhan Bantwal

One sultry night, a young bride overhears an extraordinary conversation. The voices speak of a plot to murder a wife who has failed to produce a child and whose family has failed to produce the promised dowry...

Megha is sick with horror when she realizes she is the intended victim. Her husband -- the very man who tied the sacred necklace of marriage around her neck -- and his mother are plotting to kill her! In the moment of panic, she runs for her life. Frantically racing through Palgaum's deserted streets, her way lit only by the lights strung up for the Diwali festival, her single goal is to escape death by fire. But fleeing from her would-be-killers seems impossible -- unless she can find someone to help her...

To approach her best friend would bring scandal to an innocent woman's doorstep, and turning to her own strict, conservative family is out of the question. Instead, with nothing but the sari she wears and a memory of kindness, Megha finds her way to Kiran, the one man who has shown her friendship and respect. Hiding her in his apartment, Kiran becomes her protector. But the forbidden attraction that grows between them can only bring more danger...

Caught between tradition and the truths buried in her heart, a dowry bride will discover the real cost of the only things worth having in life... The Dowry Bride

Dowry associated murders – a social issue that ended up being the fodder for many writers who weaved tales and did their bit to garner attention towards it. Naturally, the beautiful cover and the summary piqued my interest and upped my expectation. Sadly, the story fell flat on its face and didn’t exactly stand up to it.

Our protagonist, 21 year old Megha escapes from her house when she accidentally hears her mother in law plotting her murder for obvious reasons. She manages to escape and ends up seeking refuge in the house of one man from her husband’s family who actually treated her like a proper human being – Kunal – her husband’s cousin. They are mutually attracted to each other. Forbidden fruit does taste good though it just complicates the already messy situation that Megha is in. What does fate have in store for them? Or are they the harbinger of their own fate?

Characterization is one thing that irked me from the start. The portrayal of the “Evil” mother in law, the indifferent husband – seems too stereotypical. Being attracted to a compassionate human is one thing, but that thread of the story somehow ended up being justified better than the mother-in-law’s (chandramma) motive to kill Megha. The motive behind the plot to murder Megha seemed a bit too unconvincing. Megha’s and her father in law’s character stood out and made that lasting impression making up for the shortfalls of the other character. The story as such was just a bit above average, though the writing was perfect with each character emoting perfectly. The writing was the only reason I was compelled to finish the book. The climax is probably the highlight of this book. The writer pleasantly surprised me with an unconventional climax that is uncharacteristic of a romance story. “Contemporary” would be the apt word to describe it! A bit of conviction and depth to the actual issue at hand – dowry burning- would have added the much needed dimension to the book.

MY SAY: With a topic of an immense scope and perfect writing, the story could have been far better.


PLOT : 7/10



BOREDOM QUOTIENT: 3/10 (lower the better)

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10 Shobhan Bantwal Reviewed for THC Reviews
For some reason, of late, I seem to have developed an interest in Indian culture. I’m not entirely sure why as India isn’t a place I’ve ever aspired to go in person, but I’ve discovered that I do enjoy being transported there within the pages of a good story. Since romance is my favorite fiction genre, I’m always on the lookout for a romance set in India or with Indian characters. Shobhan Bantwal came to my attention for two reasons: First she’s a local author in my area, and second, we both attended the same writer’s conference a few years back. While I don’t recall “officially” meeting her, I did take notice of her when she talked a little about her books in one of the classes I took. Consequently, when I got home, I immediately looked her up and decided to put The Dowry Bride on my TBR list, because it sounded quite fascinating. I’ve always been interested in the practices of other cultures as well as the darker side of life, and those are exactly the topics around which this book is centered. I have to commend the author for taking a hard look inside the persistence of the dowry system in India, despite it being outlawed, and the despicable practice of bride burning. These things alone made for an intriguing and suspenseful read that was only made all the more appealing by the inclusion of a sweet romantic element.

Megha is a typical young Indian wife who entered into an arranged marriage. She didn’t really want to marry her husband, but she was left with little other choice. After making good matches for their two older daughters and paying their dowries, her parents could ill-afford to do the same for her, so she ended up getting the short end of the stick, so to speak. They settled for the first young man to come along who was willing to take a beautiful bride in exchange for a much smaller than average dowry. Unfortunately, Megha is now stuck with the mother-in-law from hell, a dominating shrew who abuses her and treats her like nothing more than a servant. Her husband is a spineless momma’s boy who harbors no affection for Megha at all and barely touches her except to treat her like a sex slave. When her parents are unable to produce the dowry after one year of marriage and Megha hasn’t produced a child either, her MIL and husband conspire to do her in via bride burning. Fortunately Megha overhears their heinous plotting just in time and runs for her life.

I really felt deeply for Megha in her circumstances. Because of her culture and religion, she has few options for escape. She fears her parents would just send her back to her husband and to go to her sisters or best friend would bring shame and potential danger upon their households. Life for a woman on her own in India is a dangerous prospect at best, especially for one like Megha who hasn’t yet finished her higher education and has few marketable job skills. In this way, the story is reminiscent of historical romances, because of how repressed and backward the culture in India can be. It’s a very paternalistic society in which women are often oppressed. I had to give Megha mad props for at least trying to be a good wife and daughter-in-law. Even though she received nothing but scorn and abuse from her family by marriage, she did her work without complaint, maintained a good attitude, and even developed a little affection for her husband. I did wish sometimes that she would be a little more open and stop heaping so much guilt on her own head for things that weren’t her fault, but I realized I was applying a little too much of my Western sensibilities to her. She was merely a product of her culture and upbringing, and by the end, she’s beginning to blossom and come into her own. What she had to go through to get there made me very angry for her, and IMHO just went to show that fundamentalism in all it’s forms (religious or secular) is a dangerous thing to the well-being of people and the progress of society.

