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"Siri, why am I still single?" : a super long Rebel Hard review

Rebel Hard
by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #2
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: September 18th 2018
Source: ARC received for review
Rating: ★★★★★

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New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Hard Play series with a sweet, sexy romance featuring big, fat, OTT weddings, a meddling grandma, and a too-serious hero who needs to be unbuttoned...

Nayna Sharma agreed to an arranged marriage in the hope it would heal the fractures in her beloved family... only to realize too late that a traditional marriage is her personal nightmare. Panicked, she throws caution to the winds, puts on the tiniest dress she can find, and ends up in the arms of a tall, rough-edged hunk of a man who has abs of steel—and who she manages to mortally insult between one kiss and the next.

Abandoned as a child, then adopted into a loving family, Raj Sen believes in tradition, in continuity. Some might call him stiff and old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants—and it’s a life defined by rules...yet he can’t stop thinking about the infuriating and sexy woman who kissed him in the moonlight then disappeared. When his parents spring an introduction on him, the last woman he expects is her. Beautiful. Maddening. A rulebreaker in the making.

He’s all wrong for her. She’s all wrong for him. And love is about to make rebels of them both.

Okay so if you've been following my posts or tweets, then you'll probably know that Nalini Singh is a new-to-me author I've started reading early this year, and I've been a huge fan ever since. After devouring her paranormal works and loving her angels, vampires, and changelings, it's only right that I venture into her contemporary works as well.

Rebel Hard is my first, and holy shit it's SO GOOD. I basically said that about almost every Nalini book I've read so who's surprised? Not me, obviously.

The plot of Rebel Hard revolved around arranged marriage, something that is not unsual in brown cultures. Malays* have done it too, though not so much in the recent years.

I love Nayna with all my heart, and it's so easy to root for her happiness. Her parents have been working hard to find a suitable husband for her, and while she was okay with it in the beginning, Nayna is feeling more and more suffocated by it all lately. She has always been the Good Girl in the family. She keeps her head down, always plays by the rules, and never does anything that could bring shame to her parents, not after how her older sister Madhuri ruined the family's good name a decade or so ago.

I totally get why Nayna wanted to rebel. I relate to her struggles to be the perfect daughter to her parents versus her wanting to carve her own path and live her life for her, not for family. Luckily her one night of rebel led her to Raj, who turned out to be another one of her parents' prospects for her. The prospect.

My one night of rebel? Hasn't happened yet, and I doubt that it would lead me to a Raj so what's even the point?

Moving on.

Raj is a dreamboat, by the way. I fell for him so hard, and so did Nayna though she sort of struggled with it in the beginning. Raj is described as a serious and traditional guy. He wants the whole package: a loving wife, kids, white picket fence, so much that he agreed to his parents' matchmaking efforts. He and Nayna hit it off right away the night they made, and although that night didn't end well, the thoughts of Nayna kept haunting him until they met again, this time as each other's match.

Raj knew instantly that he wanted her for keeps this time.

Their relationship development is my favourite thing about this book. Raj decided to court Nayna while he waited for her to make a decision, and I appreciated that he wasn't pushy about the whole marriage thing. He didn't play fair, though; Raj fully capitalized on the intense attraction between him and Nayna, and he basically seduced her all the time, LOL. They just have so much chemistry and fun together. I love the shirtless selfies Raj sent to Nayna (he knew he had a great body and made use of it, smart man), and how he made an effort to read Pride and Prejudice because it was Nayna's favourite book. He was also so good with Nayna's family, especially Nayna's grandmother.

Dream. Fucking. Boat.

Nayna grew so much in her relationship with Raj. She's had a moment of reckoning with her parents in which she explained her need to break away from the path she has been in, and I was so proud of her. I love that Raj understood her fears and did his best to alleviate them, and made an effort to show that she could trust him with her dreams. He was so understanding of Nayna's need to fly, and he was careful not to chain her.

Raj watched Nayna sleep that night and knew he might be the architect of his own heartbreak. The Nayna she was now wanted him, but the Nayna she became as she found her wings... that Nayna might decide a man so rooted in tradition and culture wasn't the man she wanted by her side. (...)

So he would tell her of his love only in the midnight hours, when she slept in his arms. He'd help her fly... and hope she'd choose to fly to him. 

Nayna's inability to make a decision, though, is so understandable. She knew she was attracted to Raj, wanted him more than her next breath, but she also wasn't sure about marriage as a whole. She wanted to do so many more things, and she was scared that her dreams would take the backseat to Raj's wants after she married him.

A lot of those fears actually resonated with me, I highlighted so many of Nayna's thoughts re: marriage because wow, somebody actually put my feelings into coherent words??? Amazing.

But Nayna had no idea what she wanted from life. Him, she wanted him. But not the tradition that had begun to feel like ropes around her, cutting off her air. Not the implicit defined patterns of behavior. Not the rigidly limited choices. The very things that centered Raj were her worst nightmare.

Nayna had no right to put her dreams over his.

Not gonna lie, I cried after that bit because SAME.

I also love the secondary characters in Rebel Hard. Nayna's Aji was a riot, I want to be her when I grow up. I even ended up liking Madhuri and rooting for her happiness. I also love Raj's sister Aditi and Nayna's best friend Isa.

Overall, Rebel Hard is such an amazing ride! It's a whole new experience for me, and I totally recommend this book to everyone.

*Now, if my mother could take a cue from the Sharmas and find me a Raj Sen instead of some randos she's been showing me pictures of, that would be great. 

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