Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

Reviewed by Sara

Book 2 of Nalini Singh Hard Play series, Rebel Hard is a vibrant and lovely Contemporary Romance that follows the lives of Raj Sen and Nayna Sharma as they grow together in the midst of, or in spite of, cultural traditions and personal dreams.

Nayna Sharma, began the path to an arranged marriage as a way to heal the hurts in her family caused by her older sister’s less than traditional life choices, but while her motives are pure, she feels more and more like she’s caging herself and burying long held dreams. Raj, on the other hand, loves the steadfastness of Indian tradition and longs for the stability he believes it will bring to his life. After a disastrous first meeting, Nayna and and Raj attempt a more modern style of dating and find their hearts, and hormones, quickly involved. As the two face personal and familial trials, Nayna works to show Raj that she can be a safe place and strong tower for him to run to, and Raj, in turn, works to show Nayna that his embrace isn’t a cage meant to hem her in but a support for when times get tough.

First off, as white Canadian, with a very WASP-y heritage, I really loved that so much of Nayna and Raj’s heritage was included in Rebel Hard. The Indian culture was so much a part of the story that it could easily be considered another character. Weddings, food, traditional dress, Bollywood, as well as more subtle cultural aspects like meddling aunties, parental expectations for their children and grandchildren and simple day to day cultural differences were the backbone of the book. The highlighting of tradition and culture and the fact that it was so organically part of the story really created a very vibrant and colorful (literally and figuratively) experience. By the end of the book, I felt very honored that an author would share so much of her culture.

One aspect of Indian tradition that is central to the story is arranged marriage. In Western European culture and certainly in my experience of hearing and reading about arranged marriages, the concept is often looked at as this dubious, lurid practice. It’s easy to remember hearing stories of young women arranged to marry lecherous old men and to assume that’s the norm for arranged marriages and not the exception. In Rebel Hard, Nalini Singh writes about arranged marriage with an insider perspective and it shows in the way the whole things is discussed. Both Raj and Nayna agree to an arranged marriage of their own free will and having seen their own parents and many of their peers thrive in marriages that were arranged for them. They’re both looking for stability, Nayna for her family and Raj for himself and see that this can happen through a more traditional approach to marriage. The book doesn’t candy coat arranged marriage and shows that while it may not be perfect, it’s not necessarily the demeaning and horrible practice that Westerners have been led believe and may even offer a certain level of honesty that Western love matches have been fooling themselves about having.

In many Romances, marriage is the penultimate destination for characters and while Rebel Hard deals a lot with the idea of marriage and partnership, after having read it, I really felt that the personal journey to the characters, specifically Nayna, was where the emphasis was placed. Nayna has always been the good daughter and has never really let loose and found herself. Rebel Hard spends a great deal of time with Raj helping Nayna to find who she is before they embark on couplehood. I found this to be lovely and enjoyed watching Raj, who genuinely cares about Nayna, offer assistance and support as she grows, even with the knowledge that at the end of everything she may decide to leave him. Of course she doesn’t and their happily ever after is even more wonderful because readers know that Nayna is choosing Raj for herself and not out of what she believes to be a familial obligation.

Rebel Hard was a fantastic love story, a beautiful cultural exposition and a joy to read. I literally held my Kindle to my chest and had a swoon-type moment when I finished it. I highly recommend it.

Rating: A+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Rebel Hard
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: September 18, 2018

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