Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: India

For American actress Rebecca Bradley, it is the role of a lifetime: She will star as a 1920s debutante in a film shot entirely on location at a magnificent English country house. The remote setting and high walls of Astbury Hall will provide a much needed refuge from the media glare that surrounds her every move. When Lord Anthony Astbury sees Rebecca in costume, he is stunned by her uncanny resemblance to his grandmother Violet. And when Rebecca discovers a manuscript written by a young Indian woman who visited Astbury Hall in the 1920s, she learns of a love affair so passionate and forbidden it nearly destroyed the Astbury family; a secret Lord Astbury himself does not know. As Rebecca is increasingly cut off from the modern world, Violet’s presence starts to make itself felt in unsettling ways. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life and inspire a romance for the ages. As Rebecca tries to understand her connection to a tragic love affair sixty years in the past, the story of Donald, Anahita, and Violet unspools to its own shocking conclusion. For Rebecca to find a way back to the life she was meant to lead, she will have to put to rest the ghosts of Lord Anthony’s ancestors or risk repeating their downfall herself. (From

Bubby: Yummy, yummy, yummy. Like a chocolate dipped macaroon – but better – The Midnight Rose is rich, deep, dark and delicious. I loved the intertwining of the stories – actress Rebecca’s doomed relationship, Lord Anthony’s secrets, Ari’s life-changing decisions and of course, the long ago romance between Anahita and Lord Astbury. It’s like “Downton Abbey” meets “The Far Pavilions” meets “Beverly Hills 90210”. Awesome.

Sissy: Great metaphor, Bubby. I completely agree. This book starts at the very end of the story and then jumps back and forth between stories and ages. I generally get uneasy when a book starts at the end, because then I think “Who cares? Why should I read this if I already know the end?” The answer to this question, however, is that by reading the book, you learn the whole story and all of the delicious twists and secrets therein. Then the ending you thought you knew looks completely different in context of all you’ve learned.

Bubby: Let’s just talk about the end, shall we? Never in a bazillion years would I have predicted the REAL ending of The Midnight Rose. Let’s just say that there are multiple surprises awaiting you! I so wish I could say more, but I wouldn’t want to be a spoilsport!

Sissy: There’s also a sickly entertaining sociopathic interlude for one of the supporting characters.

Bubby: Yes, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!

Sissy: Actually, it reminded me of early Mary Higgins Clark. But that’s just one small secondary storyline. So disturbing that I was disturbed that I liked it! The main character Anahita’s life is so exotic, exciting, rich and lush and Lucinda Riley writes it like full color cinematography. It reminded me of the when I was 11 except for not so exciting or rich.

Bubby: What was so exotic about when you were 11? Isn’t that the year you moved to Idaho?

Sissy: It was one of the years we lived in Fiji (those years when Bubby spent the entire time naked) where more than half the population was of Indian descent. So the foods, the clothes, the smells, the memories were evoked by The Midnight Rose. The only things missing were the maharajahs, wealth, castles, and servants.  Also I did not have a nose jewel, although the neighbor asked my mom if I could and she said no.  Where was the fun in that?  This book is a fabulous saga rich in contrasts–wealth and poverty, love and heartbreak, India and England, fame and ignominy, etc.  It is something I imagine as a movie, with one of those breathtaking Bollywood starlets in the main role and Kate Beckinsale as the beleaguered actress Rebecca.

Bubby: Oh, it would make a fabulous movie! And just for the record, I was NOT naked. I usually had at least a diaper on. Usually. I loved The Midnight Rose so much that I went out and bought myself another Lucinda Riley book – for full price! 4 bubbles from me!

Sissy: Maharani Sissy gives it 4.5 bubbles. And an elephant.

Click HERE to buy The Midnight Rose at

We received a copy of The Midnight Rose from the publisher in return for a fair review. No other considerations, monetary or otherwise, were given.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013

Retired government clerk Mr. Ali is driving Mrs. Ali crazy, and so he decides to start a business—a marriage bureau for rich people.  He hangs up a sign and places an ad, and soon, his business is flourishing.  The business brings plenty of excitement to the lives of the Alis—overly specific requirements, challenging customers, mysterious clients—enough so that Mr. Ali hires an assistant, Aruna.  Busy arranging other people’s lives, the Ali’s and Aruna shouldn’t be surprised when fate decides to rearrange their lives too!

