Saturday, October 9, 2021

Review: A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
A Holly Jolly Diwali cover
ISBN: 9780593100950
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She's always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she's always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she's laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn't exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.

Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it's the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.

When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

Sonya Lalli sweeps readers away from rainy Seattle to bustling Mumbai to the beaches of Goa in A Holly Jolly Diwali. More than a romance, this is a story of our heroine, Niki Randhawa’s personal journey. It’s a love story, yes, but also a story of family, friends, culture, and finding your own path.

Niki is at a crossroads in her life at the beginning of this story. She just lost her stable, unexciting job, and is wrestling with wanting to be the “good daughter” while resenting the life her sister has by not tying herself to their parents’ expectations. After being laid off, Niki impulsively books a trip to Mumbai for her best friend’s wedding. She arrives just in time for Diwali and it’s then that her journey begins. A Holly Jolly Diwali is very much about Niki’s personal journey. She’s doesn’t know that much about her parents’ homeland and when she travels to India she’s full of questions and observations. She’s bright, inquisitive, and – most importantly – imperfect. Her experiences in Mumbai and Goa are colored by her own biases and I liked that Lalli showed Niki’s growth and recognition of that.

On Diwali, Niki is swept off her feet by Sam, a handsome musician based out of London. I liked Sam and the glimpses we saw of his character. He was funny and perfect, but Lalli kept giving out bits and pieces of Sam’s own journey and family history that made me want more. The book is exclusively in Niki’s point of view which didn’t always work because we missed out on some much-needed depth that Sam’s perspective could have helped provide. The romance was where A Holly Jolly Diwali faltered for me. Niki and Sam have instant attraction and the sweeping, rom-com type situations they find themselves in don’t necessarily made the “I love yous” feel organic. Parts of the love story felt shallow (even though I liked Niki and Sam together) and it’s possible this was on purpose to show how Niki building castles in the air was a problem. I liked that it was presented as such but there was still something missing for me in the resolution of the romance; I wanted a bit more depth to mix in with the fantasy. Still, even with this issue I liked A Holly Jolly Diwali. Lalli ended the story with a great mix of following your passion while keeping a foot in reality. I really liked where Sam and Niki ended up and I’m looking forward to Jasmine Randhawa’s story.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.