Feb 5 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Suleikha Snyder’s Bollywood and the Beast (February 11, 2014)

Suleikha Snyder
Bollywood and the Beast
Samhain / February 11, 2014 / $4.50 digital

American-born ingénue Rakhee “Rocky” Varma knows a career in Bollywood is no fairy tale, but that truth hits home when her outspoken nature lands her in hot water with the media.

Banished to her leading man’s crumbling mansion on the outskirts of Delhi until things cool down, she is wholly unprepared to meet her costar’s reclusive brother, Taj Ali Khan. Taj, a former action hero until a stunt gone horribly wrong ended his career, wears a cape of scars and a crown of rudeness.

As his cynicism collides with her determination to stick it out in Bollywood no matter what, sparks fly. But little do they know that demons not of their making may turn their fiery, fragile connection to ash. And it will take more than sheer grit to face down the most frightening monsters of all—the ones inside themselves.

Bollywood is the perfect setting for a romance with its glamour and emphasis on appearances, as demonstrated by Suleikha Snyder's Bollywood and the Beast. Bollywood's a fantasy world where reality and illusion coexist and then when heroine Rocky goes to stay in the Beast’s castle, the whole story takes on a magical feel, one that allows anything to happen.

With Rocky as a guide, it’s easy to see behind the façade of the Hindi movie industry. Things aren’t easy or even always fair. There’s no musical number to provide the solution. She’s new to the Bollywood scene and new to Mumbai. The other rising starlets are all too happy to point out to Rocky how she doesn’t fit in, either in Bollywood or in India, her new home. But Rocky is well named—she’s a fighter who refuses to be cowed by their little games.

“Leave it to the big girls,” Leela added. Leela, who couldn’t be more than a handful of years older than her. “This is our world, hia na, Rocky?”

“No. No, it’s not.” Where the strength came to just flat-out say it came from she didn’t know. Theater classes on voice and expression? Her mother ordering around porters and drivers? Telling off guys who got a little too grabby on the first date? “It’s my world, too.” She took one sure step, the Louboutins obeying her silent plea to follow her command, and tilted the remnants of her tonic down the front of Leela’s bright pink minidress.

There has been a surge of fairy tale romances the last couple of years. Some are so altered that their inspiration is hardly recognizable. And some like, Suleikah Snyder’s Bollywood and the Beast, hew so closely to their inspiration that the love story takes on an almost mythical quality. Snyder’s authorial voice is qual parts wicked wit and thoughtful observation. So the fairy tale motifs of walled off castles and delicate roses and growling beasts weave through the story. Even the characters themselves see the parallels.

Taj is damaged, scarred inside and out by his past. His younger brother has taken his place in the world, even going so far as to take over Taj’s movie roles after his disfiguring accident. Taj is alone in his misery, despite being surrounded by family. He’s locked himself away, never leaving the safety of his family’s compound.

The fairy story had all its players in place. Even the true hero—his golden little brother, who never faced the consequences of any action, who could touch fire and never, ever be burned. But there were no happily ever afters. There was only reality.

Rocky needs all her fierceness to confront the snarling monster waiting for her Delhi. And so the Beast storms around the gardens, tending to his roses, but he can’t help but fall in love with Beauty, even when he knows what a mistake that will be. A mistake for both of them. She gives him all of her sweetness and kisses and light but he clings to the shadows of his past.

But this is a fairy tale, so, of course, there really is a happily ever after.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder, available February 11, 2014:

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Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.

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