Review: A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev + Giveaway

Review: A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev + GiveawayA Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Pages: 352
Published by Kensington on September 27th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

“A rising talent.” —Booklist
Dr. Nikhil 'Nic' Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.
Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.
Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.
Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.

My Review:

This may possibly be the angstiest romance I have ever read. That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing – it just is. Be prepared to have your nerves jangled and your heartstrings jerked while reading.

Speaking of heartstrings, this is a story about hearts. Transplanted ones, that is. Also livers, kidneys and lungs, but mostly hearts. It’s also about finding ways to move past the most horrible things that life can possibly throw at you, and learning to live again.

But mostly hearts.

Dr. Nikhil Joshi is drinking himself into a very early grave. He used to be a hot-shot doctor with Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres – MSF) until his wife and fellow MSF doctor Jennifer Joshi was raped and murdered in front of him.

That was two years ago, and he’s been pickling himself ever since. He’s stuck somewhere in that anger and denial stage of grief, and it’s slowly killing him. He’s angry with himself for being forced to watch her die but surviving, and he’s also just plain angry at Jen for all the secrets she kept from him – the same secrets that got her killed.

Jen was investigating illegal organ trafficking, with the assistance of the Mumbai Police. Someone was using her organ registry to find poor people and cutting them up for the cash value of their parts. It’s sick and disgusting. It’s also a very, very profitable business. Jen got in their way and got killed for it.

Nic can’t forgive her secrets, and he can’t forgive himself.

Somewhere out there is the evidence that Jen died for. There are a whole host of people who have been waiting for Nic to get his head out of his alcohol-soaked ass and start hunting for it. Some of those people need the evidence to make sure it gets buried along with Jen. Some people need it to finally get out from under being blackmailed by the first set of people.

Jess Koirala needs it because someone is threatening her seven-year-old son. She’ll do anything to protect little Joy, including convincing Nic that she is in contact with Jen’s spirit because she received Jen’s transplanted heart. Finding Jen’s evidence will set Jess free. And Joy.

But when she starts her twisted mission, Jess has no idea that unearthing the past will bring Nic back to the present. And falling in love was definitely not part of her mission plan. Or his.

Escape Rating B+: This story is a roller-coaster ride for the emotions from its stormy beginning to its cathartic end. After everything we go through with Nic and Jess, we need to experience not just the romantic happy ever after, but the wrapping up of all the loose ends as good mostly triumphs and evil gets a big slice of its just desserts.

bollywood affair by sonali devThis story is a very loose follow up to the author’s first two books, A Bollywood Affair and The Bollywood Bride (both group reviewed over at The Book Pushers). It is not, however, necessary to have read those to get all the characters in A Change of Heart. But they are both a lot of fun, and A Bollywood Affair in particular is utterly joyous and highly recommended.

However, while the reader would not be missing much by not having read the first two books, it does sometimes feels like the suspenseful part of A Change of Heart is lost somewhere in the murky darkness. Some of that is necessary. Jess doesn’t know who is pulling her strings, or why. Only that the person is very dangerous and seriously threatening. This figure remains in the shadows all the way through. We think we know who it might be, but are never positive.

In front, we have almost a caricature of a thug. While he is the prime suspect for Jen’s murder, he is not the prime mover for Jess’ journey. So we are left with a bit of a puzzle, even at the end. As is Jess.

Jess is an amazing character. As her layers slowly get peeled back, we see the events that made her who she is, and just how much she has had to overcome. Even though there is much weighing her down, she still struggles towards the light. And in much of her slow revelation to Nic, we hear the voice of so many women who have been victimized and abused merely because they are female. Jess keeps trying, and circumstances that are outside her control keep beating her down – and then blaming her for everything that is done to her. We hear the voice of every institution that blames victims, “she asked for it”, “it’s all her fault”, “what can she expect when she looks like that” and more. And worse.

Nic blames Jen for her death. She was fighting a terrible evil. And yes, she should have told her husband she was working with the police. But it wasn’t her fault she was killed. It was the fault of the man who murdered her. And the system that covered up for him. But never hers. This is just one of many things that Nic needs to get past, if not over, so that he can live again.

The surprising thing is that a romance grows out of the circumstances that throw Jess and Nic together. There are so many lies at the beginning. Jess is, of necessity, holding so much back. That they manage to reach past all of that for healing and love is amazing. And makes for a very powerful story.

Change of heart tour graphic


Sonali is giving away 2 copies of A Bollywood Affair & The Bollywood Bride to lucky entrants on this tour.

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This post is part of a CLP Blog Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.
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