Published in the New Indian Express 

We all know this formula. It’s the ultimate pick-me-up in literary form, the classic love story. Boy meets girl, they fall madly in love (or lust), they are thwarted by society and circumstances, but true love conquers all.

So why read No Strings Attached? Because though Sheila Kumar doesn’t claim to have invented the wheel, she has definitely given it a charming new spin.
Using an easy style, she draws up a heroine and hero, who though blessed with movie star good looks, oodles of talent and sundry other wonderful qualities, are actually likable.

You might not know a half-Brit, half-Punju beauty named Nina Sabharwal, but you want to. Nina is neither a fainting damsel in distress nor a driven go-getter. She, like many other 20-somethings, is looking for her niche.

When our tale begins, she’s an integral part of the marketing department of a newspaper with the catchy name, ‘India!’ and like every other woman on staff, is crushing madly on our hero, the hot Rajput noble-turned-photographer Samar Pratap Singh.
Madonna-esque Nina (think classical art, not the queen of pop!) is the self-possessed M&B protagonist we all want to be.

As for Samar, he’s courageous enough to put himself on the line for love. He loves his elderly interfering relatives and is willing to put his life on hold to look after them. Though the two protagonists are fun, the real draw, in my opinion, are the quirky cast of characters who serve as foil for this love story. I especially enjoyed the various employees of India!

Of course, every piece has its villain, and there has never been a more delicious nemesis than Karishma Jhala, she of the stunning outfits, fabulous jewellery, perfect hair and flawless pedigree. I loved to hate this neurologist who could turn a simple introduction into a character assassination. Perhaps the best part of the book is that Nina’s perspective is so unique.

Though she was raised in England, she confidently navigates Bengaluru roads in her beat-up car, tackles the creeps, writes stories about potholes and Chinese belly dancers, and struggles to eat sambhar with her hands.  Hers is the perspective of someone who not only accepts the unique madness of India but loves it without judging it. We need more visitors like Nina. Hell, we need more Indians like Nina!

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