cover image A Holly Jolly Diwali

A Holly Jolly Diwali

Sonya Lalli. Berkley, $17 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-10095-0

A whirlwind vacation affair deepens into an unforgettable connection in this unsteady holiday rom-com from Lalli (Serena Singh Flips the Script). After uptight Niki Randhawa is laid off from her data analytics job, she does something uncharacteristically impulsive, taking off to Mumbai for both her best friend’s wedding and Diwali, the Festival of Lights. While attending the luminous wedding, she locks eyes with Sam Mukherji, the live band’s bassist. Their mutual attraction is instantaneous and intense: Sam is “literally copied and pasted from [her] wildest fantasy,” and Niki soon discovers there’s more to him than meets the eye as he opens up to her about his past. But their romance can’t last forever—Niki will return to Seattle for Christmas in three weeks, while Sam will go home to London. They must decide if what they have is worth preserving across the distance. Lalli enriches her tale with rich, vibrant descriptions of South Asian culture and a gentle exploration of the cultural differences between Indian Americans and India natives, but the pacing of the love story itself feels clunky, dulling the emotional impact. Readers looking for a holiday escape will enjoy the scene-setting, but may long for more substantive romance. Agent: Martha Webb, CookeMcDermid Literary. (Oct.)