Review: A Change of Heart

Acclaimed for combining Indian American life with a touch of Bollywood glamour, Sonali Dev (A Bollywood Affair) dives into the soul-shriveling aftermath of violent crime, with a hero and heroine who find love against all hope.

Ever since thugs from a black market organ theft ring murdered his wife, Jen, in Mumbai, Indian American doctor Nikhil Joshi has been at sea figuratively and literally, working as a cruise ship doctor by day and losing himself to a numbing alcoholic stupor by night. Then Jess Koirala, a gorgeous Bollywood backup dancer, appears on the ship claiming that she received Jen's heart in a transplant and has a message for Nik from his dead wife. Naturally he scoffs, but when she shows him her transplant scar and tells him details that could have come only from Jen, he cannot explain away the connection. Even a man of science like Nik must consider the possibility that his wife somehow lives in this stranger, and that she wants him to bring to justice the men who murdered her. Although the specter of Jen hangs over them, Nik is drawn toward desperate, vulnerable Jess.

All her life, Jess has dodged violent men with mixed success. She knows all of Jen Joshi's most intimate thoughts and secrets, but in truth, powerful criminals pull her strings, using threats to her young son to blackmail her. She would go to any extreme to save her child, but Jess's heart breaks from manipulating the hurting widower as she is gathered into the bosom of his family and begins to fall for his fierce, protective spirit. She never planned to love Nik and knows he'll reject her the second he finds out about her lies--that Jen never sent her and her name isn't even Jess.

Meanwhile, in India, a brutal gangster waits impatiently for the moment he can destroy them both.

Dev walks straight into the fire, building her narrative on an unlikely foundation of wrenching grief, gender discrimination and sexual assault trauma, addressing each issue thoroughly and with incredible compassion. While the challenge of bringing together two people with utterly shattered souls and devastated lives feels insurmountable at first, Dev's power to wrap the reader in her characters' pain and then soothe it is nothing short of exhilarating. Nik and Jess's eventual bond feels organic and gloriously regenerative. A Change of Heart cements this author's standing as not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Sonali Dev makes bold choices in this life-affirming romance that finds its hero foundering after the murder of his wife, and its heroine healing from an abusive past.

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