Luckily, Megha has a wonderful protector and ally in her husband’s cousin, Kiran. I love the fairy tale knight in shining armor, and Kiran is definitely that. Far from being blinded by familial connections, he already sees his cousin and aunt for what they are. He’s also been in love with Megha from afar since the day he met her, so he’s more than happy to hide her and protect her from a deadly threat when she comes seeking his help. Kiran was perfect in every way, and everything I love in a romantic hero: kind, caring, compassionate, patient, loving, understanding, supportive, passionate. I could go on extolling his virtues, but I’ll stop there. I adored him not only for giving Megha a much-needed safe refuge, but most of all for wanting to marry her as soon as she was free of her husband and not caring what society might think of him for marrying a divorcée, and not just any divorced woman, but his own cousin-in-law. Kiran gave Megha more love and acceptance than she’d ever experienced in her life, while also giving her the space and freedom to spread her wings and fly, which in my view, is exactly how a man should treat a woman.

I’ve noticed this book has rather mediocre ratings at online book sites. Not having read any of the reviews yet, I’m not sure why, but IMHO, it deserves better. It admittedly wasn’t perfect for me. It did take a little while for me to become accustomed to the author’s writing style, but once I did, it was an easy read. Ms. Bantwal has a rather narrative heavy style, with a tendency to perhaps go a little overboard with the rhetorical questions in the characters’ introspections. Occasionally she also treads a little more into telling rather than showing territory, and she also explores other character perspectives that made me a little anxious to get back to the romance. However, this was the author’s first novel, so I felt it was a great initial effort. The only other thing that could have been a little better for me was the ending. I’m not sure how the book was originally marketed, but I came to learn of it through romance channels. Therefore, I was expecting a traditional HEA, which isn’t quite what happens. Instead, it has a strong HFN ending, with things gradually falling into place for our happy couple to get that HEA down the road in the somewhat near future. We just don’t see it happen in the book. It’s more about Megha coming into her own and finding herself, with the romance playing a part in that. So as a romance fan, I would have preferred for them to have a more solid HEA, but I still turned the final page confident that it will happen for them someday because they’re still so much in love and committed to one another in spite of the roadblocks they’ve had to overcome.

Otherwise, The Dowry Bride was a lovely story that I enjoyed reading. Although Megha has a tendency to beat herself up a little too much, she’s still a very sympathetic and relatable character. Kiran is the proverbial fairy tale prince, who I fell madly in love with. Their romance is sweet and tender with a strong emotional connection, just the way I like it. I came away from reading it, feeling like I learned something about Indian culture and social issues, which is always a plus. So for anyone who enjoys other cultures and is looking for a romantic story that’s a little outside the norm, I would definitely recommend The Dowry Bride. It may have been my first read by Shobhan Bantwal, but I’ll certainly be looking into reading more of her work.

Note: For sensitive readers, there is one scene in which Kiran and Megha are technically cheating on her husband. In my view, though, the husband gave up all rights to Megha the minute he started plotting her demise, but for those who are sticklers and can’t stand cheating of any kind, I thought it worth mentioning. Shobhan Bantwal 2.5 stars

Although she seems a little too naive and she makes some really dumb decisions over the course of the book, I admired Megha's determination to make a new life for herself in the end. She really breaks free of the restraints placed upon her by her family and her in-laws. As a love interest, Kiran is alternately likeable and controlling. He is there for Megha and does his best to protect her and equip her for life on her own but at the same time he can be a little condescending. I found him to be a somewhat contradictory character but a decent one. We see the story through his eyes as well as Megha's. His devotion is touching in the face of his cousin and family's mistreatment of her.

The villains of the book are Chandramma and her apathetic son. Unfortunately both are flat characters that come across as caricatures. Chandramma reminds me of the over-the-top villains found in some Bollywood films. An attempt is made to explain just why Chandramma behaves the way she does but it doesn't really work. The reader is left with no sympathy for her character or understanding of her motives save madness.

The Dowry Bride tackles the topic of bride burning and the dowry system in modern India. The book starts off suspensefully with Megha finding out about her evil mother-in-law's plan and fleeing into the night. It had the potential to be a moving novel about an important issue but instead it changes focus to the forbidden attraction between Megha and Kiran. There were times when the story devolved into a romance novel, describing just how much the characters lusted after each other. The writing style could be irritating, particularly the awkward dialogue and Kiran's voice in the novel. There is good material here but the execution could have been a little better. Still, the story makes you feel for Megha and her plight. Her decisions in the end show how much she has grown.

Readalikes: Sharmila's Book by Bharti Kirchner, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Shobhan Bantwal I find that there's a tendency to ignore this issue, of dowry killings - young wives burned or otherwise murdered to allow men to remarry and get another dowry - and it's great to see someone using the romance genre to make an important statement. Shobhan Bantwal This book reads like a novela and I loved it! It starts off with a wife waking up to find her husband and mother in law plotting to burn her alive over not receiving a dowry!!! She runs away but obviously can’t go home or to friends because that’s the first place they will look for her! She ends up going to her husbands cousin who has always been kind to her. This book has so many twists and although I truly enjoyed reading it I felt it was a bit longer than it needed to be. This is the perfect vacation, beach or chill weekend read! It won’t disappoint I promise! Shobhan Bantwal

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