Bubby:  I know, I know—we just did a book set in India.  But this book fell into my hands at Barnes and Noble, and I just couldn’t help myself.  Plus, I had Indian food this past weekend, so perhaps I was under the influence.

Sissy:  And you know me—free books (purchased by Bubby) and I’m in!  Also the cover is all scrolly with gold leaf dots and henna hands and very India motif-y in pink, orange, and blue.  Who can resist such a thing?

Bubby:  The very concept of an arranged marriage has always seemed bizarre to me.  I’m pretty sure that’s because my parents’ choice for me would probably have been scary, and not nearly as good as what I chose for myself.  However, as my children get older, I begin to see the wisdom in such arrangements! I love how Farahad Zama throws you right into the deep end of Indian culture—it seems that not a lot has changed in the past several hundred years.  Zama makes no excuses and doesn’t overly explain things—he just assumes you know that’s the way it is.

Sissy:  Yes—things like living with the groom’s parents, adhering to traditional dress, customs, rituals, and foods, dowry and caste system requirements (both illegal)—give us a fascinating look into the world of Indian marriage.  The descriptions of both Muslim and Hindu weddings are very interesting.  Who knew, for example, that in a traditional Brahmin wedding the groom dresses like an austere monk and tries to renounce marriage in pre-ceremony ritual? Or that silver or gold toe rings are placed on the bride’s feet by the groom?

Bubby: I must say my favorite character in the book is a tossup between Mr. Ali’s assistant Aruna and Mrs. Ali.  My favorite line in the book is when Mr. Ali bets Mrs. Ali that she can’t find him an assistant and she says when she wins he must take her out to dinner—not some cheap place, but rather “I want Tandoori chicken!”  she says.  Yes, Mrs. Ali, we all want tandoori chicken.  I love how both Aruna and Mrs. Ali are both very traditional Indian women yet are articulate, intelligent, and have sparkling personalities.

Sissy:  How about yummy Ramanujam?  I won’t tell you what happens with this erstwhile client, but he is straight out of a Bollywood film.  The Marriage Bureau for Rich People started out slow for me but after a few chapters I became invested in the characters and found it to be a delightful story.  Don’t be put off by all our descriptions in the beginning of this review—the culture and flavor of India just weave through this tale and make it colorful and interesting.

Bubby:  I, too, loved Ramanujam.  He is every inch the Indian prince charming.  I advise that before you begin to read this debut novel by Farahad Zama you Google the exchange rate from rupees to dollars.  Guaranteed you will feel very rich, even compared to some of the “rich people” described in the book.  The storytelling, characterizations, and descriptions are delightful and I am interested to read more from this author.

Sissy:  The tale of a matchmaking service in modern-day India certainly opens one’s eyes to how different things still are when you go from the West to the East in the world.  I can’t believe you haven’t mentioned, Bubby, how an Indian gentleman we knew in California once offered our dad $10,000 for me to marry his son.  Dad was speechless and mom nearly went after the guy with her steak knife!

Bubby:  Oh yes—that was a missed opportunity for you, Sissy!  I can see it now—you in your sari living in the home of Mr. and Mrs. M-

Sissy:  Perish the thought!  Horrifying!  I would have taken all the gold bangles and toe rings and run off to Northern Canada (that’s just the most non-India place I can think of).

Bubby:  I thoroughly enjoyed “The Marriage Bureau for Rich People” by Farahad Zama.  I escaped from my white-bread American winter blahs and basked in a mango-scented reverie.  I give it 3 ½ Bubbles.

Sissy:  Earth to mango-scented crazy town:  time to shovel the walks!  I too enjoyed the book, and also give it 3 1/ 2 Bubbles.

Click HERE to buy The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama at

Click HERE to buy The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama at

@2013 Bubble Bath Books